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7 comments

How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

Posted April 27, 2010 12:01 AM by CarDomain

Hey, why not take a rear-engined, four-wheel, independent suspension car and throw on a couple of straight axles and a blown 350 up front?

It's cool to pick something totally different for a radical project, and if you're going for a drag-strip-scorching gasser, a Corvair is about the unlikeliest candidate you can get. It's on eBay now, and the seller claims only 100 miles on the build.

Would you be willing to buy it and break it in?

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Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: I'm outa here
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#1

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 3:05 AM

Memories......... The summer of 1963. New Jersey had three drag strips. 1/4 mile Island Dragway in Great meadows, 1/8 mile at Flemington and 1/16 mile (really 340 feet) at Old Bridge Stadium on the front straightaway of the 1/2 mile banked oval asphalt track. This was basically a 0-60 race for a super stock or a gasser.

Old Bridge ran Saturday nights. Wasn't really suitable for dragsters although occasional small engined types showed up. One nice little rail had a full body with a late Chevy 6 and a 4 speed. But the real king of that race was a corvair coupe just like the one in this thread except the Chevy V8, a 283, was in the back. It was a small miracle, likely due to the primitive level of drag tires at the time, that the tranny survived that duty.

Ed Weldon

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Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Tulare, CA
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 9:49 AM

When I was a kid we used to have a 1961 Corvair.

Corvairs were no worse in safety then any other car at the time, it was just the first car on Ralph Naders list to attack. VW paid off Ralph Nader so he wouldn't talk about the Volkswagon Beatle.

My Dad took a VW van and cut off all the body and left only the base frame. He then built up the body himself with angle iron and aluminum sheet metal and made a buggie from it. He then mounted a corvair engine in it. It looked a little like the Volkswaging Thing only it was larger and heavier with a much high wheel base clearance. It was two wheel drive but it would go anywhere. It was unsafe, it had no roll bar but it would climb a hill that was almost straight up. It would climb hills where buggies with roll bars would roll backwards several hundred feet and break.

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Power-User

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#3

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 3:09 PM

Oh hell no!

By the way, Corvairs were real killers. If the rear suspension got you in a tight turn, Like hitting a bump on the outside tire, it could toss you into oncoming traffic so fast, there was no chance of recovery. Don't forget the passenger compartment WAS the crumple zone.

I still loved my 62, but after my trip through the high grass, I never made the mistake of thinking of it as less than a killer, especially when you least expected it.

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Guru

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 3:30 PM

Those Corvairs were like mini muscle cars with that flat 8 Corvair engine.

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#6
In reply to #4

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 3:45 PM

It was a flat 6 not 8, even if you had the turbocharged spider. A souped up one still would fly low any day.

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Guru

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 4:41 PM

This reminds me of a Porsche ad I saw on the TV this week crowing about how they were the first ones to put a turbo on a production automobile. When did GM do it to the Covair? Wasn't that around 1968? Maybe the marketting folks at VW, who now owns the Porsche marque, may need some history lessons. Maybe the 911 beat GM to that achievement; but I'm pretty sure that there was nothing like that in the 356 pedigree.

Another point on Corvairs ......... Most of the owners of early corvairs in the know added the same kind of antisway bars that were put on the later ones including the spyder, from the factory. Reportedly this pretty much eliminated the dangerous handling issue.

Last anecdote here. Around 1980 I worked with a clever young fellow, a mechanical designer, whose everyday driver was a late corvair coupe with a 327 small block rear mounted but facing forward in what was the back seat. IIRC it had the original gearset which it shared with the Corvette BW T-10 4 speed in the corvair transaxle housing mounted behind the axle and a heavy duty connecting shaft from an aftermarket speed parts source. The radiator was up front behind a custom grill. Still, cooling was an issue of sorts as was the tendency for the driver's seat area to be a bit warm in the California summer sun.

Ed Weldon

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Guru

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Location: Tulare, CA
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#5
In reply to #3

Re: How’s This for Unsafe at Any Speed?

04/28/2010 3:32 PM

Look at the picture. The engine has been moved to the front and it's a completely different engine so the issue you were talking about isn't an issue anymore.

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