Sunday, May 29, 2011

Corvairs and UltraVans......

A Blast From The Past---The Corvair UltraVan
Today featured one of those really cool, unexpected moments.  Cindy needed potting soil, so we made an early afternoon trek to the local Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart is always a pretty busy place, but especially so on a beautiful Saturday.

But on this day, when we turned into the parking lot, we saw that there was an even bigger than usual crowd.

Vintage Corvairs are Arrayed at the Powell, Tennessee Wal-Mart on a Beautiful Saturday Afternoon
 There was a display of Chevrolet Corvairs in mint condition.  And the display was drawing a crowd of gawkers---a good number of them old geezers like me who actually owned a legendary Corvair back in the 1960s.

This is Melvin's Corvair in Mint Condition

The Mighty 80 Horsepower Engine is.....IN THE TRUNK!
To refresh your collective memories, the Corvair was manufactured by Chevrolet from 1960 to 1969.  It was unique in that it featured an 80-horsepower, aluminum, air-cooled engine that was rear mounted.  It was my first car---my dad bought it for me new in 1966 as a college graduation present.  I loved that little car.

We Talked With Jim, Melvin and Jack---Corvair Lovers and Great Guys
Well, today, Cindy and I talked with several guys who keep their old Corvairs in great condition.  They drive to various locations around the south and show off their treasures.

The Corvair UltraVan---Only 370 of Them Were Made

The Flight Deck Of The Mighty UltraVan
 We had a great visit with Jim, Melvin and Jack.  They regaled us with stories of the old days and of how wonderful the Corvair really is.
How'dja'  Like to See This Monster Comin' Up Behind You On The Interstate?

Ralph Nader originally made a name for himself with his 1965 book, "Unsafe at Any Speed".  In that book, Nader trashed the safety of the car.  This book indirectly led to the demise of the Corvair.

Jim owns one of the very rare UltraVans.  Only 370 of them were made.  And let me tell you, it is a piece.   of.   work.

Sleeps Four to Eight-------Don't Ask

This sweet baby sleeps from four to eight, depending.  Don't ask on what it depends.  Ha.

Melvin and Jack Can Tell You a Thing or Three About the Corvair
Cindy and I enjoyed chatting with these wonderful guys.  They love their Corvairs, and their Corvairs love them.


  1. Cool. What a nice trip.
    Greetings Sabine

  2. I never knew corvair made a camper. How neat. Thanks for the picture.

  3. Are we ever glad one of us had our cameras yesterday. Note to self: Always keep my camera with me, no matter if I'm making a quick run to Walmart to get more potting soil.

    We had the best time talking to these guys and seeing this Ultra Van. I enjoyed Jim's tale of the day they met Ralph Nader. The story goes that Nader refused to pose with the Corvairs in the background. He was congenial with the guys and posed with pictures of them.

    Also, loved Jim's story of the guy who drove his wife's new Toyota to a Corvair convention. The new Toyota wouldn't start and Jim has a photo of a Corvair beside the Toyota, jump starting it!

    We really enjoyed visiting with you guys yesterday! Thank you for your hospitality!

  4. Wow! Only in TN, lol! Sounds like you had a great time! I can say this was definitely before my time, lol! And Cindy, I agree...always keep a camera handy!

  5. i bet they enjoyed telling you things too - since you had personal experience owning a corvair. that bus is pretty scary... :)

  6. It's always cool when an Ultra Van turns up at a car show! This one was probably about the 12th made (early records are sketchy), hand built in Oakland California in 1964 or 1965. This was before the factory in Hutchinson Kansas was set up.

    Since they are made all of aluminum and fiberglass, and with no chassis, Ultra Vans weight just a little more than a Rampside pickup truck. So the Corvair engine actually pushed them pretty well for their time.

    For more info on Ultra Vans, see here:

    or here:

    Thanks for the photos!

  7. LOL I never knew Corvair made a van, it sure is ugly and it looks mean. A girl friend of mine had one. I love the 1967 Camaro myself and yes, I had one. My hope is to someday have one again. I showed Mike, who knew they made a station wagon but not the van. He liked your post very much. Wishing you and Cindy a beautiful day.

  8. Very cool Clint. I would have loved to see that, B

  9. Actually, the "Van" pictured is an Ultravan and was produced by a private company using the General Motors Corvair power train. It's still technically considered a Corvair by the Corvair Association of America (Corsa).

    GM did however make Corvair vans, trucks, station wagons, cars and convertables. You can see a couple of the trucks in the second picture from the top in the very back.

  10. Sounds like a great outing! Have a great day!!

  11. a trip to wal-mart is always an adventure.=)

  12. I used to date an old geezer--only he wasn't old then--who had and loved one. He still has one today.
    I once rode out of a flood in one and they do float. Nice seeing them in such good condition.
    Arkansas Patti

  13. Hi Clint! I always find it so interesting (and entertaining) reading what you and Cindy are up to! I'm glad Cindy had the camera handy. Have a great week, both of you. :)

  14. I love to watch old cars. What a beautiful surprise and day.

    Greetings to you and have a great day

  15. I've never seen the van before. In fact I didn't even know there was such a thing. Your photos are great. I'll bet you had a great time. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  16. This display of Corvairs was sponsored by the Knoxville Area Corvair Club celebrating our
    30th Anniversary of our club.
    The 80 hp engine was the base engine it the early models and the 1966 model had a base engine of 95hp with a 140 hp and 180 hp engines as options.