Corvair Pre-Purchase Questionnaire/Checklist


Corvair Corsa Pre-purchase Questionnaire / Checklist






I originally developed this Corvair Questionnaire because,
in the age of the Internet, it’s entirely possible that the Corvair you’re thinking of buying might be hundreds or thousands of miles away.  The real purpose and value of this document is to be able to mail or fax it to a seller and ask him or her to walk around the car and answer all the questions for you.  A few “no” answers in the wrong places might save you a seven-hour drive to look at someone else’s rather tired and saggy dream car.  (“It ran when we parked it.”)


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the Questionnaire/Checklist,
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A Couple of Case Studies: How the List Came to Be






I saw this ‘65 Corsa Turbo Coupe on eBay.  The car was listed as needing restoration, but was said to be in otherwise excellent, “drive it home” condition.  I was in the market for a Corsa Coupe and this one was located about 250 miles from my house.  Based on the pictures and a brief conversation with the seller, it was worth taking a four-hour drive to look it over, right?






Click on the photo to see a larger version!






Wrong.  I’m still not sure how the photo below hides it, but there was a monstrous eyebrow over the passenger-side headlight bezel.  I had never seen one as large on a Corvair before and there was a good sized one starting on the other side, too.  You can see the dents above the rear wheel well in the second picture but you can’t see the dozens of rust splotches in, yes, ALL THE USUAL CORVAIR PLACES.






Click on the photo to see a larger version!






I was so captivated by the fact that this was an original turbo vehicle with a reasonably good asking price (around $3,500, if I recall), that I failed to ask the few simple questions that would have saved me an eight-hour roundtripper to eyeball this rust-bucket.

For what it’s worth, the turbocharger was also out of commission.  Testing for this is another topic you’ll find on the checklist.  I think I composed the entire list in my head during the long, lonely drive home.  I didn’t have too much else to do.

I developed several more questions after driving to see the car pictured below.  This car was also listed on eBay but, fortunately, was located just 40 minutes from my house.  The car was described as being a “mint condition”, rust-free “Texas” car.  It was also listed as being a rare Corsa with factory air-conditioning.  The seller indicated the air conditioning had been removed, but that all the parts came with the car.











Rust-wise, this car wasn’t as bad as the Turbo Coupe, but you could tell from about 75 paces that the only reason this car could be described as “rust-free” was because someone had done extensive plastic surgery on the car’s skin.  And that was just the beginning.  The list of problems I was able to capture in my notes concerning the seats, kick panels, dash, etc. contributed nearly all the questions in the “Interior” section of the checklist.

The car had a center-mount 4-bbl Holley setup instead of the stock carbs and there’s nothing wrong with that.  However, when I asked to see the air-conditioning parts that had been removed from the car, the seller opened the trunk and showed me a box containing......the four original Rochester carburetors and the 140 linkage.  I honestly think the seller had believed the previous owner when he was told that the box contained the remains of an air-conditioner.

More striking than the contents of the box, however, was the fact that I could look through the trunk floor and see the toes of my sneakers peeking through from underneath.  The trunk floor panel in this car had rusted through entirely.  At this point, I became a little aggravated and asked the seller, “Uh, which part of ‘Texas’ is this car from?  East Texas, Maine?”






The Questionnaire: An Introduction






Since I’m not typically able to go through a Corvair to the extent pictured below (in one of my all-time favorite Corvair pictures), I have come to rely on the questionnaire I put together.











In addition to saving you a trip to see a basket case, the questionnaire is also handy as an onsite checklist of things that can go wrong on Corvairs.  It’s useful to begin tallying up the items you’ll be replacing before you part with the seller’s asking price.  $3,000 might sound like a good deal for a certain car but, expense-wise, the ensuing restoration project can get out of control quickly.  Just for starters, if the car you’re looking at needs a new interior and carpeting — ka-ching — add an extra $1,200 to the seller’s asking price for a full Clark’s interior...and that’s with you doing all the labor.

Before using the list, there are a few other key things to know:

  • Questions Are About Corsas – These questions were written for a 1966 Corvair Corsa since that was what I was looking for when I wrote the list.  The questions could be easily adapted to other Late Models and with a bit more work, could be used for Early Models.  I have tried to keep the questions current by including some of the suggestions I've seen on Virtual Vairs.
  • I’m Not a Big Fan of Excessive Non-Stock Modifications – I generally try to look for pure, original-owner "cream-puff" cars.  The times I've looked at Corvairs that were equipped with a single 4-bbl setup, disc brakes, big, beefy sway bars, center consoles, extra gauges, etc. the cars struck me as having been ridden quite hard and were being sold for a reason.  I'm not sure I want to take home a car that has pulled a holeshot at every traffic light in the seller's hometown.  As a result, questions having to do with aftermarket gauges, alternative carburetor setups, headers, etc. are non-existent on this list.
  • Warning: Baby-Talk – The language in the document can be somewhat baby-ish at times.  This is intentional.  You might have learned what a “rocker panel” was when you were six years old, but the widow who’s trying to sell her late husband’s “baby” probably didn’t.  If you ask her if there’s any rust on the rocker panels, and she doesn’t know what rocker panels are, it’s a lock that she’ll answer, “Oh, they’re fine!”.  I tried to make this a list that could be mailed to any seller.

    Likewise, there's a little bit of strategy in this document.  The first page of questions are purposefully intended to be no-brainers.  I wanted potential sellers to get up a head of steam answering a bunch of "easies" before asking them about battery tray rust, harmonic balancers, and o-rings.
  • There Is Still More to Add – The list of "onsite to-do's" is a little thin since I usually just sort of feel my way around the car once I'm there onsite looking at it.  Frankly, this is stupid, since emotions inevitably start taking over — particularly when you come across a nice looking specimen.  Having a cold, dispassionate checklist is always a good idea.
  • It’s Free, But... – Please don't be afraid of the copyright notices I included on the document.  As you can see, the list is free for the downloading.  However, I don't necessarily want to see it in someone else's book someday.






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