Yesterday my Dad and I were talking about his Corvair and we both agreed that it would be far more enjoyable with a bit more power than the current earth rumbling 150 turbocharged ponies produced by its tiny flat six engine. This lead us to one of two hypothetical conclusions, do we either build up the engine as it sits, or do a heart transplant in favor of something stronger? My Dad and I would lean toward the latter, but being as I have access to the greatest car community on the internet I thought I'd pose the same question to you. What should he do?
First though, a little background on this particular Corvair - lovingly known as the Silver Streak. Its a 1963 Monza Spyder Convertible, entirely original down to the Magic Acrylic paint and Fisher Body door sills. It has 46,000 original miles and prior to my Dad's tenure as its owner, the car had sat from 1992-2012. After installing a new 14 gallon gas tank, fuel sending unit, and a carburetor the car is once again back to cruising down to the local monthly car shows. It is essentially the same car that rolled off the Willow Run assembly line, patinated by time.
Externally, the body is straight, and barring a few rock chips, the paint still shines, although admittedly duller than it once was. The chrome bumpers are as shiny as they ever where, while the headlight bezels and rocker trim have dulled to silvery finish. Inside, the Corvair is wonderfully honest in its materiality, as most cars of the era were. Vinyl, aluminum, and steel make up the primary materials pallet, and in their application they become expressions of themselves; there's something really great about the cool touch of aluminum and steel, for instance. There are a few minor rips in the upholstery, but overall its a great place to be (well as long as A/C isn't a must). The cherry on top of this silver bodied, chrome Ameri-Porsche is a soft top that looks like new and folds better than your freshly cleaned laundry.
With this all in mind I have to wonder if I could justify altering an original car that has remained steadfast through fifty years of midwestern climate. From a purist's standpoint I'd guess that would be a solid no. From a value standpoint, I'd like to think yes. The car was recently appraised on a classic scale of 1-6 (1 is best), coming in at a 4 with an estimated value of $7,500. Its certainly not a concours car nor is it all that expensive compared to other classics, so why bother keeping it original? Why not break out the wrenches and have some fun?
The genesis of all this thinking is the recent /Drive episode featuring the Crown Corvair. After showing my Dad he told me he had once flipped the transaxle on a Corvair to convert it to a mid-engine muscle machine much like the one in the episode, albeit less finished. This spurred me to look up other Corvair V8 conversions, and I happened to stumble across a rear engined LS1 based conversion utilizing a Porsche 930 transaxle - thus enabling the big v8 to remain in the rear. Think about that for a moment, a rear engine LS1 Corvair! The best part being you would retain the rear seats and have an incredible sleeper on your hands, at least until the big V8 burbled to life.
I'm curious though, what would you do? Would you keep the car as it is? Build up the existing engine, or try something crazy like dropping in an LS1 or modern Porsche/Subaru flat six? I'm not sure how this became such a long winded rambling posting, but its been a lazy weekend and I have nothing better to do than ponder such thoughts. I should also mention that none of this will likely happen to this Corvair, as it isn't my dad's favorite car, he'd prefer a Chevelle....someday.