During my university years I found a picture of the second generation Corvair. There was something about the car that just made me instantly like to look of it and after reading up on it I became more and more in love with the car to the point where it was a goal of sort to buy one as soon as I got my first job after my University studies.
It’s a strange car for being american because apart from the design it’s more European then it’s american equivalents. It’s got a boxer 6 mounted in the rear of the car behind the rear axle. It’s not heavy like most american cars from the period and there is a number of engineering things that make it focused on corners more then speed in a straight line. In all honesty this is probably also a major source for much of the bad reputation that the car has gotten over the ears, because for all intents and purposes its not an old Chevrolet, yet that’s what it was marketed as.
To anybody that want’s to get one, you probably won’t be disappointed. Its a great car, but you do need to recognize that it is different. From how you drive it to tire pressure for the front and the rear axle and everything in between.
Name of the car: This cars name is Petronella and she is the second oldest tenant in my garage and the oldest car in the collection. When I named Petronella it was a bit more conscious then with Viola and I browsed through quite a few names before deciding that Petronella would be a nice match because the feminine lines of the Corvair and the sound of petrol from the boxer engine.
Buying Petronella: To be honest I was scheduled to look at a Porsche 944 (the model Porsche 944 was born the same year as me) that weekend but apparently the engine seized up on that car before I had the chance to buy it (that was kind of good luck for me). Bummer at first since I didn’t have a car to buy and cash in my pockets, and then I saw the ad for the Corvair. It was a Corvair Monza from -65, lousy paint, and a peculiar looking white stripe over the blue paint but it was in my price range and it was a running car.
I called the guy up and said I was calling about the ad for the car, and he asked which car, apparently he had a few to many cars. If I learned anything from this deal it’s that its very important to assess the seller as well as the car. This couple was so open and honest in explaining the pro’s and con’s that there wasn’t any surprises ever with this car. Even quirks the car showed me months later after buying it weren’t a surprise as they’d already told me about them.
Back to the story. I had just called them and I knew I was interested in the car. I called two friends, one for borrowing a car to go see it, and one to drive me there so that we could get it home. I still remember that magical moment when we came up on the garage where it was parked, it was without exaggerating one of the coolest moments in my life thus far. In fact it was the first time I’d ever seen one for real and it was going home with me, the car that I’d lusted over for so long. To add to the excitement, parked by the garage was also a line of other cool American cars to gaze at, the setting was fantastic to sell a car. Then came the seller who rolled up in a Chevrolet pick-up with just an all out cool looking stance and sens of style connected to it. It was kind of like one of those cool TV series where everything’s so cool that it feels made up.
We talked as we went through the car and I just remember everything as fantastic, it was my first time around this car and it didn’t disappoint. The noise, the neat size, the handling, I loved everything about it. We struck a deal and started packing. By this time I had learned that buying old cars meant that there always comes a lot of weird spare parts along in the deal, and this deal was no exception. This was an adventure in it self as we where driving a Volkswagen Polo, one of the smallest in Volkswagen’s line-up. But well, if there’s a will there’s a way and we managed to fit an extra door, cylinder heads, rear differential, and loads of stuff that I still haven’t unpacked.
Whats been done to her: I still love that car, I loved it from the first drive home, but i had to change the rims and tires. It had some sort of low-rider thing going with small tires and low ground clearance. Small tires makes your engine scream on the freeway, and the brakes turn into a tantrum when you touch the break pedal. But man I love this car. Lately I’ve been focused on making her run right and reliably for longer trips. It’s not been tuned with any hardware but she runs stronger and more reliable now after all the fine tuning.
What hasn’t been changed but is next in line is suspension since all the reliable road-tripping has taken it’s toll on the especially the front end, and the suspension has almost collapsed. Parts have already been bought and it’s just time that’s needed now to get the new chocks and springs mounted on the car.
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Writer: Pierre Helgesson
Title: Founder & CEO of Drivers Soul