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The Lake Erie Region of the
Antique Automobile Club of America

Our Corvair Story
by Barb Noonan

 

My first car was a 1956 Chevy that my Dad bought to get me back and forth to college in Niagara Falls but it wasn’t particularly reliable. It was pretty well worn with high mileage, so Dad decided that a more dependable car was in order.  He was able to order a Corvair, have it put into a test pool, and when the testing was complete, purchase it.  So he let me order whatever I wanted. I picked a 1965 navy blue 3-speed Monza. It was a beauty and I couldn’t wait until it was mine to drive. Lo and behold while one of the GMI students was test driving it, he had an accident and the car was totaled. I was broken hearted that car was so close to being mine and would never be. So we started again. This time Dad pulled a dark green Monza automatic already in the test pool that could substitute. While not the same, I certainly couldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  Additionally, the ’65 engine was switched for an upgraded ’67 engine, so things were looking up.   

I grew to absolutely love that car. It was easy to zip around in and while living in an apartment in Niagara Falls, could easily fit into a very narrow garage in a very narrow nearby alley. In addition to school, I drove all over with that car.  Usually loaded with girlfriends, we would go to the Edgewater on Grand Island, Lakewood in Youngstown, and the Club in downtown Niagara Falls. I remember getting a flat tire in front my home in Tonawanda, and my Dad came out and taught me and my girlfriends how to change a tire. I happened to get another flat tire on Grand Island not long after that (it was dark), and ended up changing it myself as my girlfriends seemed to have forgotten everything we were taught.   

Ray and I met at college while I was driving that Corvair, and we shared the driving once we were dating. That little car that I loved so much, took quite a beating. I started it by running into the back of a car that was stopped at a stop light because I was busy rubber-necking at another accident nearby. Just one of the many lessons a new driver learns. While there really wasn’t much damage, it was the beginning of the end. The next accident was in Tonawanda where we thought there was a four way stop and were hit in the right passenger side just forward of the door where I was sitting.  The damage was repaired and about a year later, I was turning right into a girlfriend’s driveway when some character in a hurry decided to pass me on the inside right. The car was hit in about the same place as the last accident. That damage was also repaired, and soon after Ray left for the Navy.  The last and final accident happened in December 1967 when I was turning left off Sheridan Drive onto a side street and waiting for a break in the heavy traffic. This was before the center turn lanes were in place. The Corvair was rammed in the rear. I was sent across the road into the oncoming traffic and amazingly made it all the way across the road and up on the curb nearly missing a fire hydrant without anyone else hitting me. I was devastated and knew at that point that the car was probably not repairable since the engine was in the trunk where the car was hit. Soon after that Ray and I were married and Mom and Dad kept the damaged car for me because I just couldn’t say goodbye.  It has since gone to the Corvair graveyard, but I will always consider it my first car.  

Another Corvair came into our lives a few years ago. My Mom and Dad bought a 1964 Corvair Monza convertible in October 1979 for $2,000 in Pennsylvania. They ran it on many tours and trips but it started to overheat after they had a new exhaust system installed. Dad took apart and cleaned the blowers and air passages and brother Bob replaced the distributor and retimed it but had no luck with eliminating the overheating problem. So the Corvair was stored at our Wilson garage from about 1980 until 2014. At that time, Dad decided to turn the car over to me and Ray. We had a new exhaust system installed and discovered that the previous one was the wrong muffler and the back pressure caused it to overheat. At that point, we were back in business.  Ray has been doing some other updates and now it’s roadworthy and maybe we’ll even take it out soon on one of our club tours.  While the 1964 is not the same as the one I drove to college, it’s still a Corvair and that counts in my book.


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