Yes, that’s the “trunk” of a Corvair you’re looking at. And a highly modified Jaguar V12, very nicely ensconced there. Now, I’ve been vaguely aware of the “Jaguair’s” existence, but was a bit dismissive of it as another one of those one-upmanship cars, like stuffing an Allison V12 in an Isetta. Nothing of the sort. Jay Eitel was a brilliant engineer, and his most famous act was to invent the “cherry picker” lift that revolutionized the utility industry. But he was infatuated with both the Corvair and the early “rope-drive” Tempest (a man after my heart indeed), and owned a 421-powered ’63 Tempest to keep his ’67 Corvair company. But he had a vision for something even more unique and radical, that would encompass aspects of both cars. One of those was a four-speed “Powerglide” transaxle, and yes, Virginia, they do exist.
The Jaguair’s story is incredibly complex, the multi-year quest to create a totally unique high-performance car (150+ mph) that handled and braked in relation to its performance, yet looked totally stock on the outside, right down to the 13″ wheelcovers. I can’t really do the amazing engineering justice here, so head over to corvaircorsa.com for the full story, which will leave your jaw several inches lower than before. And here’s Jay’s obit, which is quite a read too. I’ll leave you with one snippet from the story; the “four-speed Powerglide”. But that almost pales compared to everything else that went into this car.
hat tip to johnnyangel
Wow, and I thought old VW bugs with Oldsmobile UPP in the back seat were radical…
Hats off to him for making it happen. He doesn’t sound like a guy with a “woulda, coulda, shoulda” mentality.
Thank you for finding someone who has outdone that Brit who turns out 5 and 7 cylinder Kawasaki inline two-stroke motorcycles, and turned a KZ900 into a KZ1800 V-8/
The craftsmanship is amazing, but I must admit still having trouble understanding why you would start with a Corvair if you don’t want a rear (or even mid) engined car.
Good question. Maybe it was a way of setting himself up for a really big challenge.
What mainstream car combined American heritage with European lightness, style and handling as well as the 2nd-gen Corvair?
GM’s Y-body platform was used by the 1st-gen Corvair and Tempest, so it’s not as far-fetched as it might sound.
No, the Corvair was never a Y-body. It was a Z.
Well, I dunno if this is the reason or not, but as everyone knows – the Corvair and early Tempest are on the same “platform”. Even though they have different drivetrain layouts, the orientation of the rear suspension and the floorpan are very similar, and it would’ve made using that crazy Powerglide transaxle and torque tube just a little bit easier. I’d wager it’s probably easier to convert a rear-engined car to front-engine/rear-drive than it is to convert a leaf or coil-sprung live axle car (as most from the early 60s were) to an independent suspension.
This, of course, begs the question: “Why not just start with a Tempest?” LOL… Although AFAIK, the Y-Body Tempests had the swing-axle setup, too. This way, he gets the ideal weight distribution with the better, later Corvair suspension.
Maybe he just really liked the way the 2nd gen Corvair looked, though. Can you blame him??
I usually dismiss front-engine Corvair conversions as sacrilege, but this is amazingly cool. Never heard of/seen of it before. That Powerglide setup is truly wild, although I’m confused as to how it actually works from the picture. I’ve often thought it would be cool to take an aftermarket overdrive unit and mount it inline with a PG to yield a four-speed auto in the traditional longitudinal arrangement – but this obviously works a little differently!
“I’d wager it’s probably easier to convert a rear-engined car to front-engine/rear-drive than it is to convert a leaf or coil-sprung live axle car (as most from the early 60s were) to an independent suspension.”
That was my question to myself too. Could you adapt a Corvair or Corvette IRS to, say, a Nova or Camaro? Or, for that matter, to an early Tempest or Special/Skylark?
Back in the day, there were a lot of Jaguar IRS, and Corvette IRS too, mounted into hot rods.
“I usually dismiss front-engine Corvair conversions as sacrilege”
I agree, keeping the transmission in the rear takes this away from your normal front-engine conversion by far.
MadHungarian – using a subframe based IRS such as the Mustang Cobra that was designed to go into a live axle car is a good start.
Thanks for the info on Jay Eitel, what an impressive man.
Got your interest didn t it. I saw the car and talked to him in Sanfrancisco. He even made it sound like a Corvair
Damn. The things a guy can do with enough time, money and talent.
Wow! Jay Eitel’s work is a masterpiece of engineering and craftsmanship. I’d never heard of this car, and those CORSA pages are wonderful. Each technical issue addressed and overcome brilliantly. Jag V12 through the rope drive!
Massive power and world-class engineering appears to run in the family. Jay’s bio (thanks for that link too) says his brother Bill co-founded Eimac, one of the roots of the Silicon Valley, before WWII, and Bill engineered their production tooling. Eimac is famous for their high power tubes, in broadcast-band and shortwave transmitters running up to 2.5 million watts (that’s 3300 horsepower), as well as high-power radars.
And he loved to a ripe old age (95), too! Here’s to a brilliant engineer and a well-lived life.
Awesome car and very well engineered much better created than the V12 vauxhall velox I read about.
Very cool… put all those Healey V-8 conversions to shame!
This is a link to the 3/5ths scale, mid-engined 1937 Ford roadster that Jay Eitel completed recently. I’ve been a big fan ever since reading about him in Autoweek many many years ago. I’m sad to see him go.
Awesome, and I’m seeing a pattern. He turns the rear engine Corvair into a front engine car, and the Ford roadster now sports a rear-mid engine. What would he do with a Fiero?
That’s obvious Paul, put two engines in it, one front, one back!
Ha! It was a trick question. The correct answer is that he would have turned the Fiero into a rear engined car with an air cooled Porsche drive-train.
“more unique” and “totally unique”? Tut tut.