As you know I am traveling around the US and looking in at some of the many car museums as I go from state to state. One of my guides to these is a listing on the web. It has been very helpful in the planning of this road trip, but of course there are plenty of car collections and “museums” around this country that are only known to locals.
Today I had the pleasure of visiting one of these places.
Early this morning I met up with “WC” and he had me follow him to his house that has a very large garage with several bays. One bay holds five cars that are in various states of restoration.
Before we got to look inside we were treated to this unique Chevy truck:
This is a good sized garage that even has a kitchen as well as a couple of bays that hold his family’s RV’s. These people love to entertain friends and relatives so the garage is used to hold the overflow of visitors as well as work on car restorations and provide storage. There is yet another bay that holds his son’s Corvair Spyder that has been restored into a car show award winner.
Along with the Corvair is a beautiful Jaguar that his son also restored, including having the original black leather upholstery re-sewn as the cotton thread that the factory had used deteriorated in the hot New Mexico climate.
The Corvair Orchard
As a special treat I was taken down the road to the place where his son has parked a collection of various models of Corvairs. They are in a pecan orchard that is still used to produce crops for sale. The Corvairs are in the shade of the pecan trees and are waiting for the interested Corvair fan to jump in and restore the choice ones.
Appearing in the early 1960’s the Corvair was one of those gems to come out of General Motors Corporation. It was similar to the VW since it had a rear mounted air cooled engine, but it went far beyond what VW did and probably inspired some models of VW that would not have happened otherwise.
It was the object of unwarranted criticism from Ralph Nader as “unsafe at any speed”. While Ralph was well meaning in terms of advocating advancements in automobile safety, he really did not understand automotive engineering and, in fact, never drove a car nor held a drivers license.
One of his critiques was of the “swing axles” used in the early Corvair’s rear suspension. The problem being that because there was no flexible joint at the wheel the camber change of the tires as the suspension dropped while cornering could force the car into jacking the rear end up and losing control. This was not something that would happen “at any speed” and it could be tamed by using a device called a “camber compensator” to limit the travel of the rear axle. GM later changed the rear suspension so that it was a completely independent suspension that had flexible joints at both the transmission and the wheels. That way the camber change of the wheel was not controlled by the axle alone and could be limited.
The swing axle design was also used by VW on their cars, but did not get the same attention from Ralph.
Corvairs came in several configurations including a pickup truck with an even more rare variation known as the “ramp side”. Since it had a low flat floor to the bed there was a door on the passenger side of the bed that folded down to form a ramp allowing easy access. It was a feature unique to the Corvair family of vehicles.
After showing me all of this I was invited into their home and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours having coffee and chatting. What a special day!