I used to be, and I’m still somewhat, always on the lookout for a unique car, unique looking, uniquely fast or preferably both. Back in the late 70’s while I was working at Ford Engineering, my good friend Jim M. and I were talking over by the Bldg. 4 coffee pot. Jim was telling me about his neighbor who was getting a divorce and had to sell his 1968 V8 Corvair project car. The late model Corvairs were good looking cars just a little (a lot) anemic. I asked Jim how much work was done on the project? He told me that mechanicals were done, just the bodywork and paint, the wheel wells had been trimmed to fit the larger wheels and tires. The interior needed to be finished as well. I happened to have a very good friend, Terry O. who was a great painter that specialized in Corvettes and had a shop on Grand River Ave. I figured Terry and I could ‘work a deal’ out. I bought the Corvair! If memory serves me correct, I paid $,3000.00!
It had a 350ci 4-barrel engine that I believe was from a pickup truck, not high performance but plenty of torque - oops. The Corvair had Buick Special springs to support the extra weight of the V8 that sat in a cradle behind the front seats. This was a Crown Conversion called “Corv-8”. Crown supplied the engine cradle, the tubes that ran under the floor to the front mounted radiator and various other necessary parts for the conversion. The transaxle was flipped 180 degrees so the 4 speed Saginaw transmission would bolt right up to the bellhousing. Behind the seat was fabricated an engine cover made out of 3/8 plywood completely covered in fiberglass and the partition went up behind the rear seats to about the bottom of the windows. There was a lid, gasketed and fitted all around and held down with 4 hood pins. I finished the engine cover in dark blue carpet.
Now the best part, my friend, Terry and I decided to paint it 74’ Corvette Silver. Terry had a bag of ground glass that used to be popular to mix with paint to make it really ‘pop’. The Feds made it illegal to purchase because of the danger of spraying it if you didn’t take the necessary precautions. Terry had just enough ground glass to spray the Corvair; after the silver was sprayed he laid out dark blue pearl racing stripes over the hood and trunk and then sprayed it all in clearcoat. It was spectacular! I finished the look off with Corvette tailpipe extensions and a set of Cragar SS wheels.
The Corvair ran strong. Terry and I were out on Telegraph around 8 mile road and we got into a race with a hopped up Mustang. I think we were racing for money but probably not too much. It was close race, the Mustang was fast, not stock, I pulled second hard, BANG, done. We coasted over to the right and we were able to get it into a lot off of Telegraph with help from the guys in the Mustang. They must have felt bad for me because they didn’t ask for the money, technically they won the race, and I didn’t volunteer it as I was already seeing dollar signs! The next day we brought the Corvair home with a tow strap and put it in my garage on jack stands. We determined that it was the tranny that broke. I dropped it down, put it on the bench, and opened it up. I saw that the main shaft was broken in two pieces - it was hollow! Oops, remember I mentioned earlier it was a torquey truck motor! Luckily Crown Conversion had a fix and I bought a solid billet main shaft from them, rebuilt it with new synchros and seals. Put it together and all was well once again.
Answer me honestly; have you ever seen a better looking Corvair? I guarantee you, it didn’t sound like a Corvair. The looks you got when you pulled up next to someone at a traffic light were great! It handled like a go-kart with almost perfect 50/50 front to rear weight ratio. It was great to cruise in, Telegraph, Woodward, Hines Park, Daly’s Drive-in, Blazo’s, Ted’s, we would hit them all. We gave a lot of folks something to talk about. The later at night, the better the street racing. The girlfriends were dropped off and the muscle cars were out! We would laugh our heads off after embarrassing some unsuspecting GTO or 442.