29 December 2011

Fun and Affordable: 1965-69 Chevrolet Corvair

Those of us who occupy the affordable end of the collector car market (i.e., the 99 percent) aren’t exactly immune to the charms of overlooked and affordable fun cars. For me, the Chevrolet Corvair is one of the first cars that comes to mind when I think “underrated and underappreciated” and over the years, I’ve spent way too much time pondering why this is so.

I think it all boils down to the fact that the Corvair truly occupies a nether region not just for Chevrolet but in the collector car world in general. When they were new, Corvairs were shunned by the Chevelle, Camaro and Corvette crowd as well as Chevy service departments. They were nothing like any other GM product and deemed to be “too foreign” for many of the bowtie faithful. Conversely, the import crowd wouldn’t be caught dead in a Chevy. A pity, because they both missed out on a great car and unfortunately, that sort of prejudice continues to this day.

Those who could remain objective had nothing but good things to say about the Corvair, particularly when the second-generation cars (built from 1965-69) appeared on the scene with a revised fully independent rear suspension. The late David E. Davis, Jr. considered the 1965 Corvair to be one of the most beautiful American cars of the post-war era and an “outstanding car” all around. Jay Leno owns a red coupe and shares Davis’ feelings about the merits of the car.

In addition to an air-cooled flat-six engine, good brakes and a truly fine ride/handling compromise, Corvairs brought exhaust gas-driven turbocharging to a production car for the first time, more than 10 years before Porsche. Oh, and did we mention that Corvairs have a usable back seat?

Amazingly, $20,000 buys a show-worthy Monza convertible and the mid-teens will get you a hardtop coupe. It seems nutty, but that’s the way it’s been for as long as we’ve been keeping track, so there’s no real sense of urgency here, just a gentle nudge to give the underdog a try and enjoy one of the best sub-$20,000 collectibles out there.

Rob Sass is the publisher of Hagerty magazine and the author of the book “Ran When Parked: Advice and Adventures from the Affordable Underbelly of Car Collecting.”

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