GM's effort to emulate VW in the small car market created both the Corvair and Ralph Nader's career. Today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Greenbrier may be unsafe at any speed but it's still pretty sweet looking just standing still.
An Impala was felled yesterday, and it didn't take a pride of lions to bring it down, all it took was NPOCP. That Chevy's one of a kind-ness did not engender much voter kindness, and the questionably licensable Impala SS singularity fell to a 78% Crack Pipe loss. That former GM Heritage Collection resident carried both too high a price and too much baggage to have been realistically considered a deal. Today's candidate, while still a member of the bow tie brigade, comes with a much lower price, as well as the ability to haul all that Impala's baggage, and then some.
Do you remember, back when you were kid, riding your bike with someone on the handlebars? It could have been that cute girl down the street, or your best friend who had just scored some cherry bombs, and wanted to try them out on the school's toilets. Whomever it was, there they were in front of you- butt on the bars, feet out in front, and you peering over a shoulder and peddling like mad. If you were to hit something, or drop a tire down a storm drain grate, they would be the first to know about it, and would suffer the brunt of that sudden deceleration.
That was sort of the problem with the forward control vans and trucks that were gaining popularity just as the fabulous fifties were turning into the civilly disobedient sixties. Ford's E100 and Dodge's A100 both put the driver and front seat passenger over top of the front wheels and on either side of a doghouse under which was domiciled the engine. VW's Type 2 put the engine in the back, freeing that space between the driver and passenger for a third seat, and Chevy, in emulation of the German make, did the same with their version of the light van, the Corvan 95. Like the Ford and Dodge, both the VW and the Chevy also matched the front wheel centerline with that of your spine, making the crumple zone for each of these vans the space between your rib cage and your internal organs.
This 1961 Greenbrier Sport Wagon is an example of the passenger version of the Corvan, which shares with its sedan sibling both the 108-inch wheelbase and Ralph Nader's contempt. Nader hated almost all cars, but he held a special kind of loathing for the unique handling qualities of the little Chevy. Thankfully he's not around today to pass judgement on our current contender. We, on the other hand, need to give it a once-over. Let's start with the motor, shall we?
Under the engine cover - no, back here, bubba - is a 145-cid flat six, air-cooled and sporting one of the most tortured fan belt path designs in history. The seller of this baby blue and white ‘Vair claims the motor has been yanked so the gaskets and rubber could be refreshed. While they were at it, the carbs were rebuilt and the generator was swapped for an alternator, which would account for the headlights being white rather than a sickly yellow in the twilight snaps.
The ad claims 98-bhp for the van, however stock for this year would have been 80. Perhaps he's got the high-compression motor out of the Monza here, or maybe he's just plain wrong. Either way, fronting the six is a 2-speed Powerglide transaxle, which is actuated by a delicate dash-mounted lever. In an age when 7 and 8-speed trannys can be found on high-end luxury cars, and 6-speeds are common on most every family sedan out there, 2 speeds may seem like a joke. But with the leisurely pace of era, and a top speed in the single digits, two is plenty in this case. For those of you who are complaining about the power-sapping qualities of the torque converter two speed, consider the span between driver and transmission and realize that a manual would be about as vague as a politician's promise. There's still the swing axle providing camber comedy out back, as well as oversteer that would make a Porsche driver raise an eyebrow and utter an oh shit! at the first hard corner, but the Greenbrier's weight distribution is better than that of the sedans and coupes. And, if you're a kind of a lard-ass, you'll only improve the forward distribution.
While the rear-engine layout does offer the expectation of egress to the back from the front seats, this ‘Brier has the common bench seat, providing, along with the other two, a remarkable 9-passenger capacity. And as can be seen, the second row can even be mounted backwards for those of you who like to see where you've been.
The rest of the interior is a mixture of rough and ready - the seats need to be recovered and the turn signal stalk looks to have been mistaken for something to nibble on, but there's a new headliner (and no two-drink minimum) as well as the aforementioned two-tone respray outside. On closer inspection, it appears that the new coat was put on over some bumps and bruises that haven't fully healed, including a nasty one underneath the side doors. People, if you're going to go to the trouble of having your car painted by someone other than the neighborhood taggers, go ahead and spring for the extra few hundred to get the dents knocked out. Just painting over them is like the proverbial porcine lip embellishments. Still, from above the equator, the paint looks okay.
All this, and Nader's exasperated expressions of dismay when you cruise by, will cost you $8,900. The seller claims three to four grand in receipts, which, it should be pointed out to him, are as of consequence to the ultimate value of the vehicle as would be the temperature of the air in the tires. Nobody cares how much you spend, it's only important how much the potential buyers think they would spend for the car as it stands.
And as it stands, it's time to come to a vote. Do you think a Benjamin-shy of nine grand is fair for this Corvair? Or, is that too much green for this ‘Brier?
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