On The Flocking Instinct Of Corvairs

More often than not when you find one rough Corvair there are often several others nearby. It’s as if they’re huddled together like penguins against the cold, harsh world. This pattern is hardly unique to Corvairs, but if one stumbles upon one sitting in a field, more than likely there’s another couple hiding around the corner or nearby in a barn. Perhaps it’s because they’re neither fish nor fowl, yet they’re so often found in schools or flocks. What exactly is it about Corvairs that brings out the shepherding instinct?

The Corvair is certainly not the stereotypical American car,  lacking both a V8 and a live rear axle. At first glance they’d seem to appeal to the tweed-hat-wearing,  foreign-car-owning crowd, but then again it’s perhaps a little too big, a little too American to be fully embraced by the rear engine VW and Fiat crowd. The general populace of course only views the Corvair as an unsafe death trap if they have any passing knowledge of it at all. So it takes a special sort of person to own a Corvair. One who isn’t looking for the approval of anyone else.

There is of course a different sort of thinking going on when they own more than a couple project cars. The few auto collectors like this I have come across generally want to save each and every one they come across. Some just want to possess them, while others like the attention they get from wide eyed dreamers asking to buy their precious metal. I have to confess every time I see an odd ball classic for sale I want to save it, but these days I’m (trying to) collect photos instead of actual vehicles.

I don’t want you to come away thinking this is a anti-hoarder rant however. I believe that hoarders do have their place although dealing with one can be frustrating. As long as the storage method isn’t actively destroying the vehicle, I don’t see the harm. The classic barn find is only possible with a hoarder. A purely rational person scraps or sells a car that is longer useful for them but a hoarder forgoes the instant cash and stores it for years. In almost all cases this long term storage doesn’t make sense as an investment but does allow for a future generation to “discover” an interesting project. By that time values may have increased so that restoration now makes sense.

There is a purely financial motivation for owning many examples of the same car. The often trotted out rule that it costs the same to restore a Mustang as a Corvair can only be, at least partially, beat by the lower initial cost of the Corvair and by having at least one parts car on hand. Corvairs being as affordable as they are makes the cost of a major part equivalent to the price of a parts car. With the bonus that when the restoration is done on the primary Corvair, one is left with a pile of parts which I suppose one could sell to recover some costs.

But I suspect often the thinking turns to something along the lines of “since I have all these parts it only makes sense to buy another Corvair to fix up” … which of course leads to a yard full of Corvairs and quite possibly an angry spouse. I suspect the Corvair Ranch may have start in this sort of way. According to their web site they have over six hundred Corvairs, but I suspect they are one of the few to turning hoarding into a viable business.

I have fallen victim to this thinking before with my Lada Niva project. Rather than buy a decent one to begin with I grabbed the first one that came along with many needs. Among them was an almost unobtainium windshield and expensive odd-ball 16” tires. This lead to two parts truck, then fixing up one of the parts trucks a bit because I didn’t want to see it scrapped.

What I came across is a first generation Corvair stockpile in a small southern Alberta town. The owner was smart enough to limit himself to just the coupe and wagon body styles. At least a few of the coupes are the sporty Monza. The first generation was of course built in a huge variety of body styles with the usual coupe, sedan and convertible with the Greenbrier and Corvan 95 vans, as well as the Rampside and Loadside trucks.

It would be a fairly decent sized field if one were to have a copy of each variant. My personal favorite is actually the four door sedan which I feel pulls off the styling the best. The coupe looks a bit short and truncated so I am not be surprised that it was designed after the sedan. Perhaps a result of shifting focus to a sporty car I feel the opposite way on the second generation Corvair with the coupe appearing more natural than the sedan.

This little collection has been slowly downsizing over the few years I’ve driven by it. There was an accident damaged 1957 Ford Country Sedan Wagon that spent time with the Corvairs for a short time as well. Of the Corvairs, I’ve seen a few of the coupes and the red wagon up for sale and disappear. Hopefully they have gone to a good home but it is a bit sad to see the jalopy enclave disappear. Perhaps the owner has managed to kick the habit … or there are some new additions that could be inside the shop these sat next to.