Harry’s Corvair


What started out as a simple observation in an email from Harry Nieves has blossomed into recollections of our first cars by several other classmates. I have collected most of the emails (inadvertently deleted Joe Reeve’s interesting comments) below in a Comment. Please feel free to add additional comments.

This probably the most activity/interest in the blog we’ve had in some time.

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19 thoughts on “Harry’s Corvair

  1. I just had a revelation. While thumbing through our 1963 Pylon I was jolted by a photo on page 202. The top of the page has a sponsor advertisement for our one and only A&W on Hawthorne Blvd. Pictured is my own 1962 Corvair! It must be mine (I hope). Mine was gray and I had installed fiberglass dual mufflers which I had ordered from the Whitney Auto Catalogue. What seals the deal (I hope) is that I had also put on baby moon hubcaps which were subsequently stolen. Note that the vehicle has no hubcaps visible. Gerald Miwa and Royal Linden also had Corvairs at the same time thus they may wish to claim ownership. Don please forward this through your LHS email list for any possible feedback.

    Take care,
    Harry Nieves (Proud Corvair Owner)

    Don S:
    Harry was one of the lucky you ones who had a car in high school. For me, I had to wait another couple of years, and started with a set of baby moon hubcaps.

    Harry has some additional info about his discovery. I will let him fill you in.

    Harry:
    To set the record straight, Don. I had a 1953 Chevy for the last 2 months of H.S. Thus my lack of dating during H.S. can be explained. I got the privilege of owning a Corvair, with the help of my dad, after my Chevy was wrecked by some fool who crashed into it, while parked in front of my home during my second year at El Camino. I needed a car to work at “Chicken Delight” delivering chicken dinners. I was happy to earn $1.00 an hour plus tips.

    Don:
    So the car in the Pylon may be yours, but before you bought it?

    Dennis Smallen:
    I had a 1960 Chevy Impala, Very HOT !!

    Royal Linden:
    Has to be Harry’s, I did not get my until after we graduated. It was green with baby moon caps. So also I concede to Harry as the likely owner of that Corvair. Regards to all.

    Gerald Miwa:
    After seeing your note I checked out the Corvair on p. 202 of the ’93 Pylon. Indeed, I did own a Corvair at that time, handed down to me by my older brother when he bought a Porsche, but I cannot claim that the one on p. 202 was mine as it was white and the one shown appears to be metallic. So, Harry continues to be the most likely owner of that car on that famous picture. However, I did have a job at the A&W at that time so maybe it isn’t Harry’s car after all as I would have thrown a keg of root beer on it. Hello to all the LHS alumni.

    Memories from Costa Rica, Suzye Maycumber Lawson:
    MY 1st car was a 1959 Nash Rambler, 2 door sedan, stick shift, yellow & white with the spare tire on the back. I used to squeeze 5 gals in the car and drive thru A&W and Foster’s Freeze looking for guys on the week-end.
    Jean Wilders Batte’-Arriaga:
    I had a white Corvair!!!
    Rita Roney:
    Gosh, Don this is even getting interest from the women!

    I used to drive a Corvair convertible all around Newark NJ when I was a brand new “stewardess”. That was a brave thing to do considering the tensions at the time! It had Maryland plates on it. I was known as that little blond from Maryland!

    Keep up the chatter….it’s fun!

  2. Hi, Since I had been working from age 13, my first car was purchased from a dealer who only wanted a sale. I drove that car to Disneyland, Knotts, the beach all without insurance (or my parents’ knowledge) or a license. If I had been in an accident, I would still be paying for it TODAY. But, THE FREEDOM!! I delivered more than one newspaper thrown from the front window of that car- wow! It was a 1953 Nash Rambler (I think that was the year). Not bad for the biggest “nerd” in the class.

  3. Hey Rita!! Where have you been! ( not enough room here to
    respond, I am sure)

    Although it was not and is not a Corvair, I STILL have the “57 T-Bird that
    flew around A&W at least a thousand times — okay, 500–dare I say it to
    you Chevy Fans (that’s FANS as in aficionados) even though I think y’all
    are pretty sharp blades.

  4. Don pointed out the error of my time line. I could not have owned the vehicle in the photo since the picture had to have been taken at least as of May 1963. The Pylon can out in June 1963. I did not own the car in question until late Sept. 1963 or even later. My mistake. The Corvair looks just like mine. However it may have the “Monza” emblem between the door and the front fender. Gerald’s and Royal’s were Monza models of the Corvair line. The hell with Ralph Nader, loved the car. Great hearing about everyone else’s 1st. cars. Great memories.

  5. So, did anyone have “tuck and roll” upholstery in their Corvairs? I considered it in my 53 Hudson Jet! I can’t believe I am admitting that was my first car!!!!! So very uncool. Does anyone remember that car????? It was square. I allude to the shape of the vehicle as well as its lack of coolness. The interior was not bad….white and new. It took me to some really great parties.

    Rita

  6. I think I can top that, Rita. Before I finally got my own car (’59 bug) prior to entering my Junior year in college, I sometimes drove my dad’s “work” cars.

    One was a Willy’s Jeepster, another a Henry J, and his all time not-so-popular car, a Crosley. In the case of the Crosley, my dad owned a sedan, and later a pickup-type model.

    That may explain why, even as a senior I rode my bike to go places.

  7. Hey Gail and Suzye,

    Where in the #$%% were you when you were cruising through A&W looking for guys when I was tending the root beer tap so I would look cool to the chicks? AND, I had a Corvair Monza too! I can see that my life might have been quite different if Don would have had his blog in 1963!

    Don, I too considered some tuck and roll upholstery for my Corvair. Of course, that would have been done in Tijuana. Too bad I didn’t, it would have been the ultimate chick magnate 🙂

    Ok, enough of this memory lane stuff, I need to do something really enjoyable . . . like my taxes.

    Take care all, Gerald

  8. From Rita,

    So, did anyone have “tuck and roll” upholstery in their Corvairs? I considered it in my 53 Hudson Jet! I can’t believe I am admitting that was my first car!!!!! So very uncool. Does anyone remember that car????? It was square. I allude to the shape of the vehicle as well as its lack of coolness. The interior was not bad….white and new. It took me to some really great parties.

    Rita

  9. No tuck and roll. Just the fiberglas mufflers and the baby moon hubcaps which were stolen. I did contact a rather unsavory friend of the family who was able to have three of the four hubcaps returned.

  10. Guys, Gerald–looking for guys? I was looking for a hamburger–still am.

    In those early years, I had a ’52 or 3 VW bug. Little tiny rear window
    and no synchro-mesh shifting in that baby. You stopped ALL the way before
    shifting into 1st gear and by the time I reached the top of a steep hill, I was
    almost going backward AND I was considerably older. AAANNND I still
    have it! Just kidding.

  11. When Corvair comes to mind, fanbelt also comes to (my) mind — was there an
    issue with the fanbelt(s)? Any stories?

    Auto mechanic was the career choice selected for me by the aptitude test
    given at LHS; therefore, there must be some validity to my “fanbelt” memory?

  12. Good question, Gail. The Corvair had a rear engine with a fanbelt which powered a fan situated inside a horizontal plate. No radiator, the engine was “air cooled.” If you over wound the rpms the belt would fly off its wheel like rotors. Happened quite a few times until I realized the car’s limitation. To put the belt back you needed a wrench to loosen the assembly while then inserting a mop handle to hold it in place while you retightened the unit.

  13. The Corvair not only had a “serpentine” fan belt that was always causing problems but it also had a tendency to blow it’s head gasket and then leak oil all over the place. In fact, it was quite common to see a lot of smoke coming out of a Corvair because of this problem. I certainly had my share of a smoking rear end and had to keep adding oil to keep it running. In short, the Corvair was a lousy car. But,on the other hand, it was my first car and the love of my life!

    • Remember when you would “boil” the carburetor”? Most cars used this maintenance procedure in which you took off the carb, disassembled it and dunked it in solvent or gasoline to clean out carbon deposits. The Corvair had two carbs astride the engine compartment. In my infinite wisdom I decided to do this to both carbs. After disassembling and reassembling the two units I discovered a had “extra” parts. I had two little brass pointed things left over and no idea where to put them…..so I left them out………..the car ran just as well. I think Gail was a better mechanic. I was no Diane Borkowski.

  14. I remember a story Diane B. told me at one of our reunions. She used to race stock cars, which is quite interesting all by itself. I’ve forgotten the details, but somehow she and Richard Petty (arguably one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time) were in the same race, and Diane lead in the race for a for a period. Hopefully, Diane well see this thread and correct/fill in the details.

    Many us us know of Diane’s knowledge and fondness for cars, but Gail, you really surprise me. You are indeed a woman of many talents. How many artists even know what a carbureter is? When your car acts up, who is under the hood, you are Richard? 🙂

    • On any given evening you will find us under the hood together – mag-lites and
      black lights in hand ferreting out potential trouble spots; therefore, our cars
      seldom, if ever, act up.

      While Richard, on the other hand, (old Volvo that he is – and beyond my area of
      expertise) requires frequent visits to the shop. Recently (Mar. 17) he had yet another valve job. Like any good Volvo, though, he will keep running almost forever.

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