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

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

Sbsd 1 12 23

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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bandi
bandi
2 months ago

I love my 914s but that one is probably rotten beyond belief. They tend to dissolve in a heavy fog.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago

The van is WAY better. I love a good 914, but that 914 ain’t!

mdharrell
mdharrell
2 months ago

The last time, which is to say the only time, I purchased a Corvair with an engine that turned over but wouldn’t run, the problem turned out to be two pistons with holes in them. This was my introduction to press-fit wrist pins and, inasmuch as I didn’t have the right tools for the job, it was not an easy fix.

That was about 25 years ago and I’ve learned nothing since then, so my vote is for the Greenbriar.

rootwyrm
rootwyrm
2 months ago

This is a genuinely tough one at first. But then it’s not.

The 914’s not in absolutely terrible shape. The level of bodywork between the two is about the same. But the engine, hooboy, the fucking engine. Guaranteed it’s completely trashed. Outside, no oil, no covers, it’s rotted inside and out and pure scrap. Not even core.
So now you need an entire engine. Which is $4k+ longblock, because you are NOT getting core for that thing. And whoops, that’s just the longblock. Now you need fuel; converting it to carbs? Yeah, that’s another $1500+. Oh, you’ll need new heat exchangers. That’s another grand. And we still don’t have spark, fuel delivery to your expensive carbs, spark plugs, exhaust, you know, the ‘little’ things. And we haven’t touched the interior yet. And you have to do it right to do the flip, of course.
Which means all-in you’re talking at least $25k doing it yourself. Which destroys the resale value because you didn’t have a Porsche specialist do everything. Doing it that way, easily $40k+.

Corvan? Well, uh, probably got about a $10k body bill there and… maybe $3k, $4k mechanical? The one tricksy bit is that the Corvair vans DO have a different engine. NOPE, THEY DO, STOP ARGUING. Their 6 cylinders got higher grade bearings, better exhaust valves, lower compression pistons, larger carb jets. To improve durability and torque. They also have a larger clutch.
Well, guess what? Thanks to the advance of technology, you can have higher grade bearings, better exhaust valves, higher compression pistons, better carb jetting, and a nicer clutch just… using the same parts you’d use in any other Corvair but spending a tiny bit more. (Oh no, you have to go up a tier on the rod bearings! A whole $50 more at the worst ripoff place I could find!)
And sure, it won’t sell as high if you want to flip it. But it will sell at a profit.

No contest. Corvair.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
2 months ago

Anything Porsche-adjacent and air cooled is getting stupidly expensive these days, even that half VW/half Porsche, so I suppose you could maybe come out ahead financially even with all that work, but you’d have to really know what you’re doing, because it looks like it might well be best suited as a parts car at this point.

The Corvair is going to be way less hassle, get it running, will probably need the fuel tank cleaned, and just drive it. And vans are always useful to have around

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
2 months ago

Basing this off of four pictures, I’m going Corvair van. It appears to need a little less work and honestly, is more unique. I saw a Corvair rampside at my local Home Depot a year or two ago. It was cool. I almost considered waiting for the owner to come out and see what they were loading up in it.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
2 months ago

I noped the van for not having a running engine, then saw the Porsche engine rusting outdoors. What kind of monster does that?

I pick the van, just as I’d pick being shot in the head over being eaten by bears.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
2 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

“I pick the van, just as I’d pick being shot in the head over being eaten by bears.”

COTD!

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
2 months ago

I’d buy the Greenbrier , donate to DT and have it shipped to Australia to start another adventure.(͡o‿O͡)

stefthepef
stefthepef
2 months ago

I have a 914 1.8 in my VW! It’s a pretty easy engine to work on, all things considered. It’s solidly *enough* in an older lightweight car. Not fast, just enough.

My heart says parsh. Those are fun parsh! I LOVE PARSH.

Griznant
Griznant
2 months ago

I went with the Corvair even though I have four Type 4 engines sitting in the barn that would slide right into the 914. Why?

Porsche tax. Parts are unreasonably expensive when it’s for a Porsche, even for parts shared with VW. That hurts.
Also, through clairvoyance, I can see the pile of rust that will fall off that 914 every time I open and try to close a door before it folds in half.

I think the Corvair is more solid, more unique, and probably easier to fix.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
2 months ago

Come along with me and enjoy my thought process as I read through this article!

“Corvair, huh? Hey, that’s cool. I just read that article here yesterday about how the Corvair isn’t as bad as its reputation. I might give it a chance.”
“Oh, it’s a Corvair VAN. Well, they made those neat side-loader deals…”
“But this isn’t one of them. It’s just a big dumb van.”
“And look at that rust! Gross!”
“Do I want to be a guy with the gross 1960s van? I might as well just grow a bad mustache.”
“What’s the other car today?”
“Ok, the alternative is a Porsche. I like Porsches even though I don’t know them well enough to recognize which one is which based on the 9-whatever number.”
“Oh, it’s THAT Porsche. Eh, it’s probably my least favorite type, but it’s still a Porsche.”
“Oh God, what happened to it?! The parts that are supposed to be on the inside are on the outside!”
“And the dashboard barfed up a bunch of wiring harnesses like it’s bad spaghetti!”

I don’t want either one, but if I have to choose, I’ll pick the Porsche because at least its owner isn’t threatening to bring it to my house the way the van owner is.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 months ago

I love the 914s. Absolutely love them.
However, that one is missing some key pictures, namely how bad the hell-hole is. The hell-hole is what happens to 914s when the batteries are not taken care of. Acid and byproducts eat through the hole immediately under the battery mount.

This doesn’t have pics of it, coupled with the rest? Don’t even look at it.

Unfortunately the VW van knockoff wins this round

GDankert
GDankert
2 months ago

I voted for the Corvan because of how (relatively) intact it is, but I’m starting to regret that choice.
Torch, would (theoretically) any air-cooled VW engine go into that 914?

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago
Reply to  GDankert

I’m not Torch, but any type IV (i.e. later VW bus) engine should bolt right in.

Theoretically the type I (Beetle), II (early van), and III (squareback/notchback) engines might be made to work with enough fiddling (again, IIRC) but there is no real reason to do so.

You should also be able to use the engine from a VW 412 (later squareback), as they are also type IV.

Mr.Asa
Mr.Asa
2 months ago
Reply to  GDankert

Not only any air-cooled VW engine, but also… others air cooled engines

You should look up the 914-6.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 months ago

Whenever I see a 914, it’s TRASHED. I’m not sure if it’s a product of being entry level, the types of buyers it drew, or both. If you’re getting a Porsche, don’t sell yourself short and get a good one. Friends don’t let friends buy 914s.

The interior on that Greenbrier is every bit as nice as the Porsche is trash. Parts are still obtainable and that flat six is simple to work on. Getting it to start should be no big deal.

Corvair, the best of the worst, is the best today.

Kbasa
Kbasa
2 months ago

I bet the “hell hole” in that car is truly awful. No go on the 914, though I love them. The Corvair? If the guy in Western Mass. has parts for it, then yeah.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
2 months ago

I went with the van. It looks cool as-is and will likely be simple enough to resuscitate….

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago

My first thought was “914, please”. Add a crate 2.0-liter engine, remanufactured transaxle, and better brakes… and then still need to resolve the minimal interior and the janky wiring – and determine how badly the floor pans are decayed – before tackling the bodywork.

So… Greenbrier, please.

hotdoughnutsnow
hotdoughnutsnow
2 months ago

I’ll take the van and the jack stands.

I can smell the “Porsche” from here.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
2 months ago

I’d only take the Porsche if the jackstand army is included. Since I feel like it isn’t, I voted for the Corvair. It’s more interesting to me and likely going to be much easier to get running and driving again.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
2 months ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

I kinda feel a more fair competition here would have been Corvair Van or the collection of jackstands and some other tools.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
2 months ago

This one definitely falls into the “why not both?” meme for me. In fact, I even refreshed so I could vote for each one. Yeah, the 914 is a long-term project, but air-cooled Porsche prices are stupid enough to make it worthwhile. Plus it could make a great track toy that you could haul around with the GreenB.

Unacceptably Dry Scones
Unacceptably Dry Scones
2 months ago

I like the cut of your jib.

outofstep
outofstep
2 months ago

Corvair. It’s cheaper, I can get more use out of it, the interior is in better shape, and the most important thing is the engine is still in it.

DubblewhopperNdubbletrubble
DubblewhopperNdubbletrubble
2 months ago

The Greenbriar, imagine stuffing a Z06 crate motor into this thing? Of course everything else has to be uprgraded, but it’s a Greenbriar. Or take the body off and find a demolished Z06 and plant the Greenbriar body on the Vette chassis.

SquareTaillight2002
SquareTaillight2002
2 months ago

Greenbrier can be a real driving vehicle pretty fast so it gets my vote. As the ad says, Porsche is a great candidate for an EV conversion. That would fix just about all its faults (slow, noisy, bad shifter). Just don’t plan on any long trips.

993cc
993cc
2 months ago

An EV conversion of either would be nice. Much depends on if the Porsche folds oin half as soon as you remove the roof.

What I really want is the Gen 1 Civic parked beyond the Porsche.

98Z28
98Z28
2 months ago

Both are bad, but the Van wins by a nose.

David Tracy
David Tracy
2 months ago
Reply to  98Z28

I feel like the Corvan is a deal and a half?

Justin Short
Justin Short
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

You would! Wahahaha!

hotdoughnutsnow
hotdoughnutsnow
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

You picked it because there is more visible rust.

Data
Data
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

You’re pretty close to Oregon now. I say paint it Torch Beetle yellow with two black stripes and throw the Autopian logo on the front doors. Use it to shuttle people around during events.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
2 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

It’s a great candidate for your next parts hauler, David. I’d love to see you bring an air cooled flat 6 back around.

A. Barth
A. Barth
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

“1) there is literally no way to get a non-running vehicle up my driveway”

Well, not with that attitude.

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