Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming… US states roll beneath the sometimes tortured wheels of our Ford truck as a mate and I haul my newly-acquired 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa eastward to Newark and a Southampton-bound ship.
Tortured, because the condition of some North American interstates has to be felt to be believed. And feel them you will, some surfaces so washboarded that we have to back off to quell the in-cabin shake.
Our tow rig’s thirst and dimensions cause it to gorge petrol like an alcoholic threatened with a dry-out. At plenty of garages we get into friendly conversation with someone who owned a Corvair or knew someone that did.
Surprisingly, nobody mentions the ‘Unsafe at Any Speed,’ book that started a consumer car safety campaign – based around the Corvair’s wayward handling. Perhaps they’re being kind.
We have a gesticulated communication with a trucker east of Detroit when we spot a Corvair coupe tied to the flatbed of his huge truck, presumably salvaged for restoration. It’s a good feeling to find someone else who thinks these Chevrolets worth saving.
But not as good as the feeling we get when we visit the Corvair Ranch. Obscurely tucked among the verdant hills of eastern Pennsylvania, I found this Mecca on the web. What’s got me excited is the solitary shot of a sea of dead Corvairs, whose carcasses must be good for dozens of parts.
Despite our schedule preventing us reaching this place on any day other than a Sunday, genial proprietor Jeff Stonesifer agrees to open the place up. But not before he’s performed an enthusiastic inspection that triggers a mix of relief and elation.
This car is a good one, he reckon, with virtually no rot in the usual vulnerable places, and evidence of plenty of sensible maintenance work. It has new shock absorbers, new rear brake hoses, engine improvements that include an aluminium oil pan and rocker covers, a switch to electronic ignition and more.
There’s better news when we ease the Chevrolet off its trailer and he takes us for an informative lap of his local test route. The car pulls better than any 140 horsepower Corvair he’s driven, he reckons. Less good are slightly slack steering and brakes that could be sharper.
I reward his thumbs-up with a credit card splurge that sees us amassing a heap of parts big enough to fill a couple of wheelbarrows, and then bolting some of them to the car when we realise that the easiest way to ship a rechromed exchange back bumper is to bolt it to the car.
The next day we leave the Corvair at the docks, along with a surprising number of used 911s, to wait the ship that will bring it here next month. I’ll let you know if it makes the journey in one piece.