Tom and Chris

John & Melissa's Black Wagon

(This 65 Corvair is owned by Tom & Chris.
Chris tells us that this picture was taken on their wedding day,
October 26, 1974 and was their only car at that time.)

All my life, I've been drawn to off-the-wall things. Conventional stuff bores me. For example, when I go into a restaurant, I always order the weirdest thing on the menu. It's no surprise, then, that I own a Corvair.

The year was 1969, and I was a college senior in Ohio. I was driving a 1961 Rambler American two door sedan, gray with a black top. It did 0-60 in about 15 minutes. Because of the color and the humble performance, I dubbed the car the "Ruptured Rhino". One spring night (or should I say early one morning), a friend and I were driving back to campus from a party when the "Rhino" twisted the U-joint off the end of the drive shaft, sending sparks everywhere. The racket jolted my friend out of his alcohol-induced coma, thinking he had slept until the Fourth of July. I pulled off to the side of the Interstate, and we hitched back to campus in the rain and the dark, drunk as two skunks. Next day, I had the "Rhino" towed to a garage, where the mechanic gave me the bad news: It would cost more to fix her than she was worth.

Later that day, I was whining to one of my best friends who was a disc jockey at a Canton radio station. He told me that the local Chevy dealer was an advertiser on his radio station, and he knew a guy there who would give me a good deal on a used Corvair convertible they were trying to get rid of. The word "Corvair" didn't scare me a bit, even though I knew that the last Corvairs were already rolling off the assembly line. The car appealed to me because it was unique and distinctive. The body styling was beautiful, and it still doesn't look outdated today. In spite of Ralph Nader, I recognized that these were truly well built, quality vehicles. Besides, one of my high school buddies had owned a 1963 Spyder coupe, and it had been a great little car. His car was fun to drive, and we made lots of fun memories with it.

So, my dj friend and I got into his yellow Camaro SS and headed for Ewing Chevrolet in Canton. The salesman took me out to see the car, and I fell in love at first sight! All my life, I had dreamed of owning a black over white convertible with a red interior, and here in front of me was my dream car! It was a 1965 Monza convertible with a 110 engine coupled to a Powerglide transmission. I was already sold, but I took it for a test drive anyway. It was sporty and quick with neck-snapping acceleration when I put my boot to the boards. The salesman told me that it had been the personal car of the wife of the guy who owned the world renowned Timken roller bearing company. The dealership wanted it off the lot, so I was able to pick it up for $1,000.

What a great little car! During the years when it was my daily driver, it never failed to start, and it never broke down on the road. I liked it so much that I hung on to it while I spent four years overseas in the U. S. Air Force. I stored it in my grandparents' garage, and my grandfather would drive it weekly to keep the battery charged. Grandpa nicknamed the car "The Tractor" because of the way it plowed through the nastiest Cleveland snow storms with no snow tires. On our wedding day in 1974, Chris and I rolled the top down and drove around St. Louis honking the horn like a couple of school kids at Homecoming. We drove the Corvair every day until 1976, when we bought another family car and put the Corvair in storage with the intention of restoring it someday. Unfortunately, "someday" would have to wait. Life gets complicated some times.

Fast forward to 2010. I had been retired for about a year and was finally able to find some time to tinker with my car again. Over the years, I had put the Corvair on the back burner and tried not to think about it. I had almost forgotten how much I liked this car, and how much fun I had working on it and driving it. Then, Chris and I went to the Easter Show at Forest Park, where we hooked up with a group from Show Me Corvair Club. Seeing their beautiful cars and talking to the members, I was inspired to roll up my sleeves and get dirty again. They are a good group. They're very supportive and they like to eat, too.

A mid-life crisis has changed my focus on what I wanted to do with my car. Originally, I had intended to restore the car to perfect showroom condition. However, I had always wanted to build a street rod, and I ain't getting any younger. What I finally decided to do was compromise: A mild, tasteful custom Corvair with more performance and high tech components. I installed a PG floor shift kit and had the factory AM radio converted to AM-FM stereo with jacks for CD and MP3. I also put in a clock with a quartz movement. I found a set of 14 inch Cutlass Rallye wheels, repainted them black metal flake, and mounted a set of new Goodyear T/A white letter radials. I'm cleaning and sharpening things up as I go along.

Next year, I plan to install a set of rebuilt 140 heads with '62-'63 primary carbs instead of secondaries. I want to increase displacement by putting in cylinder jugs bored out to .040 and also put in a new cam. To support the rebuilt power plant, I'm looking at an electric fuel pump, electronic ignition, and hotter coil. If I live long enough and the money holds out, I'm dreaming of putting disc brakes on all four corners.