By on October 10, 2017

1960-corvair-ad

This Question of the Day has its origin in a song, one which exists as something of a guilty pleasure. Actually, screw that, I’m a modern man (not postmodern, mind you) — I can admit it was Tiny Dancer by Elton John, which just happened to pop up on a Spotify playlist 15 minutes before I sat down to write this.

We often associate songs with a certain time and place in our lives, and that particular song — one of two by that artist I’ll admit to liking (the other being an apt description of a certain North Korean dictator) — immediately brought to mind a dark red, first-generation Chevrolet Corvair. A number of years back, nearing the end of a long road trip to Georgia and back, I found myself driving under leaden March skies in chilly Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, surely the sexiest city on the lower Susquehanna. Tiny Dancer came on the local station, and as I thought about life and mistakes, a burgundy-colored car came into view.

Resting just off a parking lot, it was, a “For Sale” sign stuck hopefully in its windshield. You never saw a more honest-looking 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.

1963 Chevrolet Corvair, Image: Wikimedia

Corvair. The nameplate that brought us Ralph Nader’s Unsafe At Any Speed and the subsequent revolution in consumer advocacy and vehicle safety.

The pristine Monza example for sale in Harrisburg might not be as fearful a vehicle as you’d expect. In 1964, General Motors added transverse leaf springs and softer coil springs to the infamous swing arm rear suspension, plus a front anti-roll bar, in the hopes of taming the model’s alarming rollover tendencies. For the model’s 1965 redesign, GM replaced the swing axle setup with a conventional independent rear suspension. No inside wheel tuck-under, no rollovers, no body count. Just a safe, if unconventional, air-cooled and rear-engined model with a horrible reputation.

From 1965 onwards, sales shrunk exponentially until the model’s demise in 1969. Still, the Corvair had its fans, and as a relic of an experimental era in the automotive industry it remains a quirky collector item.

1973_chevy_vega_ad

This got me thinking about other automotive pariahs. The Chevrolet Vega, with its attractive design, appealing Cosworth variant, and well publicized teething troubles, looms large. Imagine finding one without the horrific early corrosion problems and sleeveless, aluminum-silicon time bomb of an engine. A nice, later example that wouldn’t overheat if you lit a match nearby.

The same goes for the Ford Pinto, what with its unfortunate gas tank placement. Actually, maybe the Pinto better fulfills the description of a time bomb.

Ford Pinto wagon

Gas tank ruptures aside, the compact Pinto came in a cute two-door wagon variant (which didn’t suffer the fuel tank maladies of its hatchback sibling), and even offered a German-built V6 engine for those sick of winding up the company’s tepid four-cylinders. And the far-out Cruising Wagon? #NSFW. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-mandated recall eventually led to the reinforcing of the Pinto’s fuel tank, meaning increased crash performance and added peace of mind.

There’s no shortage of vehicles with bad reputations for unreliability or remarkable ugliness, but these three models, spanning models years 1960 to 1980, represent the pinnacle of automotive notoriety. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t genuine reasons for wanting one. For today’s question, we’re asking which of these three vehicles — any year, any variant — you’d like to have in your garage.

Try to refrain from straying outside the terrible trio listed here. What’s it going to be? Corvair, Vega, or Pinto?

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

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119 Comments on “QOTD: Which of These Automotive Pariahs Secretly Turns Your Crank?...”


  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Corvair does it for me, though I prefer the title track off the “Madman” album.

    I’d love a Yenko Stinger clone.

    • 0 avatar
      TheDoctorIsOut

      Would you settle for “Corvair Baby” by Paul Revere and the Raiders? I’m still not sure after all these years this wasn’t a put-on by the band.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      The Corvair does it for me based on looks, but I still want the engine between me and obstacles in the unfortunate event of a crash, and while air-cooled simplicity is nice, useful defrosters are a must. If wagons are your thing there’s always the Lakewood.

      Elton John splits for me at Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Anything after that is pop dross.

  • avatar
    brakeless

    I would take a turbo Corvair, but I wouldn’t pay a lot for it.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    2nd generation Corvairs have always been one of my favorite looking cars of the 60’s, sort of like a BMW 3.0CSL built by GM.

    I also have a soft spot for early Chevettes.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, I have a bit of a thing for the gen2 Corvair. People like the coupes, but I’ll take a 4-door with the Corsa trim.

      QOTD: was the gen2 Corvair the smallest domestic hardtop sedan?

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I owned a ’66 Corvair Corsa coupe (140hp, 4MT, Mallory dual-point distributor) way back in the early ’70s. Fun, cheap to run and pretty sporty for those days. Pushrod tube o’rings leaked and would only last 500 miles or so between replacement but other than that it was pretty cool. I learned how to sync 4 carbs on that car. Four of us made a speed run from Idaho Falls to Springfield, Ohio and back in it with only one issue – the fan belt return pulley opposite the generator lost its shaft somewhere in Iowa and we used a common hex-head bolt to replace it (which lasted another three years without issue, I might add). It was pretty much rev-limited to 115mph at 5800 rpm but still had power left. Some folks were somewhat impressed with it – the CHP pulled me over near Napa one night just to take a look under the hood. Fond memories.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Pinto wagon with DE 6. Doesn’t look too bad in orange or yellow with faux wood. The most practical of the three.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    CORVAIR!

    One of the best and most innovative American cars ever made,— destroyed by a dumb do-gooder liberal!

    =========================

    • 0 avatar
      VoGhost

      GM could have chosen to address the very real safety issues with the Corvair, by:
      • Installing a front stabilizer bar
      • Educating dealers and customers on proper tire pressure
      • upgrading springs and dampers, front anti-roll bars and rear-axle-rebound straps; and
      • using a four-link, fully independent rear suspension to maintain a constant camber angle at the wheels

      Instead, GM spent its time trying to destroy Nader’s image and to silence him, by:
      • tapping his telephone and conducting a ‘continuing’ and harassing investigation of him
      • casting aspersions upon [his] political, social, racial and religious views; his integrity; his sexual proclivities and inclinations; and his personal habits’;
      • hiring prostitutes to try to entrap him into illicit relationships

      • 0 avatar

        Hello VoGhost,

        Ironically, GM’s harassment of Nader occurred after Chevrolet had already introduced the second generation Corvair which had the “four-link, fully independent rear suspension” and other improvements that you mentioned.

        The harassment occurred sometime after March 1965 when Nader testified at the Ribicoff auto safety hearings in the Senate. The second generation Corvair, beginning with model year 1965, had already been on the market for six months by then.

        Nader was not the first to criticize the Corvair’s handling. Owners of 1960-63 Corvairs had already filed more than one hundred lawsuits against General Motors by the time Nader attracted national attention by way of his participation in the Ribicoff hearings. Many other attorneys were involved on behalf of the plaintiffs in these actions.

        On the other hand, there is evidence that complaints about the the handling characteristics of early Corvairs were overblown. On Friday, July 21, 1972, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – a branch of the federal government – issued a report on its two year investigation of the 1960-1963 Corvair. The report concludes: “The handling and stability performance of the 1960-1963 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles, both foreign and domestic.”

        A complete copy of the NHTSA report and its background are available on the Corvair Society of America’s website. Here’s a link to it:

        https://www.corvair.org/index.php/history-and-preservation/unsafe-at-any-speed

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          The Corvair suffered from lift-throttle oversteer, which is a handling characteristic common to rear-engine cars. Go around a corner fast, take your foot off the accelerator, and the a** end comes right out from behind you.

          For years, Porsche 911s were infamously tricky to handle at high speeds. And if you were a skilled driver, it wasn’t much of an issues. But most American drivers a) weren’t skilled, and b) were used to underpowered front engine-rear drive cars. In a conventional, front-engine, rear-drive car, oversteer is caused by *more* throttle, not less. Plus, the Corvair had a fair amount of balls for a car its’ size (in fact, that was a selling point of the model). This exacerbated the basic handling quirk. Add that up, and you had a car that was prone to a handling characteristic that most of its’ owners had no idea how to handle.

          So, yes, a lot of this is due to driver incompetence, but GM could CLEARLY have done a far better job of stabilizing the rear suspension, and at a very minimal cost (I believe it’d have cost about $10 a car). They didn’t.

          I still put this on GM.

          • 0 avatar
            ClutchCarGo

            Rear engines are tricky for drivers not used to having that weight in back instead of the front. The story is that the German high command decreed officers not to drive Czech Tatras in WWII due to the high accident rate.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      I’m puzzled by the mind set that thinks “wanting to do the right thing” is somehow bad.

    • 0 avatar
      e30gator

      But do you know who’s NOT been destroyed by “dumb do-gooder liberals”?
      All those people who would have been killed by their cars due to corporate negligence, ineptitude, or indifference, but were instead saved by the safety devices or regulation that served as a deterrent to a companies that would have otherwise sold them a death trap.

      But by all means, please trust Pepsi and Marlboro to look out for your well-being. Grab a diet Pepsi and a Marlboro light and enjoy some of those “best and innovative” products ever made. One less dumb, “do-bad” conservative to jack up my insurance premiums.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        Read about how GM and DuPont conspired to circumvent any regulatory resistance to adding lead to gasoline. It’s one of the most heinous examples of corporations chasing profits with depraved indifference to public health and safety you’ll ever come across.

      • 0 avatar
        2manycars

        Government has killed and maimed many more people than have been harmed by “corporate negligence, ineptitude, or indifference.”

        The primary differences between the federal government gangsters and private organized crime is that the latter is less violent and has far less blood on its hands.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      You know, the death of the Corvair was caused by America’s indifference to a weird, relatively pricy foreignish thing that you couldn’t even get a V8 in, right? GM had already signed off on stopping any further development months before Unsafe At Any Speed came out. You want to blame someone, blame the free market, blame Lee Iaccocca, blame the Chevy II and the Mustang. All Nader did was define the Corvair’s post-mortem reputation.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        The Corvair was supposed to be a VW killer, instead of a flat four, it had a flat six, etc. The Corvair was a product of GM management’s arrogance, they just ‘knew’ why people bought VW. At the time Ford was run by Robert McNamara, and McNamara commissioned a study of VW owners. Ford then proceed to design a car…Falcon…that had the attributes of the VW without just being more of a VW than a VW. The Falcon ate GM’s lunch and forced GM to rush the Chevy II into production.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        this exactly. What killed the Corvair was the Chevy II (later called the Nova) and the Ford Falcon. Same reason Pontiac went nowhere with the Tempest’s rear transaxle, IRS, flex shaft drive, and 4 banger and aluminum V8 options.

        customers didn’t want “weird” stuff for the same or more money than a more familiar, traditional kind of car.

        The Corvair was on life support before Nader showed up. “Unsafe at Any Speed” merely pulled the plug.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Troll request declined.

      • 0 avatar
        Guitar man

        Well no, the Corvair sold for some years afterwards and the handling problems were fixed.

        But it was an expensive car to make and repair and the basic dirt cheap Mustang killed it in sales.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Corvair: 1960s styling that still draws my eye every time I see one. A neighbor down the street has a red one and it still looks good.

  • avatar
    skor

    The Vega was a POS in just about every regard, one of the worst post-war cars built, and that’s saying a lot. The Second gen Corvair is beautiful, and like Mr. Williams points out, GM fixed the murderous suspension by then. High maintenance is the only negative. The Pinto is the most solid of the three, irrespective of its explode-y image. Fact is that most subcompacts of the day had the same issue, but it seems only Ford reduced the problem to an accounting formula, and rightfully paid the price. A rust-free pinto, with a mechanically sound 2.3/four-speed would actually make a reliable daily driver that got decent gas mileage.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mid-’70s Chevy Monza – it was a rare example of restrained, clean, elegant styling during the Malaise Era.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Ever work on one? I have. Pass.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I heard the V-8 and V-6 versions were a b*tch to work on, but I was referring to the styling. One of the best looking cars of the ’70s, if you ask me. I’d look right at home with a Porsche badge on it.

        Beauty = pain.

      • 0 avatar

        So have I. A V8/4-speed. The much-touted “jack the motor up to change a spark plug”, while not great, was made as painless as it could by locating two bolts underneath, easily accessible. The brakes were hopelessly undersized, but I’ve had vehicles what were worse to work on…most notably the ’93 Taurus SHO I owned about a decade ago.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Among my group of friends when I 17 years old, was the son of a senior manager at GM..We were never invited to his house ,but he was a cool guy. Our circle of acquaintances may not have met his parents “criteria/expectations???Remember this was 1971..Young men from his socio economic background just didn’t associate with long haired, high school drop outs..Our idea of a good time was chasing girls, working on old cars, and indulging in the now so popular “herb’

    Anyway to alleviate this perceived parental dilemma, dad buys him brand new 71 Vega GT, with Rally wheels, and equipped with a stick.

    With the 70 Camaro like front end , and the swooping roof,I thought that was the coolest car ever created.

    I’m not sure of its final fate..We sure had a lot of fun with it..Very much a chick magnet.

    I guess the old man finally conceded that his son wasn’t going to GMI or Law school ..Such a step up might have required finishing Secondary School. Like the rest of us,my buddy ended up on the line at GM, and did 35 years.

    I see him the odd time, and I always think of that super cool Vega.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “We were never invited to his house ,but he was a cool guy. Our circle of acquaintances may not have met his parents “criteria/expectations???Remember this was 1971.”

      Don’t mean to hijack the thread, but what you describe was a common mentality among America’s upper/middle classes well into the 80s. I experienced a lot of “We don’t mix with ‘those’ people” from suburban Jersey bourgeoisie/wannabes because my parents were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Funny thing was that many of the people with that attitude were themselves only 2-3 generations removed from Irish/Italian/Polish/Jewish immigrant ancestors.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      The Vega styling was great. And the chassis dynamics were very good. Had the mechanicals been up to the norm, the car would have been a success.

      My 72 had rust perforated front fenders, blown head gasket, failed differential bearings, and worn out front disc brake pads (calipers not “floating” due to corrosion) all in the first 18 months.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, if you look at the number of Vegas sold, it was clearly a sales success. They sold a TON of these cars.

        But in the end, the quality issues convinced Americans that Chevrolet couldn’t build a good small car. The Vega (and the Corvair) also convinced GM that building small cars wasn’t really worth the trouble. As a result, they replaced the Vega with the “world car” Chevette, which was God-poundingly awful from day one, and just became more and more uncompetitive as the years dragged on.

        This failure in the small-car segment cost GM dearly in the years to come – it handed a huge chunk of sales to the Japanese makes, which used small cars as a beachhead. Twenty years after the Vega, Japanese makes were eviscerating Detroit makes in the midsize segment.

        The Vega was a short term success and a long term disaster. Same was true of the Pinto.

        • 0 avatar
          Felix Hoenikker

          Yes, classic case of ceding the lower end of the market and having new entrants eat their way up the product line once they made a go of the “unprofitable” low end products.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’d take a Vega, but I’d want it with the Cosworth engine option. Back when she was still Lyn Caruso, soon-to-be Indy driver Lyn St. James raced one in SCCA showroom stock to good effect.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Corvair. My grandfather briefly owned a 1963 2-door post, white with red interior. He bought it on a lark at a yard sale while looking for a new riding mower. Nobody had a riding mower he wanted and the car didn’t cost more than he had so he bought it.

    I drove it once. It was kinda cool. It didn’t hold together well enough to be driven much longer than that one summer.

    My grandfather, a profoundly unprofane adult Sunday school teacher, wanted to get a custom plate “FNADER” but VDOT wouldn’t let him. He tagged it 63 VAIR instead. I think he sold it to my 2nd cousin but I haven’t seen it in years.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    eh. I’d say Pinto wagon, no fake wood. Then drop in an Ecoboost 2.3 crate engine w/controls pack from Ford Racing.

  • avatar
    True_Blue

    My father had several Pintos in the early ’80s, including the oh-so-trendy-in-2017 brown, manual, station wagon version. My favorite of them was a white with red stripe edition (like a mini-inverse of Starsky’s Gran Torino) with red vinyl seats. 5-year-old me thought it was so cool looking.

    Small, light, RWD and can swallow a small-block.

    • 0 avatar
      tommytipover

      Wouldn’t the modern-day equivalent be awesome? Something cheap, light, RWD, and with a 200hp 2liter engine.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        Would never sell. First off Americans are now too fat and ill to get into a small car. Secondly, American’s want tall, large, 4X4s that make them feel ‘safe’.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          So jack up a Pinto wagon for 4×4, and raise the roof 3 inches, with wider, higher seats. There’s room for American hips if you bring back Ford’s old push-button transmission control and eliminate the center console. The pinto was nearly 70 inches wide, same as a compact. I needs a longer wheelbase for rear seat legroom, though.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        You mean like the 86/BRZ? those certainly lit up sales charts.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          I’d say they sold about as many as could be expected in these depressing times – so I call that a success. We really are in the Malaise Era MKII in a lot of ways.

          Ultimately the problem with the Toyobaru is that it has the wrong engine, and isn’t as fun as it should be.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            Malaise Era II? No way. Right now a V6 Camry will do 0-60 in under 6 seconds and has 270hp. It would take a 7L V8 from the malaise era to even get close to that and it sure has hell wouldn’t last 300,000 miles.

            And that’s just a very plain standard Camry, not even a performance car. A modern Corvette eats Malaise Era Ferraris and Lamborghinis for breakfast.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Malaise Era MKII”?

            You’re kidding, right? Even something as plebeian as a base-model Camry would probably run rings around 87% of so-called “sport sedans” back in the real malaise era…or the ’80s, for that matter.

            There’s never been a better time for cars.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            krhodes1 is forgetting that back in the pre-Malaise era, the streets weren’t filled with muscle cars. they were filled with 4-door sedans and hard tops with relatively wheezy straight 6s and low-end V8s.

      • 0 avatar
        Blackcloud_9

        Wouldn’t that be the Subaru BRZ/Scion FRS/Toyota F86? Relatively light (by today’s standards), 200 hp engine, RWD (or AWD). Yet when it was reviewed all I heard the B&B around here say was “Yea, it’s ok, could use 50 more HP”. Everybody always want 50 more HP.

        • 0 avatar
          True_Blue

          A mechanic buddy of mine has a supercharged FR-S (Jackson Racing Rotrex C30) and it picked up around 75 more horsepower.

          It changed the character of the car. I’d wager it could take on some recent V8 ponycars in a straight line. Plus the soundtrack is fantastic now.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This past weekend I stumbled on a road tripping flock of 2nd gen Corvairs. Those cars are timelessly beautiful.

  • avatar

    To Steph Willems, I would not call the Corvair an “automotive pariah”. Chevrolet sold over 1.8 million Corvairs before ending production in May 1969. The early models were especially popular.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      When the first gas crisis hit Ed Cole allegedly said: “If I had 100,000 Corvairs I could sell every single one.”

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Ironically, he sold a crapload of Vegas instead…over 460,000 of them in 1974, to be exact. A total of over 2 million Vegas were eventually sold.

        That was the good news.

        The bad news was that by the time the Vega went away, there were over 2 million Vega buyers who would rather do a one month stint in the Hanoi Hilton than buy another Chevrolet, and they bought Japanese cars instead. That was when the seeds of GM’s eventual BK were laid, if you think about it.

        The Pinto did the same thing to Ford, though to their credit, the Fiesta and Escort were vastly superior to anything GM was making at the time.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    If I had to pick one to own, it would be the second generation Corvair. It’s the one I would want to be seen in. But I do have an artsy photograph of a Pinto Cruising Wagon on my wall, from my college photography course days. And the last detailed car model I built before moving on to Architecture was a ’79 or so Chevrolet Monza hatchback, which I also still have on display in my home office.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Pinto wagon. Very practical vehicle in the day. In the 70s I heard many bad comments about the Pinto, long before the fuel tank situation got in the media.
    I was leaning in that direction thinking the Pinto was a cheap car with poor quality control, lousy reliability and not any fun to drive due to poor handling and ride.
    Turns out that idea was wrong, another case of second hand information.
    In one of life’s moments I was driving a Pinto wagon for a few weeks around 1980. Found it to be quite pleasant to drive. Would have bought it, but lack of $ prevented that.

  • avatar
    hamish42

    Vintage racing in Canada is called VARAC. A couple of years ago my brother and I saw a guy flogging a pretty rough Corvair around the old F1 Mosport track near Toronto. Not nearly competitive but he didn’t roll over, either.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I would take the Vega if I could get a high winding small block under the hood with a 4 speed and cut down 12 bolt/9 inch Ford rear end. The Vegas and Pintos were pretty prolific at the drag strips during the 80’s and 90’s. That short wheelbase made for an evil handling car in high horsepower applications.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve had two Pintos (71, 76) and one Bobcat (80), so really three.

    The one I miss is the 71 with the 1600 Kent OHV 4-cylinder, stick shift, with a trunk (not a hatch). It was orange. I sometimes think it would be fun to restore another 71 just like it.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Back in those wonderful days of my youth, I had consecutive girlfriends with the Vega, then Pinto wagons.

    If I could go back in time, and had to choose between the two, it would be the redhead, hands down.

    I know, I know, Jack could have written this response.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Redheads FTW!

      All these vehicles were before my driving age so can’t really comment other to say that my mother drove a Corvair and lived to tell about it. Like many mid engine cars her’s caught fire about a week after being sold.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d imagine the Pinto wagon would have been a far better vehicle for that mission, kosmo…

      • 0 avatar
        kosmo

        Well, it was college days, and nobody lived with their parents back the, so……

        But the Vega, for some reason, was far better in the snow.

        Up to 50, which was it’s practical top speed in unplowed snow of even two inches!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I’ve told this before, but my neighbor’s wife bought a new Vega, her first new car. Within 6 months the lack of inner fenders caused the tops of her fenders and the base of the windshield to rust through.

      When the car was a year old, the holes were pretty big, and her husband, his friend Tom and I were standing in front of her car in its parking space, having a beer. When she came out, she asked what we were doing, and Tom said “we’re watching your car rust.”

      I don’t think she ever forgave him.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    As mentioned before, I did have a Pinto Wagon. Bought it from a relative who had it as a 2nd car used only to take the kids to and from their activities. Low mileage but not sure that it had ever been washed or had the interior cleaned out.

    Anyhow, forget the rose tinted glasses. Yes it was reliable, for the time. But the NVH was terrible. You could turn the wheel about 1/4 in either direction before anything happened.

    Compared to the VW Type IV (and before that Type III) squarback/shooting brake that I had used previously for the same tasks, it was pre-historic in design, engineering, fit, finish, seat comfort and interior room.

    However it was far less finicky than the Type IV but not the Type III.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Going by available evidence, it would have to be my RX-8.

    I mean, I still own the damned thing and am making plans to put another engine into it. God, it’s like an abusive relationship… “I can fix you. You’re hurting me.”

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’d love a Corvair Lakewood wagon. I’d drop the flat-6 from a later model in there and a 4-speed manual.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    The Vega was a sales “success” because many people in the 1970s thought highly of GM, and several thought little of Japanese cars.

    The Vega did more to change those perceptions than any other car.

  • avatar

    Corvair for me, I think it’s a nice design which aged well.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Corvair Rampside, please.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    I’ve owned a 65 Corvair convertible since ’83. It’s fun to drive. Non power steering and not much weight up front is what power steering dreams of being. Lots of feel and little effort. It’s a joy to drive. The drum brakes are best of any car with four drums and a back seat.

    I owned a Pontiac Astre, the Pontiac clone of the Vega. Awful workmanship and reliability, even for an American car of that era.

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    I’ve owned several Corvairs over the years. Once the o-rings are replaced with Viton instead of neoprene the oil leaks are no worse than, say, a ford explorers rocker cover gaskets. I drove my 64 Greenbrier as a Daily for 16 of the last 18 years. I still drive it frequently and other than oil changes and occasional tinkering with carb synchronization, it starts every time I need it and runs fine. Incidentally – it drips a little dexron once in a while, but no oil in many years. The Vega looked pretty good, but rusted fast. Pintos looked OK, but those old 4-pots with 8 horsepower were just awful. I recall one of the auto mags describing the Pinto as “Marginally capable of Self-Propulsion”.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      I tried several elastomer compositions for the o’rings on my ’66 – there was a green colored one that worked the best but I don’t remember what it was. Of course this was around 1970 to ’73 so elastomer tech was somewhat older. The head-end of the pushrod tubes got pretty hot and that’s where my o’rings fried and leaked.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Definitely the Corvair. Always thought they were super cool. I’ve had a ride in one but never driven one.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Years ago, my uncle (a man I hold in almost as high of a regard as my own father…perhaps a smidge more, even) bought a 1965 Corvair Corsa Convertible as a present to himself. This was in the late 70s. I recall a few rides in the car, and loved it. Fast forward to the early 90s, and he moved to Germany for three years on a government rotation. The Corvair (not in fully-restored condition) was driven to my house and stored under cover for those three years. Each day I would go to the garage, I’d peak under the cover and sometimes took the cover completely off and would just sit in the driver’s seat holding that thin steering wheel in my hands. Even though it didn’t run to the point of being drivable, I was secretly thrilled to have been given the trust to watch over it while he was gone. When he returned to the US, I helped him get the car back to his house across town. About a year or so later, he decided to forgo attempting to restore it and he sold it.
    I lost him two years ago to a sudden and unexpected aneurism. When he went into the hospital, I was still in the US. I flew home to Saudi Arabia and less than 24 hours later was back on a flight to the US as his death was imminent and I was not going to miss his funeral, time zones, jet lag and sleep be damned.
    So yes, for me…hands down, the Corvair. It’s linked to a man I admired more than I can express.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Bravo. And isn’t that the key to the attachment that humans have to objects? Not what they can do, but what they remind us of. There are many instances of an auto becoming a ‘madeleine object’. Through the auto we become connected to a person, time or place.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I am sorry to hear about your uncle. I can relate, had an uncle who taught me a lot, he owned his own business and he gave me something to aspire to. He passed a few years ago, things just aren’t the same without him.

      I guess if I had to pick a hero, he would be it. He has undesirable qualities, but hell, he was human. There was far more good than bad. He didn’t lie, cheat, steal, he didn’t beat his wife or kids, he made an honest living doing what he loved to do. I strive to get to that level myself one day.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        John, right back at you for your loss. My uncle was perhaps the finest man I’ve ever known. Funny how two of the most prominent men in my life also relate to cars. My uncle also owned a 1985 BMW 318i that I thought was simply magical at a time when we owned a 1981 Toyota Corolla. Years later, I also owned a 318i, and though clearly not the fastest car in the world, it brought me great joy and was a source of discussion between my uncle and I. His passing still stuns me to this day. The Corvair will always be more than just a little magical and mystical to me, regardless of the car’s flaws.

        And the other man I’ve mentioned numerous times here as my source of great love for BMW (well, at least up until the E46).

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Growing up, my folks owned two of these three–63 Corvair in “candy apple red” with white interior. That thing leaked amazing amounts of oil and once caught fire while Dad was driving home from work. Later, they went with 1974 Pinto Wagon in “ginger glow,” which was really metallic poo brown. Both cars were sticks, of course. The Corvair was sold to the neighbor kid for $75 to make room for the Pinto. He put some wire wheels on it, shined it up, it looked beautiful….but still leaked amazing amounts of oil.

  • avatar

    1971-’73 Vega Kammback, please. WITHOUT hesitation.

    After rustproofing, it would get a modern Ecotec and stick from, say, a wrecked Solstice/Sky. I’d also figure out how to swap the newer car’s brakes.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The Corvair was always a favorite of mine, especially because it was rear-engined like the Beetle but overall bigger inside and simply kept its style with few visible changes over the years.

    That said, the Vega was really my favorite, especially in hatchback and panel wagon styles. Sure, it may have been underpowered but sticking a small V6 under that hood turned it into quite the sleeper while still being rather utilitarian, making it in many ways the best of two worlds. And if an owner actually bothered to keep on top of the rust (or even a simple undercoating job) helped its longevity immensely.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The fact that Vegas and Pintos are RWD and can fit small blocks has been their undoing, almost all of the survivors have been destroyed by drag racers.

    I’d take a Vega Kammback 2 door wagon, for sure, mostly because I have never and probably will never see one in person.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Yep, seeing a stock Vega any body style is about as rare as seeing a stock, restored Willys Americar or Kaiser Henry J.

      For the same reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      True_Blue

      To be fair, nearly *everything* on sale in this era was RWD, and could fit small blocks (or big blocks, even). The fact that they’re small and light made them drag racers.

      Most of their deaths were due to the fact that they were engineered to be throwaway entry-level cars, and only recently have achieved cult status.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Excellent point about small block conversions.

      When you look up Pintos for sale, too many of them have a 302 and slicks, with random tack-on gauge wires hanging beneath the dashboard.

      I’d only take an untouched original.

  • avatar
    George B

    I like the Chevrolet Monza, Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird from the late 70s. Light weight RWD cars with room for a small block Chevy engine swap.

    Not really an automotive pariah, but the 1st generation Mercury Cougar is a beautiful car very prone to rust. It would be cool to be able to buy a complete replacement body with modern rust proofing like you can for a Mustang.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    In my cohort the Pinto was ubiquitous. Vegas just didn’t last long enough and Corvairs weren’t suitable for new drivers. Pintos were slow but relatively reliable with predictable handling. I had its cousin, the Mustang II. I’d rock one of those again in a heartbeat. Destined to be the rarest of Mustangs. It was a significantly better handler and braker than my subsequent 67 Mustsng GT fastback.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    1969 Corvair two-door hardtop. Almost a Camaro!

  • avatar
    Syke

    Corvair, Corvair, Corvair. All thru my childhood, I loved those cars more than anything else that Chevrolet made. Summer of ’65, just before dad got out of the dealership, he brought a new Monza two door, deep red with a white interior, 140hp with Powerglide home as his daily driver for the last couple of months so I could take it out around the neighborhood.

    Amazingly, I’ve never driven a Corvair legally. Dad was out of the dealership by the following summer when I finally got my driver’s license. Yes, I still want one. Preferably Corsa of Spyder.

    Vega GT is my second choice. Still had very pleasant memories of the ’73 that was my first (modern, not antique) car. It gave me good service for three years, including three seasons of B-sedan autocross, and was still running well at trade in time (although the exhaust was starting to show a bit of smoke). Traded it in on a ’76 Monza 2+2 (nice car, not quite as much fun as the Vega), and then a ’79 Monza Kammback (and it was 20+ years before I touched a Chevrolet anything again after that POS).

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Hard to pick between the Corvair and Pinto. The Vega does nothing for me, but the Corvair is unique and beautiful, the Pinto is honest and accepts modification easier.

    I’ve wanted to swap a 3.0L Vulcan* into a Pinto, with a hotter cam from a later Taurus and a adaptor to hook up a T-5. I know it would be as reliable as the sun, and probably get great mileage. My Tempo V-6 got excellent mileage, even with a 3 speed automatic. I would imagine the Pinto would weigh in similarly and would have two more gears, so it would theoretically do even better. The Vulcan’s torque and durability would work well in the Pinto, IMO.

    Still, I would love a Rampside Corvair for the novelty and the utility. So, I suppose that the one I’m more likely to own at some point would be the Pinto, but in this instance, I’d choose the Corvair, all things being equal (as in I wouldn’t be basing my decision on the given cost of the car).

    *I’m well aware that I could just as easily, if not more easily, swap in a 302 or any number of other engines with more power and so on, but I love me some Madd Vulcan Powah. You guys should know me well enough by now to expect the oddball choice from yours truly, lol.

  • avatar
    Ko1

    I can’t say Corvair because I already own two of them. (’65 Corsa convertible 140 4-speed and a ’66 Monza coupe 140 powerglide)

    No, secretly I’d like to have either an early Vega with the Camaro style grille or a later Pontiac Astre (1975?) with the Firebird style front end. Build it up like the Jeg’s Vega with a full frame, LS V8 backed by a six speed manual and a beefy rear end.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    Corvair (although I prefer second-gen Monza Coupés)

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Learned to drive in a first year Bobcat wagon. It was awesome. Had a Vega – all the bad things they say are true. Our family had a a Corvair we got as a trade. It was fun, but it was gone before i got my licence. Out of the three, I’d take the Pinto wagon with the V6 and auto for every day use, and since it could efficiently tow a pup utility trailer.

    But for weekend fun I’d take a 1966 Corsa turbo.
    ;-)

    The greatest tragedy with the Vega was not putting in the 153 Chev four.

  • avatar
    islander800

    No doubt, it’s Corvair.

    The second gen Corvair is the closest any American brand came to an American Porsche. The only thing missing was rack and pinion steering, disc brakes (though the Chevelle drums did great) and radial tires. GM had an experimental overhead-cam version of the pancake six engine in development. Ralph Nader, and the Mustang, put an end to that. Ironic, in that the Mustang was created in response to demand for sporty cars, thanks to the success of…Corvair Monza).

    Anyone who has thrown a 2nd gen Corvair into perfectly-controlled power slides through twisties knows what I mean. Feeling the growl of a 140 four-carb through free-flow dual exhausts, hood jumping as the secondaries kick in, is “unique”.

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