Is a vintage convertible with a rear-mounted flat six on your to-do list? Well, Nice Price or Crack Pipe says to put away your lederhosen, because this one's not a Porsche.
The post-war era in America brought tract housing, TV dinners and a steady stream of quirky little cars to our shores. GM, realizing that there were cars being purchased that weren't theirs, sought to rectify the situation. Most of the new small cars coming over from Europe, and being built by people who were trying to kill us little more than a decade earlier, were rear-engined, the most successful of them air-cooled. GM management decided to bring out their own small-car competitor, and unlike Ford and Chrysler, who pretty much just popped out smaller versions of their mainstream models, GM went radical, and followed the lead of the foreign interlopers.
The resultant Corvair was unlike anything sold by an American manufacturer since the short-lived Tucker. Rear-engined, and air-cooled, the corvair offered four-wheel independent suspension when the domestic competitors were still holding up their backsides with live axles. The engine placement allowed for an amazingly roomy cabin with a flat floor and low, sporty roofline- the Corvair being over five inches lower than the Impala, with which it shared the sales floor. The 'vair was made available in the widest variety of body styles of any GM product- from sedan, coupe and convertible, to pickup (with a side-loading ramp!) minivan, and station wagon.
Today's contender is the handsome four-seater convertible, and it's a spyder, which features the sport gauge cluster and, most importantly, the 150 bhp turbocharged 2.7 litre six. Keep in mind that a contemporary Porsche 911 only put out 128 horsepower.
This black over white ‘vair sports the sturdy four speed with a vague, long-throw shifter. With mastery of that, you will be able to get to sixty in about 10 clicks of the clock. The top is power-operated, the steering is light, and these cars are excellent cruisers. The area where it might let you down is in the twisties, and that brings up an important point about the Corvair, for which many an auto enthusiast can never forgive- it gave us Ralph Nader. His book, Unsafe at Any Speed, lamented the unique handling characteristics of a swing axle rear suspension. Which, when exacerbated by the pendulum-like effect of the engine back there creating excessive oversteer, lead to several Corvair-related accidents.
Never mind that thousands of European drivers had been managing to not get killed by similarly designed cars for decades, Nader knew Americans needed protection from these Detroit deathtraps. Today, things have changed and we're considering the value of a Corvair, and not of Ralph the Mouth.
So, what do you think about this classic example of GM's experimental phase? Is $14,000 a price that's nice, and a fair value to stick it to Ol' Ralphie boy? Or, is that price seem like and unrecoverable spin of the Crack Pipe?
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