Where do I start?
Get knowledgeable about Corvairs. Corvairs are a unique automobile that most of the public knows little about. Join the national club CORSA and find a local chapter in your area. Subscribe to Virtual Vairs List and ask questions. Surf the web; look at the web sites. Talk with collectors, they will help you evaluate what your criteria should be based on your commitment level, driving purpose and mechanical abilities.
Where do I find one?
The best source as with any collector car is a referral from someone who really knows the vehicle. Second choices are contacts from your local CORSA chapter. The last place would be a cold call from a want-ads although I regrettably passed on one car in the newspaper due to its low price and unknowledgeable owner. It turned out to be a 1966 Corsa that with little work became a 90+-point show car. - Purchase price? $600.
How much is one worth?
This is a tough one. There are guidelines prices published in Old Cars Weekly's Price Guide and other sites on the web, these are based on recent auction selling prices. Many cars fall outside these guidelines by different instances. As general rule, If the car doesn't run, or has been off the road for more than a couple years, its only worth what the buyer wants to pay. Which could be the lowest price listed in the guide or less. $0 to 500 typically. Circumstances could drive that price up by, for instance, having a historical significance or rare options or any one aspect being an exceptional condition. Top end selling Corvairs can bring 12,000 dollars at auction, but these are examples of low/no wear originals or immaculate restorations more often being convertibles and turbocharger equipped. Driven 'show cars' you can expect to pay 2,500 to 8,000. Again, there are so many variables that influence price that this is only a rough estimate. Get with your local CORSA chapter and have someone look at the car for a more accurate appraisal. One thing I might add here is, Corvairs are very difficult to sell. There is a very limited market and if you think it's overpriced, it probably is.
Are parts hard to find?
Not really, most everything is being reproduced with the exception of fenders and body panels. Some patch panels are available as well as a considerable amount of trim pieces. You will undoubtedly know of Corvair specific parts vendors when you start searching. Clark's Corvair Parts, Wall's Corvair Underground, Southwest Corvair Parts, Larry's Corvair Parts, The Corvair Ranch, are among the well known ones.
What else do I need to know?
I believe that I can say with certainty that there has never been a question asked or an issue addressed that hasn't been so many times before. The catch phrase 'Been there, done that' certainly applies to Corvairs and their owners. There is a very good support group available for this orphan auto. Much has been published about the Corvair and unless you jump into it with both feet you will ask the same questions and addressing the same issues that have already been resolved in many cases. The best advice I can give is join CORSA, find a local chapter, join up with them. Purchase a few publications, which are readily available. The Corvair Beginners Manual, The CORSA Tech Guide and the Chevrolet Shop Manual are the BEST investment a new owner can make.
How much does it cost to fix up and maintain?
This should probably be listed first in the questions, as it will have an influence on buying, selling, and finding your new Corvair. I'll not go over the processes here but will hit the basics. There are only a few Corvair repair shops out there so count on doing some work yourself. Even if you buy a high dollar 'perfect' Corvair, your upkeep and minor maintenance cannot be reliably done by your local Chevrolet dealer or repair shop. There will be places that are willing to take your money, but unless they come with a Corvair referral be very cautious. With that said, here's some GENERAL supporting figures.
Are Corvairs reliable daily transportation?
Yes, they can be reliable. Practical? Not unless you love the car and have mechanical skills that you are not afraid to exercise regularly, or have a friendly mechanic that will $upport your new hobby. Lets face it, things wear, parts break, and as with any 30+ year old car they tend to fail quicker than one with considerably less age.
What do I do now that I have a Corvair that hasn't run in a while?
A friend of mine, Hank Kaczmarek wrote an article pertaining to the priorities of getting a Corvair going. I'm going to refer to that when I can. Priority one should be mechanical condition. For a Corvair that has been sitting more than a year, the following should be a minimum to check and verify condition and repair as necessary. These are pretty much listed in order, although the car should not be operated unless you personally have a good feeling about the condition, reliability and safety.
|1. Fuel system. -This is the big cause of unreliable Corvairs. Varnish in the tank from sitting inevitably ends up in the carbs shutting you down on the highway at the most inopportune time. Drain the tank, remove the gauge sensor and view the inside. This will give a hint of further investigation and cleaning. A carb rebuild should be addressed at this time. Stalling and hesitation is a sure indication of dried out accelerator pumps and dirty fuel bowls. Keep an eye out for fuel seeping around the fuel pump and crankcase oil level rising, an indication of a failing pump.|
|2. Vital fluids. -Check your fluids! Good stuff? Many lines of text have been wrote about motor oils in Corvairs. Bottom line is Corvair engines run cooler with Synthetic oils. Before you fire the car up, it is a good idea to remove the oil cooler access plate and make sure no critter has made his home on the oil cooler. Corvairs normally run fine on regular unleaded gas at 89 octane. Brake fluid should be DOT 3 or better, if you change over to synthetic, be sure to flush the system completely. Transaxle and transmission fluids are readily available. 85W-130W or 90W are sufficient for the transaxle and manual transmissions. Dextron is recommended for the automatic transmission. Synthetics are optional.|
|3. Brake system. -Now that you've got it running, it needs to stop. Corvairs that have been sitting usually pull when the brakes are applied. Wheel cylinders should be checked for leakage and operation. Disassembly, cleaning and installation of new rubber should be a bare minimum. Check for cracks and oil on the shoes. Repack the wheel bearings while you are there, good chance that the grease is 30+ years old and drying out. An often-missed item is proper adjustment of the parking brake. Corvairs with automatic transmissions do not have a Park (car holding) position.|
|4. Tweaking. -Does it ever end? Not really! The more you tweak the better you know your Corvair. Only by adjusting and testing do you know your Corvairs idiosyncrasies and premature failure indications. Of course a good tune-up and carb adjustment is primary factor in final preparation for the road. Things like minor oil leaks and unusual 'sounds' can usually be addressed after the car is on the road if you wish. I'm not saying ignore them, but if you've done everything up to this point your Corvair should be road worthy and relatively safe. Things like bearing noises, should be addressed where as 'suspension clunks' and 'muffler bumps' can be attended to when convenient.|
|5. Aesthetics. -It goes, stops, and drives ok, but looks 'coyote ugly'. THIS SHOULD BE THE LAST AREA OF CONCERN! I write this in bold because more often than not I have seen project cars being sold with new interiors in boxes or new tires on the car. The project was abandoned because the money and labor was spent on the wrong priority. If you don't have the money to do it all at once, please don't throw money at it frivolously. It happens more often than not with young enthusiastic inexperienced owners that don't want to drive an ugly car.|
In summary I must say that a total restoration of any car is a big undertaking. I attended a seminar once where the speaker gave very good advice to the first time restorer. He said you must do something everyday on the car. Even if it is only a half hour of cleaning parts, do it. Before you know it you'll be well on your way. The worst thing you can do is spend that half hour staring at the car thinking of all the work that has yet to be done. Convince yourself that you are ready physically, mentally and financially to make this commitment. If you are, do it, when you are finished you will be richly rewarded by driving one of the most unique American cars ever built.