Home » Air-Cooled Fixer-Uppers: 1964 Corvair Van vs 1975 Porsche 914

Air-Cooled Fixer-Uppers: 1964 Corvair Van vs 1975 Porsche 914

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Good morning, and welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! Today’s vehicles are one-hundred-percent guaranteed to never give you a lick of trouble with water pumps, thermostats, or radiators.

Yesterday was all about passing on the deep knowledge of the ancients. Opinions varied on the best way to do this, and which tool to use for it:

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Fairly even split, actually. I think it comes down to where you plan to teach the kid to drive. If you’re in a city, then a small car is probably the better choice. But if you’ve got the room to maneuver it, I still think a big dumb truck is the preferred implement.

Today, there’s no scenario or use-case, just a couple of derelict cars with horizontally-opposed air-cooled engines. Neither one is a common sight, and both need quite a bit of love before they’re ready for prime-time. Let’s see which one you’re more willing to resurrect.

1964 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Van – $2,250

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter air-cooled overhead valve flat 6, three-speed manual, RWD

Location: Garibaldi, OR

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Turns over but won’t start

In 1961, General Motors took a page out of Volkswagen’s playbook and developed a light truck based on an air-cooled rear-engine passenger car. The Corvair 95 line of trucks and vans – named for their 95-inch wheelbase – included a panel van, two pickup trucks (standard and “Rampside,” with a tailgate-like opening on the passenger side between the wheels), and a passenger van, called the Greenbrier.

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Like in the Volkswagen vans, the Greenbrier’s driver sits atop the front axle, and the engine hangs out behind the rear axle, which allows all the space between the axles to be used for cargo or passengers. It’s a clever design, as long as you don’t care about crash safety. The Greenbrier is powered by the same flat-six as other Corvairs, in this case attached to a manual gearbox. The vans were available with a four-speed, but most were three-speeds, as I assume this one is.

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Corvairs are popular enough that restoration parts are around, but some van-specific stuff might be hard to come by. Luckily, this one looks fairly intact, if a bit rough. It will need some bodywork and rust repair, but nothing major. Hell, you could even leave it as-is if you wanted to, and just throw a blanket over the bench seat. This van doesn’t run, but the seller says the engine turns over fine. You could probably get it going again without too much work.

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Oh, and they’re willing to deliver it to you for a little extra. Just in case you can’t get your hands on a trailer or dolly.

1975 Porsche 914 1.8 – $2,950

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter air-cooled overhead-valve flat 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Eugene, OR

Odometer reading: unknown

Runs/drives? Nope, engine is out

Air-cooled Porsche values have gone off the rails in recent years. Yeah, they’re cool cars, but some of the selling prices are just plain silly. Even the four-cylinder 912 models have gotten stupidly expensive. So it only makes sense that the formerly-derided 914 would now be starting to garner some attention. However, you can still find junky ones for reasonable prices.

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This 914 is a lowly 1.8 liter model, with a fuel-injected engine that makes only 84 horsepower. Or it did, before it was removed and partially disassembled. No indication is given about the engine’s condition, but the suggestions of a V8 or electric conversion aren’t encouraging, nor is the photo of it just sitting around outside.

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Inside, it’s a mess, but at least it looks dry. Cars stored outside in Oregon can get downright nasty inside if water gets in, so the lack of mold and mildew in this Porsche is a good sign. Outside, it has been repainted in black at some point (it was originally green), but now the paint is in poor shape and there is some surface rust to contend with. It does have some cool aftermarket wheels on it, and it appears to have been guarded by a small army of colorful jackstands, for whatever that’s worth.

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Is this old Porsche worth fixing up? I guess that depends how high 914 prices go, or how badly you want one. They’re cool little cars – when they’re intact and running.

So that’s what I’ve got for you today: Two very different vehicles with similar, and largely obsolete, engine types. Which one deserves a second life?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)


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59 Responses

  1. I’ll take the Greenbrier over the briar patch of loose parts and wires.
    There’s plenty of winter left to get that Corvan camping ready by spring.
    But I’m not sure I have enough years left to get that Porsche where it would need to be to be worth it.
    Van me.

  2. If I had to choose, I’d take the Corvair. I’ve seen what long-term outdoor storage can do to a 914 and I don’t have the fabrication skills to repair that.

    The real winner here is landscaping with jackstands. I am going to get some pastel paint and another pair or two for the garden.

  3. damn, that 914 looks really gone, so despite it being also a VW and quite easy to get running again, I would say find another one! So I voted the dry but ugly van.

  4. I am thinking that it is quite likely that “surface rust” on the outside is just the start of the story. Outdoor storage, low price, repaint, these things rust from the inside out, and the cars literally start folding in half slowly. The easy test is to see if the targa top still fits. If it does, doesn’t mean all is well, but if it doesn’t you have big issues. I like 914s, but have to go Greenbriar here I think.

  5. 914 was always the least attractive porsche out there in my opinion. and although that means nothing the actual state of being of the porsche should push you to Corvair in this case even if you also hate everything Corvair.

  6. I was just over at Hemmings looking at Greenbiars ,especially the side loading pickups and wishing I could hit the lottery and buy a fully restored one.

  7. The CorVan doesn’t seem too far from being a viable working vehicle. The Porsche looks like a budget-killing pile of half-dead parts. So the CorVan gets the vote.

  8. The Corvair. Obvious issues aside I know a junkyard owner who has a few of them in various body styles and has mentioned that he knows a couple places to find parts when I’ve asked about them. He also has a similar vehicle to the Corvair van, a Ford Falcon Econoline Club Wagon. The view from the driver’s seat is a bit scary on those though. They probably have even less front overhang than the Corvair van.

  9. I’m gonna go with the Porsche because of these two, I’d much rather drive the Porsche than the Corvan.
    And if I need a van for hauling people or stuff, I’d rather have a modern minivan than this thing.

  10. No mention or photo of the hellhole or the longitudinals/sills in the 914.
    Might be a bargain or might be trash.
    Probably not a restoration candidate but maybe a modification candidate. Swap in a 220 or so horsepower engine and you can use a stock transmission. Vast amounts of interior room compared to any other mid engine car I can think of.

  11. As much as I love me some over the front axle seats, I would really like to convert the 914 to an EV for fun and games. Being a PNW native, the wet and rain in the 914 doesn’t scare me as much as it should.

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