Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe candidate represents one of the most infamous car lines GM ever has offered. This Corvair Greenbriar is also one of the coolest minivan models anyone has ever built. Let’s see if this unjustly maligned people-mover’s price is just, or is just too much.
My wife likes to buy the bargain table birthday cakes at our local grocery store. I’m somewhat mortified by this practice, as well with the ever-growing pile of plastic “Happy Birthday” toppers and cartoon character rings that she is amassing as they are consumed. She on the other hand, just likes cake every now and then and appreciates the discount applied to past-their-prime baked goods.
Everybody loves a good deal. Whether it be buying refurbished electronics or thrift store clothes, getting something that’s been “lightly used” can save you some heavy bucks. That bargain aesthetic extended to yesterday’s 2016 Jaguar F-Type S which, at $46,000, came in at less than half its original asking. This mega depreciation opens the door to many more who honestly couldn’t swing the monthlies on a new edition. That bodes poorly for Jag’s financials, but for our purposes it did the trick, earning the F-Type a laudable 65 percent Nice Price win.
Have I ever mentioned to you that my first car was a Chevy Corvair? I no doubt have, and should add to that bit of personal revelation that, it having been my first, the Corvair holds a special place in my heart.
Of course, Chevy’s innovative ‘60s compact wasn’t quite as well-liked by some. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader vilified the model’s handling in his 1965 screed, Unsafe at Any Speed. Everybody remembers the book for that, despite discussion of the Corvair’s dynamics covering just one chapter in Nader’s seminal book. What’s worse is that Nader’s critique of the Corvair wasn’t even particularly accurate, and was refuted by NHTSA tests in the early ‘70s. Still, everybody remembers the book, not the NHTSA report. Sigh.
This 1963 Chevy Corvair Greenbriar represents one of six models the first generation Corvair offered. The others were turtle-top sedan, coupé, convertible, Lakewood station wagon, and Rampside pickup truck. Such diversity was demanded as the unique rear-engine nature of the model meant that many of its most important—and expensive—parts couldn’t be shared with other GM lines.
The Greenbriar, along with Ford’s Falcon Club Wagon and later Dodge D100, were the domestic manufacturer’s answer to the Volkswagen Type 2. That sort of minivan was fairly commonplace in post-war Europe, but it was quite revelatory when introduced in the U.S. market in the mid-Fifties.
A traditional forward-control design, the Corvair was a greater emulation of the VW than the competition, seeing as it too had its engine in the back. This would have originally been fitted with an 80 horsepower 145 CID (2372cc) air-cooled flat-six. This one is said to rock the upgraded 140-horse edition and features finned alloy covers on its pan and rocker caps. Along with those come an alternator update and not one, but two air cleaner setups.
The engine is said in the ad to have been rebuilt and has been dressed up with a red-painted shroud and chromed dipstick handle. The whole schlemiel sits under a raised platform that seems to serve no obvious purpose but may be required for the rumored second air cleaner set up.
Power is sent to the swing-axle rear end via a two-speed Powerglide automatic, and that is cable-operated by way of a dash-mounted lever. That lever is one of just four controls afforded the driver, and that’s counting the turn signal stalk. A strip speedo is paired with a gas gauge in the simple instrument panel, which is matched in shape on the passenger side by the glove box door.
The floor is Kansas flat with a steering wheel above that which is supermodel skinny. Don’t plan on running into anything in this van since everything ahead of you is hard metal and the crush zone for energy dissipation is mainly afforded by your knees.
That’s okay though. Plenty of people have lived long lives driving cab-over vans and trucks. Plenty more have bounced around the back, considering how space-efficient the layout is. Here you get a three-place front row, and then two more behind that, both facing inward in conversation pit style. Seatbelts? Never heard of her.
The body shows some rust here and there, but it looks mostly to be surface rot and not anything crippling. There are some dings and dents in the heavy-gauge steel side panels but that just adds to the overall patina, as does the scuffed up white-painted bumpers. Cragar-style alloy wheels are a nice touch here and seem to wear fairly decent tires. At least the interior-mounted spare still maintains its tire store sticker. The brakes have been refreshed and converted to a safer dual master cylinder set up, and there are new shocks behind all those.
The last little tid bits here include the claim of a modest 95,500 miles on the clock, a clean title, and a set of Wisconsin collector plates on the car.
This is appreciably old school and honestly, you’re not going to be using the Greenbriar for its originally intended purpose as a family station wagon. That’s owing to the dearth of safety equipment (Nader’s book was right about a few of those things) and lack of convenience features. Still, this would be a fun ride for car meets and seems a good inroad into the cult of Corvair ownership. What should that cost?
The asking price is $6,900, and it’s now incumbent upon you to vote on whether or not that’s a good deal. What do you think, could this Greenbriar grab that much green? Or, is this a Corvair priced to go nowhere?
H/T to Abraham Smith for the hookup!
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