16 December 2015

OUR CARS: Kyle Smith’s 1961 Chevy Corvair Greenbrier

As a kid in central Kansas, Kyle Smith enjoyed taking things apart (mainly lawn mowers), which led to an interest in cars. His father owned a few classic vehicles, but the only one Kyle recalls working on was a sun-faded, blue, late-1950s GMC pickup. “I remember enjoying running errands and short trips in that old GMC and watching dad easily drive the three-on-the-tree transmission,” he said. After driving classic cars in high school, Kyle decided to attend McPherson (Kan.) College and study automotive restoration. He started at Hagerty as a summer intern and accepted a full-time position upon graduation. Earlier this year he purchased a patina-covered 1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier van from a friend in California.

Employee: Kyle Smith

Title: Licensed Sales Agent

Years at Hagerty: 2 1/2

Car(s): 1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier

Why did you choose a Chevy Greenbrier? In high school I decided to dive head first into a project car and visited my local scrapyard to find one. A 1965 Corvair 500 caught my eye, and the yard was kind enough to drop it off in my driveway. But I was quickly in over my head with a locked engine and rust issues. I was saving money from a summer job and purchased a 1964 Corvair Monza in much better condition. It became my daily driver for a few years until I went away to college and the throwout bearing failed. So I sold both cars and got into motorcycles. I’d been looking for another Corvair when the Greenbrier became available.

Repairs and Modifications: The previous owner lowered and added later model wheels. I’ve installed an electric fuel pump, and I’m finishing a camping set up for the rear cargo compartment.

Hobby activities: I go to the McPherson College CARS show, local shows and events, and I’m hoping to take the van to the Woodward Dream Cruise sometime in the next few years.

Interesting Car Stories: I purchased the van from a former college roommate who lived in Southern California and needed it out of his driveway. I had the van shipped to my parents’ house in Kansas, where it sat from January to May, when I planned to drive it to Michigan. Upon arriving in Kansas, my father told me he hadn’t started it or moved it since it rolled off the shipping truck – and when it came off the shipping truck it was coughing black smoke and would barely stay running. I worked approximately 30 hours to get it in good enough shape that I could confidently hit the highway and drive 1,300 miles. It was a bit of a thrash, but it was a good time in the end and served me no unexpected issues on the way home.

Favorite Drive: Loading up the bicycles and driving to a group ride. It’s always fun to be the oddest vehicle in the parking lot!

Best and Worst Moments: The worst moment was when I realized for the first time that the gas gauge is a quarter-tank off (showing 1/4s left when it’s actually empty). A quarter mile is a long way to push a 4,000-pound van.

My best moment was “showing” the van at the McPherson College CARS show in May, 2015. That event started my journey to Michigan, and it allowed me a chance to meet some great Corvair enthusiasts and catch up with friends and other alumni.

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