The Chevrolet Corvair is America's most unique car built from 1960-69. Then and now, the Corvair had several oddities and innovations that owners notice. The reason for many of the design oddities were based on the numerous road trips that the prototype cars under went.
1. Dual or quad carburetors occupy the Corvair engine area and for those who are new to the car, it is an odd sight. The carbs sit right on the engine. The carbs make the engine appear complicated, one on each side. Mechanical linkages connect to the other carb on the other side of the engine. Even when the car was made, Chevy could have used 2 or 4 barrel carbs instead of 2 or 4 signal carbs. Testing showed that using either a 2 or 4 barrel carb (one carb with 2 or 4 barrels) perched in the center of the engine was problematic in maintenance and during cold and sub-freezing temps. The carbs tended to take much longer to heat up in cold weather or freeze a light film in them causing fuel problems. Thus, the carbs were placed on the engine allowing for a fast warming during cold temps and a simpler carb design reduced maintenance issues.
2. The fanbelt, with its 90 degree turn from the crankshaft to the pulley to the fan, made it the butt of jokes. The main problem with it was not the turns, but it tended to pop off without notice if the pulley bolt loosened. By placing a lock nut on the adjustable pulley, the problem was resolved.
3. Tire Pressure. Much of Corvair's problems with being "too light" on the road are that owners presumed the tire pressure was like all other cars, 32lb psi all around. Even though Chevy explicitly told owners in the manual this is wrong, habits are hard to break. The correct way is to have 18 psi in the front and 34 psi in the rear. Thus, owners caused their own problems.
4. Ballast tanks. All convertible models contained a heavy oil filled ballast tank, a foot tall, in each corner of the car frame, two in the front trunk and two in the rear. This was done to make the car "sure footed" because the car only had a cloth top. If these are missing, the car tends to drive "fishy" where they are missing. The difference in how the car drives with and without them is like night and day. With them, the car stays glued to the road, without them, it is a bit scary.
5. For some reason, the Corvair tranny lacks any sort of hole to drain and replace fluid. Very weird since one is told to change it every 12-30,000 miles. Thus, one needs to suction it out into a container.
6. Automatic shift on the dash. This was a popular trend in many early 60s cars. The car had a lever to shift gears, but lacked in P for Park , like most. Other cars used a push button to shift the automatic.
7. The engine of the Corvair is flat pan style and because it is there ended up being more than 100 places for it to leak oil and because the material used then would break down with daily use after a year, the car was known as an "oil leaker". However, oddly, once Chevy quit making it, Viton, in the 70s created many gaskets and seals that fit the car and can resist leaks for much longer because they can resist the high temps of the engine.
8. Corvair engines today are used in many small aircraft because of their durability.
9. The weather plate. Under the oil filter, left of center, most Corvairs now around have a large rectangular 3-4 inch opening in the engine shroud. If you are new to the car, you see this and ask, "is this correct"? "Why is there a large gap in the shroud"? Well, it is intentional! The gap allows the warm\hot air from the engine into the engine compartment to warm it and the carbs for better operation in the winter when colder temps exist. During the summer, a metal plate is attached covering it forcing the hot air to disapate into the atmosphere thus keeping the engine cooler. If the plate is missing, you should buy one and attach it in summer to prevent the engine area from becoming too hot. The weather plate DOES make a difference in the winter and summer!
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perrya (author) on May 15, 2012:
Depends, those are for the early models, not sure about the value.
jesse on May 15, 2012:
I have a corvair gas heater what is it worth? Anyone
perrya (author) on February 07, 2012:
Vairnut, totally disagree and all based on experience having owned three of them and still have one. The ballast tanks or dampers have a definite impact on handling if some are missing, without them, it was very fishtailish. I don't need correction.
vairnut on February 07, 2012:
Were you trying to see how many mistakes you could make on one subject? The belts came off usually because someone overtightened them. Tire pressure for cars was 18 front 28 rear on bias ply tires, trucks and vans were closer to even on pressure. And then. convertible "dampers" not ballast were there onlt to control a possible frequency vibration from showing up in the 40mph range, absolutely no affect on handling whatsoever. I could go on but I'm sure there are others here to correct you
Eric on January 12, 2011:
Gonna put a link to your page here in my "Corvair Kit." Print it too, in case you go down.
perrya (author) on October 17, 2010:
Hey, my 66 Corsa and 67 Monza are great running cars, people seem to love them where ever I go, especially those under 35 yr.
Hugh Williamson from Northeast USA on October 17, 2010:
I had 2 corvairs back in the '60s. One oddity I remember is that one of them had an optional gasoline heater.
Like the VW bugs of the time, which also had air cooled engines, the Corvair would freeze you in the winter. Gas was cheap and the gasoline heater gave you (just about) enough heat to defrost the windshield.
BigRed on July 08, 2010:
"The fanbelt, with its 90 degree turn from the crankshaft to the pulley to the fan, made it the butt of jokes. The main problem with it was not the turns, but it tended to pop off without notice if the pulley bolt loosened. By placing a lock nut on the adjustable pulley, the problem was resolved."
The fan belt usually came off because the belt was improperly adjusted, and when running at high engine speeds, and the throttle snapped shut, and the rpm suddenly dropped, the fan overspeeds the belt and can pop it off the pulley. The best way is to run a good quality belt, lubricated with silicone lube, and adjust the tension properly, so that the alternator will just slightly free turn under belt tension.
"Tire Pressure. Much of Corvair's problems with being "too light" on the road are that owners presumed the tire pressure was like all other cars, 32lb psi all around. Even though Chevy explicitly told owners in the manual this is wrong, habits are hard to break. The correct way is to have 18 psi in the front and 34 psi in the rear. Thus, owners caused their own problems."
Adjusting the tire pressure that way was more of a band-aid. The early models had a definite issue, solved with either a sway bar, or transverse leaf spring. The late models don't have the handling problems at all. Radial tires has done a lot too, considering these cars sold with bias ply tires.
Mortgagestar1 from Weirton,West Virginia on January 25, 2010:
I bought my son his first car, a 1984 Pontiac Fiero Indy 500 Pace Car replica
perrya (author) on January 23, 2010:
Use to have a fiero. A true sport coupe without much room for anything more than two people.
Mark Thompson on January 23, 2010:
True about space. th eFiero wa sthe Corvair of teh 1980's.
one of these Stinger's still ha steh 327 in it and funky transaxel. Its located in Colliers , West Virginia, just across the Pennsylvanai state line.
perrya (author) on January 23, 2010:
Wow, they are worth some dinero but it sounds like they may not be worth restoring. For a small car, they have a lot of interior space.
Mortgagestar1 from Weirton,West Virginia on January 23, 2010:
I located two Corvair Stingers that are abandoned and in bad shape. Weird set up. I live not too far from Cannonsbug, Pennsylvania where Don Yenko was from.
LiamBean from Los Angeles, Calilfornia on January 22, 2010:
This was America's one and only "boxer" engine as far as I know. That means it didn't need counterbalances on the crankshaft like most V and straight-line engines do. The pistons and connecting rods on one side balanced the pistons and connecting rods on the other.
I didn't know about the oil ballasts or the tire pressure figures. It's great to read a hub and learn something. Thanks!
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on January 21, 2010:
Maybe they made them better in California! I ended up cutting the top off mine and made a dune buggy out of it! But I still smile when I see one on the road. Good luck with yours!
perrya (author) on January 21, 2010:
Well for me, the 65-69 were simply great fun cars. I have two of them!
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on January 21, 2010:
My first car (bought by my Dad) was a 1964 Corvair. It was awful! LOL! Trouble from the first moment and when we went back about a year later to talk trade the salesman (who did not remember the old man) said "You're just about walkin' ain't cha?"
What a cussing he got!
Yard of nature from Michigan on January 14, 2010:
Another oddity -- at least in the one I drove as a young (broke) man. For every two tanks of gas, I added a quart of oil. The holes in the floorboard meant the windows stayed open in winter. Kind of liked the car, though. My dad for years drover a Greenbriar van.