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Mid-engine custom Corvair aka "Unsafe At Any Speed" :)


ea0863
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Posted (edited)

At SEMA 2021, I ran across a beautiful custom Corvair at the Meguiar's booth named "Rare Vair" completed by a gentleman named Lonnie Gilbertson. I took a few pictures and decided it would have to be a future model build.

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For my version of the build, I got the AMT Corvair "Chezoom" Funny car, as well as the AMT 1969 Corvair kit, and quickly discovered neither were ideal for my project; the Chezoom kit as it turns out is cobbled together with a Corvair body on a "Hemi-Under-Glass" frame and drivetrain. This means the engine is a Chrysler hemi, the wheelbase is off and requires cutting the rear fenders, there is no transmission whatsoever as the driveshaft exits the clutch housing and goes right to the differential (as our own member Misha Koslovsky found out during his build), and because it is a funny car, the front suspension is very rudimentary. The '69 Corvair on the other hand has lots of extra racing parts and a better detailed interior, however its unibody chassis would require extensive modification to go from rear engine to mid engine configuration. Not to say it cannot be done, as Scale Auto Garage has a gorgeous video online of one done with a Ferrari Testarossa engine, drivetrain, and subframe.

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Because I was going for a race car for the street vibe, I decided to use the Chezoom kit, and maybe steal a few parts from the '69 Corvair. Starting with the engine, I set aside the hemi engine and sourced a Chevy (I believe a 396?) and manual tranny from a Revell Foose '65 Impala. To figure out how the engine would mate to the differential, I did some research on the actual "Hemi-Under-Glass" and learned that it used a very novel marine gearbox called the Casale V-drive to redirect power from the tranny to the diff.

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Since the Casale gearbox looked to my eyes like the front and rear covers to the blower from a Revell '29 Model A Roadster, I stole those from my kit and together with some finagling of the Chezoom subframe, came up with my drivetrain:20220405_210250.jpg.742d4da495d5fe9c7ca9b1644a0b64b8.jpg

Edited by ea0863
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This may not be all that difficult to accomplish Emre as back in the day a conversion kit was marketed by Crower that allowed placing a V8 into the back seat by flipping the transaxle 180. Considering that the kit interior can be built without a rear seat and the basic pan chassis has enough material to cutaway, it can be done I believe. The stock kit may already include similar side scoops as shown on that gorgeous red Corvair. (My first car was a 2nd Gen Corvair and I poured over articles to enhance the “poor man’s Porsche)

Cheers Misha

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26 minutes ago, Misha said:

This may not be all that difficult to accomplish Emre as back in the day a conversion kit was marketed by Crower that allowed placing a V8 into the back seat by flipping the transaxle 180. Considering that the kit interior can be built without a rear seat and the basic pan chassis has enough material to cutaway, it can be done I believe. The stock kit may already include similar side scoops as shown on that gorgeous red Corvair. (My first car was a 2nd Gen Corvair and I poured over articles to enhance the “poor man’s Porsche)

Cheers Misha

Hi Misha! I've been following your build with great enthusiasm and have "borrowed" some of the great cues you are incorporating into your Corvair. I cannot wait to see how it is going to come out. Mine is actually all but done, and I am writing up a WIP to document what I learned along the way. That, and I'm still trying to figure out how to work this site :) 

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Next up was the frame, which I lengthened by 5mm to match the wheelbase to that of the Chezoom body. I also lengthened the interior tub by 4mm which gave me more "leg room" for this street racer. The seats I borrowed from the '69 Corvair kit and modified to fit.

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When all was said and done, I wound up with a pretty comfortable interior (note the center console from the '65 Impala :) ), along with drivetrain, bespoke exhaust system, and pushrod rear suspension.

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Wow,Wow and Wow! That inspirational vehicle is a spectacular piece of engineering eye candy. Great choice for a tribute project. I'll be watching for sure.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Misha said:

This may not be all that difficult to accomplish Emre as back in the day a conversion kit was marketed by Crower that allowed placing a V8 into the back seat by flipping the transaxle 180. Considering that the kit interior can be built without a rear seat and the basic pan chassis has enough material to cutaway, it can be done I believe. The stock kit may already include similar side scoops as shown on that gorgeous red Corvair. (My first car was a 2nd Gen Corvair and I poured over articles to enhance the “poor man’s Porsche)

Cheers Misha

With much respect I must correct you on a few points Misha. Crown (and the lesser Kelmark kit) made the Corv-8 conversion kit. Being involved in Corvairs for many years this is one subject I know well as I assisted in one conversion. Crown supplied a sub-frame and you supplied '$1000 and 40 hours' of fabbing... ha, right. It was much more involved and required at least a single-post lift and various other heavy duty tools (torch, cut-off wheel, brain, etc.) The result though was amazing. The owner would take it to Spectator races at the local 1/2 mile oval and was eventually banned as it blew everybody else away! (the LT-1 small block helped!) I saw him a number of years ago and asked him if he still had it. He said no but wished he'd never sold it. 

I'm looking forward to this project Emre, you've got a great start! Here's a couple links for reference: http://corvaircorsa.com/crown1a.html 

http://davidsclassiccars.com/chevrolet/62078-corv-8-65-corsa-coupe-custom-v-8.html (Click on the pic for the photo gallery)

Edited by Raoul Ross
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Posted (edited)

"Unsafe at any speed" Exactly right and no airbags either, we die like men! Great subject matter and imagineering on this one especially the V-drive.

Edited by James2
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Posted (edited)

Very well done EA!

I did one and tried to use that chassis but couldn't make it work. You aced it tho. I was trying to use a transaxle.

I finished the build but botched the paint so its back in the drawer until I feel like fixing it.

Here's pretty much where I stopped.

IMG_20211201_154507419.jpg

Edited by MeatMan
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Great construction work Emre! You’ve combined some of the features of the original with your own solutions to achieve a unique model, bravo. I’ll be following along with great interest. Cheers Misha

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Tremendously clever engineering!

It's a shame to hang it up, even temporarily, for a paint error... Heck, I get those all the time. 😕 

I do understand having to set something aside for a while, hopefully, you'll soon get the inspiration to finish it.

David G.

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5 hours ago, Raoul Ross said:

With much respect I must correct you on a few points Misha. Crown (and the lesser Kelmark kit) made the Corv-8 conversion kit. Being involved in Corvairs for many years this is one subject I know well as I assisted in one conversion. Crown supplied a sub-frame and you supplied '$1000 and 40 hours' of fabbing... ha, right. It was much more involved and required at least a single-post lift and various other heavy duty tools (torch, cut-off wheel, brain, etc.) The result though was amazing. The owner would take it to Spectator races at the local 1/2 mile oval and was eventually banned as it blew everybody else away! (the LT-1 small block helped!) I saw him a number of years ago and asked him if he still had it. He said no but wished he'd never sold it. 

I'm looking forward to this project Emre, you've got a great start! Here's a couple links for reference: http://corvaircorsa.com/crown1a.html 

http://davidsclassiccars.com/chevrolet/62078-corv-8-65-corsa-coupe-custom-v-8.html (Click on the pic for the photo gallery)

Thank you Raoul for the information. This project has opened up a whole new world of learning for me regarding Corvairs and conversions.

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5 hours ago, James2 said:

"Unsafe at any speed" Exactly right and no airbags either, we die like men! Great subject matter and imagineering on this one especially the V-drive.

Thank you James for the encouragement, and the chuckle :) I will be posting the completed car shortly and will be interested to see what you and our fellow members think.

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3 hours ago, MeatMan said:

Very well done EA!

I did one and tried to use that chassis but couldn't make it work. You aced it tho. I was trying to use a transaxle.

I finished the build but botched the paint so its back in the drawer until I feel like fixing it.

Here's pretty much where I stopped.

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Oh Dennis, you have GOT to finish that build! I love love love the mods you made to the body. The flying buttresses, the hood, side intakes are awesome!

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Posted (edited)

The body was next up, and got quite a bit of deburring, sanding of mold lines, and debadging. I noted that the body in the Chezoom kit was identical to that of the '69 Corvair kit, and both seemed to come from old and tired molds. Because of the need for a large radiator under the hood, intake and exhaust grilles were needed on the front of the car and on the hood. I chose to go an unconventional way by incorporating the hood from a Revell Shelby GT500 and by opening up the front lower valance.

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Edited by ea0863
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To finish out the project, the front suspension came from the '65 Impala and rims/tires from my stash of parts of unknown origin. Thus endeth the saga of this build which I named "Unsafe At Any Speed". Look for the finished product on the Models Car page soon, and thank you for your interest.

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