1960s / American / Chevrolet

The ones that got away: Chevrolet Corvair

In 2007, right before Christmas, a former neighbor’s brother noticed my garage was open and walked over to strike up a conversation. He drove a 1959 Chevrolet Biscayne and was intrigued by the selection of classics in my driveway. None were as big or quite as old as the Biscayne but how often do you see a Beta, a Beetle, an 850 Spider, a GTV, and a Milano Verde on the same slab of concrete?

The conversation quickly turned to American cars. “Have you ever owned one?” “nope, I’ve been European-only with the exception of a brief stint driving a 1990 Corolla wagon.” That’s since changed; I’ve now got a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 2.7-liter turbodiesel five-cylinder engine plucked from the Mercedes-Benz parts bin. It was built in Graz, Austria, specifically for the European market. Remember DaimlerChrysler? I consider my Jeep one of the better products to come out of that ill-fated alliance.

Back to the road. I told my new buddy I’d like to own a Corvair one day and his eyes lit up. “My friend’s selling one!” He gave me the address, somewhere in an obscure corner of Salt Lake City, and I checked it out the next day.

It was a second-generation coupe with a manual transmission. It had spent decades sitting out in the Utah desert so the paint was faded but it was in surprisingly good shape. It was mostly complete and yes, it ran when parked. Its flat-six leaked oil, its parking brake grew on a cypress tree, and there was enough moss inside to satisfy a botanist student looking for a thesis topic. In other words: It was exactly what I was after.

Frankly, I can’t remember why I didn’t buy it. I wasn’t really in a position to pick up another project but that has never stopped me; neither has the lack of space. If memory serves, there was something a little bit sketchy about the car and its title, or lack thereof.

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