Curbside Classics: A Convention of Corvairs at the Boone County Courthouse

When I married my wife, she owned a rental house. It was in Lebanon, a small town that is the county seat of Boone County, Indiana, about 20 minutes up the highway from where she lived. At the beginning of 2019, her tenant of ten years moved out with no notice, and suddenly we were spending a lot of time up in Lebanon working on the house. On the very last of those trips — in September — as I headed home I found three Corvairs parked on the courthouse square. The best of the three was this 1961 Lakewood wagon.

In 1961 Chevrolet was still giving “-wood” names to all of its wagons. It dropped the practice after 1961; this spot on the Corvair wagon’s flank was blank in 1962. Yet people seem to call any Corvair wagon a Lakewood. Most of them were genuine Lakewoods, at any rate, because wagon production stopped in the first quarter of 1962.

It’s a shame that the Corvair wagon wasn’t built for more years, as these are attractive and they appear to be capacious for their size. I love small cars with lots of utility, and this Lakewood checks all of those boxes.

The ’61 Lakewood was offered in two trim levels: the base 500 and the nicer 700. I gather that most of the 700’s upgrades were in the interior, with such things as body-color-keyed floor mats. This one has a 700 badge on each front fender.

Standing there looking at this lovely little wagon, I reflected on what we’d been through with that rental house. It was kind of a Frankenstein’s monster of additions, with the original three rooms built in 1890. The added rooms were a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bath. We discovered all sorts of shady construction practices as we began the work of updating the house for the next tenant.

The carpets were all shot and we decided to lay laminate flooring throughout. I stacked all of the flooring bundles in one of the added bedrooms. It was easily a ton of flooring. One of our sons has a friend who’s experienced in construction and he was over to remove shelves from this bedroom’s closet so it could be reconfigured. When he knocked out the first shelf, this whole side of the house groaned and the floor shifted beneath him.

My wife called her friend who’s a structural engineer. He came right out and after a little crawling around under the house declared that the main beam under the original part of the house had rolled. I forget the number of dollars he guessed it would cost to fix that, but it was a shocking enough number that Margaret and I locked up the house, drove home, and processed our shock for the next month.

Then Margaret and I argued for the next four months about what to do. She wanted to invest in the repairs and a complete renovation, and I wanted out from under this albatross, as I realized I lack any desire to deal with this kind of nonsense. I guess I’m not cut out to be a landlord. Our argument ended only because Margaret’s mother passed away; in her grief, Margaret lost her will to deal with the house. We put the house on the market, as is. Boy, what a rough time that was.

I went up every couple of weeks to cut the grass. The house had just sold this September day when I was returning from my final lawn mowing and came upon these Corvairs. I noticed the Lakewood first. It was only while photographing the Lakewood that I spied these two later Corvairs sort of hidden behind that big blue truck.

Both of these Corvairs are Corsas; one is obviously a convertible and the other isn’t. I prefer the hardtop. I’ve always thought the second-gen Corvair was show-stoppingly gorgeous, either in coupe or sedan form.

I’m claiming these are both ’65 Corvairs based on some research I did when I made these photos a couple years ago and the fact that the convertible has a ’65 Indiana license plate on the front.

The fellow who bought the house repaired all of the structural damage and did a surprisingly nice renovation of the house, inside and out. Here’s the listing at Zillow if you’re curious. It’s a far better job than we ever would have done. I’m sure he sold it for a nice profit — and good for him. I remain relieved that we didn’t have to deal with it.

Photographed in Lebanon, Indiana, on September 21, 2019.