The Chevrolet Corvair has to be one of my favorite American cars. It was bold and innovative, remaining America’s only real mass-produced rear-engined, air-cooled car. Oh, and also America’s only mass-produced horizontally-opposed engine. Michael McKeel must agree, because he has hundreds of them, which his neighbors aren’t too crazy about.

Pictured: A Corvair, during a more civilized age. Photo credit GM

McKeel lives in a rural town called Gaston in Indiana, and recently “several dozen” of his neighbors have signed a petition claiming that McKeel’s property is becoming a “salvage yard,” the Indianapolis Star Press reported.

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The petition also cited pollution concerns, which the newspaper elaborated on by saying:

Automobile fluids can include gasoline, fuel, motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, brake fluid, battery acid, power steering fluid, crank case oil, solvents and paints.

... to which I just want to point out that no Corvair is going to leak any antifreeze or power steering fluid.

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Fred Daniel, a city-county planner, told the paper:

“It’s a guy’s hobby that’s gotten way too big. He’s got a lot of Corvairs and a few other cars.”

Now, I think Daniel may have undermined his own arguments against McKeel with that statement, because later they say:

According to Daniel, an auto salvage yard cannot be within 350 feet of a road. McKeel’s salvage yard is 100 feet from the road. In addition, a salvage yard cannot be within 500 feet of a dwelling.

McKeel’s cars are closer than that to six houses, including one only 50 feet away.

This brings up the question of is this a man’s hobby, or is it a salvage yard? The “salvage yard” descriptor implies a commercial enterprise, which this collection of Corvairs is not. That makes me wonder if the salvage yard rules actually apply to the land and the Corvairs on it.

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McKeel claims to live on the property, but the petition says he and his wife do not. McKeel is attempting to get a “special use” zoning permit so he can keep his cars. (McKeel couldn’t immediately be located for comment.)

If we look at a satellite map view of the property, you can easily see the cars, but they appear to be mostly bounded by an empty field. They’re not exactly right next door to anyone.

An aerial picture taken by the Delaware-Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission shows a similar view, and adds property lines:

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It seems that the house marked 6600 is McKeel’s residence. While I’m sure the house directly to the right can see some of the cars, my combined love of Corvairs and people’s right to do whatever they want on their own property (you know, as long as it’ not really hurting anyone) makes me want to side with McKeel here.

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Sure, he’s probably a bit of a hoarder, a sentiment echoed on Corvair forums, but those same forums also say he’s a nice guy who’s helpful and active in the Corvair community.

I get that people don’t want their property values to drop, and I can just barely imagine that there’s people who are unable to find a field full of rusting Corvairs achingly beautiful, but looking at these maps, I can’t quite see how this Corvair horde is such a hardship to the people around it.

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I don’t live there, though, so, I don’t know. What does seem to be clear is that if things don’t go his way at the hearing scheduled for July 6, it may be a great time to get a good deal on a project Corvair.