$200 and a go-cart...
After my semester off, I spent the summer working at a camp in Vermont and then went to Eastern Mennonite College for the year (half of which was spent in Central America on a semester abroad). The summer of 1987 I was back in Pennsylvania working and planning to go to Goshen College to study art in the fall.
As usual I was looking through the car ads and saw something that peaked my interest (even though I'm a Ford guy). The ad went something like this - 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza. Automatic. Not running $400 OBO. Ask for Ron. Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, right? I called Ron. It turned out that we knew each other. Ron was someone that I went to church with and he owned the landscape company that I had worked for a couple summers prior (when I spotted the F-1 pickups). Of course I had to check this car out, so I went on over. The story was that the car had come through his wife's family who had a connection to the car dealership (Bryner Chevrolet) that the Corvair came from new. Ron and Donna had it for a number of years, but somewhere along the way the harmonic balancer on the engine failed and until that was replaced it couldn't run. That summer I was working in the parts department at the local Toro Distributorship. I knew one of the mechanics there was a Corvair fanatic so I asked him what it would take to replace the harmonic balancer. He explained that you had to unbolt the engine and lower it down from the car to get the required clearance necessary to get the old part out and the new part in, and he offered to help me do it if I bought the car.
When the ad says $400 OBO it means that you can get the car for less than the asking price, so I came up with an offer. Knowing Ron had a young son, I offered him $200 plus a go-cart (which I had outgrown long before). He agreed and the deal was made.
(In the photo below you can see the go-cart in the background that was my partial trade.)
We towed the car home and my friend from work helped me replace the harmonic balancer. We also had to replace the fuel lines, points, spark plugs, spark plug wires and rebuild the carburetors (this was the 110 hp model with 2 carbs). A new battery was installed and the car was running.
Now that I could move the car around, it was time to clean out the years of mouse nests and grunge that accumulate when a car sits unused for a long period of time. It was pretty foul.
I gutted out the interior, cleaned everything really well and repainted all of the metal parts. The upholstery and carpet was actually in pretty decent shape so after a good clean they were reinstalled. The bodyshop that had worked on my original Mustang took care of several minor body issues and then it was off to Maaco for another budget paint job in the original Marina Blue. I stripped off all the brightwork again and did the reassembly myself to save money an in my mind do a better job.
This car was a really fun cheap project and also super fun to drive, although here were several quirky things about it. It had a 2 speed powerglide transmission with no park, so you had to leave it in gear or reverse and use the parking brake. Corvairs had a 6 cylinder air-cooled motor which relied on warm air from the engine being blown forward to heat the car in the winter. It might have been slightly better than the system used in the VW Beetle, but not much (there was also a slight lingering mouse smell whenever the heat was turned on). Keeping a spare fan belt and tools to change it were crucial to have in the car at all times. Having dual carbs meant learning how to adjust them so that they were balanced properly.
After I graduated from college in 1989 the Corvair was my daily driver. The furthest I drove it was on a trip to Chincoteague Virginia that summer. Anyone who has ever travelled down the Delmarva peninsula in the summer knows that traffic can get quite bad. I positively roasted in stop and go traffic. No A/C and a black vinyl interior.
This car stayed with me until I moved to Vermont in 1991 and sold it to my father for money to make the move.
Another car that I wish was still in my garage...