If you read my previous blog, you’ll know that I have just bought a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair in Montana, USA, and wished I hadn’t.
And now me and a mate have to get it to Newark, 2400 miles away on the east coast. Which would be fine if I actually wanted the object I am about to transport, but not if I don’t. Why have I gone luke-cold on this madcap project? Because the Corvair’s paint is as shiny as a sheet of sandpaper, its interior shines with the suspicion of hard use and it has the aura of a car that is going to be trouble.
The fault is entirely mine. I have been tempted by the a description claiming excellent condition for a 43 year old car – which is true, given that this one is pretty tidy when most have rotted away - and that it may only have covered 18,500 miles from new.
But equally, it’s very helpful owner Shelley says that she cannot guarantee the odometer, and points out various flaws with the car in her ebay description, including in its paint. I have, I realise, been too rash to believe that this is some coddled, near immaculate car because of the mileage and the fizzy promise of some pictures on the web. My mate and I quickly conclude that it must have done 118,500 miles, on the basis of some patchily worn carpet, the state of its paint and the dirty pedal rubbers.
This is not a good start. Nor is the impossibility of getting insurance for the car in the US, which has forced me into hiring a truck and trailer – there is no other way – to bring it home. But first, we’re directed to a private road outside Great Falls - where it’s lived all its life - to get it moving and on film.
And it has to be said that it goes rather well. The engine sounds strong and lively – it occasionally sounds like a Porsche motor, but less thrashy – the gearchange is a short-shifting delight apart from the struggle to get reverse, and there’s not a rattle or squeak to be heard anywhere. And almost everything, clock apart, appears to function.
My mate and I begin to wonder whether the Corvair might be low mileage after all, our used-car sniffing skills fazed by the different ways in which cars decay in this very different climate. The harsh sun, for instance, not only flattens the paint but fades the carpets, and the low grade interior trim, we realise, is actually in fair shape. Our hearts begin to lift, especially when we discover that there’s virtually no corrosion to be found, and that its engine bay looks amazingly clean.
After a few panning shots I dare to stretch the flat-six motor past 2500rpm, sink the throttle further and encounter a satisfying power surge as the second pair of Rochester carburettors kicks in. This car is beginning to feel like the entertaining drive that all the contemporary road test said it would be, all of them finding the mark 2 Corvair a decidedly better-behaved beast than the original.
But I’m still far from convinced that this is the car I wanted to buy. And there’ll be plenty of time to rue this purchase as we load it onto the trailer again and head east, through the Belt Mountain range in Montana.