Ryan Counterman is a lifelong auto enthusiast with a love for a wide variety of cars, but especially Chevrolet Corvairs. From building cars out of Legos for hours on end as a child, to being a proud owner of several Corvairs and coordinating local club conventions during his adult years, Ryan is a hobbyist that any car guy or gal can admire.
How did you get involved in the classic car hobby?
From a young age, I have always been interested in mechanical things. When I was about 14 years old, my parents gave me a 1965 Corvair Monza convertible to have as my first car. I worked day and night on that car to get it road-ready. With help from my family, we got the body work done, had it painted and had a new top put on. I drove that Corvair through high school. Once I had my driver’s license at age 16, I joined the West Michigan Corvair Club and have attended almost every meeting since then. I have found through my years as a member of both the local Corvair club and the National Corvair Club (CORSA) that the cars are just a common bond that brings friends together. I have met so many great people through this hobby, and have met some of the most influential mentors of my life here.
If you could have any car no matter what the cost, what would it be and why?
This is difficult. I have never even really thought about it, and I don’t have a single dream car. When considering classic cars, I always like to keep my eye on cars that are actually in my scope of ownership. In the past, I have owned nothing but Corvairs. A few years ago I decided I want to diversify my collection a bit, so I added a 1965 Ford F250 to the stable. Now I am thinking about adding a car from the 50s; nothing crazy, just an $8,000-$10,000 driver to have fun with. Perhaps it’ll be a Ford or a Pontiac — something that isn't seen at every car show. My dream would be to have several different cars, even if some of them were not in totally perfect condition. But since money is no object, a mint condition 1935 Duesenberg would look nice in the garage, wouldn't it? And it would certainly get some looks at the local cruise night!
What is your favorite memory pertaining to classic cars or the hobby?
I am the caretaker of a historical Corvair Racecar. It is the car that was owned and raced by Don Eichstaedt in the 1965 Sebring 3 Hour Sedan Race and again in the 1966 Trans-Am Series in Sebring. Now I use it to do a few track events every summer. A racer friend and I were spending lots of money driving two trucks pulling two trailers to the races. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves buying a 1986 Ford COE Fire truck. We converted the fire truck first into a flatbed to haul one car on top and another behind on a trailer, and then last winter we built a custom motor home/wedge back body for it. It is sort of like the race car haulers they had in the 1960s: It holds one car on the wedge, and has sleeping quarters underneath. We have had more fun building and using this truck than any other memory I can think of. It gets tons of attention everywhere we take it.
How did you get involved with the Corvair Society of America?
I first got involved with a local club, the West Michigan Corvair Club. With some persuasion from club members, I attended my first National Corvair Convention in 2001 in St. Charles, Ill. In order to attend the national convention, you must be a CORSA member. From then on I have been a member at-large, and our local club decided to host the national convention in 2013.
How would you describe the culture behind the CORSA club?
When the Corvair Society of America was formed, it was after Corvair automobile production had stopped, and many folks across the nation still drove these autos to work, school, the store, on vacation and everywhere else. This model was inexpensive to purchase after production had stopped and parts were cheap, so they were the ideal commuter car for Americans. Many of the club members today are the same folks who bought these cars when they were new, and the culture of Corvair owners today has not really changed in the past 50 years.
There are some differences, of course. Many of the owners drive these cars on weekends only instead of the daily driver family car that they were in the 1960s. Owners today enjoy working on the cars and participating in many local and national club events, and they are a real conversation starter at any cruise-in all over the world.
The Corvair Society of America promotes the hobby, creates a framework for the membership and helps share information that is beneficial to all. Within the past few years, CORSA was very instrumental in securing an automobile insurance company (Hagerty), which has offered a percentage discount on insuring the Corvair automobiles for its members, as well as supporting the National Convention moving events by providing roadside assistance to all registered members at each convention. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the folks who make up the Corvair world; there are many very talented individuals and companies that support us all, via the website and online presence. If anyone has a problem, all he or she needs to do is post the problem, and within a day or less answers are flowing your way. It’s a great hobby, and all of the members are very focused on securing the future of the car by keeping the spirit alive.
You held the 2013 CORSA Convention at the Gilmore Museum in Kalamazoo, Mich. Are there plans for this event to continue at this location?
The National CORSA Convention is an annual event. It is hosted by a local club or clubs every summer. Every year it rotates between the East coast, Central U.S. and West coast regions. The primary reason our small club decided to take on a tremendous challenge like hosting the national convention was to shine a spotlight on the Gilmore Car Museum. The Corvair Museum is currently located in Ypsilanti, Mich., as part of the Ypsilanti Heritage Collection. We believe the Corvair Museum needs to be moved to the Gilmore Car Museum, so it can be showcased properly. By having the convention in Kalamazoo, a good portion of the CORSA membership was able to see just what the Gilmore Car Museum is all about. We may host the convention here again in the future, as it was written off as one of the most successful conventions in CORSA history.
Click here for more information about the Corvair Society of America