To paraphrase the song, there ain’t no revival like a Corvair revival because (apparently) the Corvair revival don’t stop. It’s exhausting. This series in which I “revive” a car whose life was cut far too short just keeps expanding, and Jason is not helping much in terms of editing it down [Editor’s Note: I have zero interest in cutting this down because that means getting less of this, which is counter to my fundamental belief system. – JT] so you’re certainly getting the Director’s Cut here. My apologies. [Editor’s Note: Stop apologizing. – JT]
We’re pretty deep in already. You might remember that so far we’ve developed Generations III and IV of a rear-engined compact car that in reality never made it past a second generation but seemed to have enough redeeming qualities that maybe it should have. In our last installment, we were able to create the proposed Generation V 1981-1987 car in the form of plastic fantastic Fiero-style series of sedans, coupes, and wagons. However, we ran out of space to continue the next generation of body styles that seemed to resonate with our readers: the Corvair vans and pickups.
In real life, the Greenbrier van (and pickup) models of the Corvair only survived the first generation, and just barely:
I never thought they got a fair shake, so for the imaginary Generation IV of 1975-1980 I brought them back as the RTS-bus/GMC Motorhome inspired Chevann and Truxter:
source: The Autopian
This would have been a breakthrough design at the time — modern enough that we likely wouldn’t want to start from scratch on these in 1981 like we did with the sedans and coupes. We’ll keep the same flat six engine in back and most of the original vehicle, but we’ll add a few special updates. Also, we’ll present some new body styles, some of which will be a bit unhinged but all about extra utility and family fun in the fresh air of the outdoors.
The first reborn version of the Corvair trucks that I created last seemed to be pretty well received, so we’ll keep the changes rather minimal. Why mess with success? As a 1980s car, we’ll have to add plastic lower cladding which everything of this era had, either body color or a contrasting hue. Admittedly, it would visually break up the breadbox shape a bit. I’ve added a new nose cone that extends the ‘Dustbuster’ wedge shape down from the windshield, along with a perimeter frame that ‘chin straps’ the headlights and license plate. We’ve gone from the front end looking like an RTS bus to now taking on the appearance of a high speed rail train that got off of the tracks. Is that really a bad thing?
Ah, but there are functional changes up front as well. Recently I became aware that a British built bus from almost a century ago featured a horizontal windshield wiper operated by a chain mechanism on the side that moved it vertically to clear the whole window. This is brilliant, and we must replicate this mechanism on our van, though I’m sure there’s a reason nobody else attempted it. We would use cables or something other than chain in the perimeter frame of the windshield, but the glass on the front of the van is only curved in one direction so it would be a crime not to at least try it.
With the earlier van, we offered cargo and passenger van versions, as well as a pickup, but now we’ll expand the line into uncharted territory where others have feared to tread (likely with good reason).
Truxter Pickup Grows A Pair
There’s no way that we can have just one pickup body, right? What about the Truxter Cabby Mini-Dually? Dual rear wheels? Can it really carry that much? I know that Toyota offered dual rear wheels as an option on the Hilux that featured a far less powerful motor than our Corvair, so why not? I mean, at the very least it is a cool look.
On the “Cabby” the passenger compartment is expanded behind the driver to create space for protected cargo or jump seats for two more people. Need more cargo bed length? There’s a fold down “mid gate” under the back window to expand the bed up all the way up to the front seatbacks. The rear glass stays in place, but that’s because with a cargo bed cover in place this whole expanded area would be indoors.
A few readers had lamented that I didn’t explore the Rampside variant of the original Corvair pickup. Tired of lifting things into the bed of your truck? With the Rampside a door on the passenger’s side folds down to create a ramp for easily loading cargo. Great idea, but the raised area in back for the engine created a rather odd shape to the bed that likely turned off some buyers.
One option I have to solve this is the FlexBed. You can have the Rampside feature, but the floor in the center of the bed can raise up to meet the height of the engine cover part in back to give you a fully level floor (plus space below for storage). Best of both worlds now (but only available on standard cab models).
The Chevann Expands
By the early eighties, the Chevann passenger van would be a common sight on American roads, to the point that it could start to be considered no more than dull family transportation. We certainly can’t have that, can we? How about a ‘halo’ vehicle to add some excitement back into the line? I might have just the vehicle: the GMC Vanna Safari Sunrunner.
As the more luxurious version of the Chevann, there is the near-twin GMC Vanna (likely a tie-in for Wheel of Fortune later?). The Safari version of this leather-lined machine adds a driveshaft to the front of the transaxle, plus big tires, raised suspension, and grey lower body cladding to create a Vanagon Syncro-like four wheel drive proto-off-roader. It gets even sillier since you can order a front push bar with an electric winch for times you might get a bit too ambitious in the rough.
Still not enough to get the thrill back? You’re a tough crowd. Fine- let’s ship some of these Safari models off to convertible conversion experts American Specialty Corporation (who also gave us the Buick GNX and Chevy SSR) to put a Sawzall and welding torch to them.
Up front, lightweight removable T-tops and now frameless door glass let the driver and passenger experience open air motoring, while a flick of a switch makes the fabric roof over the center row of seats retract; the mechanism involves telescopic rods mounted one the sides of a plastic roof box that features an area for cargo. The folks at ASC also replace the sliding rear door with a hinged one, and the middle side glass on both sides in back can retract fully.
Sure, there’s Triumph Stag-like framework still left, but how many seven passenger family cars can you give you wind in what’s left of your hair? A family cruise on the beach? An open air run through the forest until the mosquitos get too bad and you just button it up again in minutes? Have your teenager kid chauffer you and the spouse like a carriage ride (t tops on place, rear roof open)? You want to take up falconry? Ralph Nader will try to ban it just because it’s so much damn fun. The possibilities are endless with a Vanna Safari Sunrunner.
Cheventure On The Road
Well, not completely endless, because the Sunrunner would not be ideal for camping. For a home away from home, you’ll need the Cheventure Camper conversion by Winnebago. Here the roof in its entirety goes bye-bye and we add a fiberglass cap on top.
The middle of the van features a working kitchen and possibly even a pull-out toilet, while there is a dinette on the raised area above the engine in back. This dining space can be converted to a sleeper, but the primary bed is over the roof at the front, accessible by a fold down ladder. One person could theoretically sleep sideways up here, but the idea is that this slide-out section telescopes over the windshield when the van is stationary to create a double bed and allow the Cheventure to sleep four comfortably. Front seats rotate around and become sort of the “living room” of the camper. Not bad for a little van, and easily one of the best driving campers you’d be able to buy.
Finally, the full lineup for Reagan era of Corvair. Maybe a car- or a van- can’t be all things to all people, but the Corvair certainly tries particularly hard to do just that. That is, of course, if they actually existed.
Now the late eighties are approaching, and General Motors was working on plenty of new technologies that they never seemed to fully explore. Could the Corvair Generation VI change that?
all illustrations by The Bishop
A Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Corvair Surviving Into Days Of Disco – The Autopian
The Daydreaming Designer Imagines A World Where The Corvair Never Went Away – The Autopian
There’s A Gorgeous Corvair Pickup For Sale And It Comes With A Sweet Camper – The Autopian
This Amazing Old Delivery Van Was A VW Bus 10 Years Early And Proves The Corvair Was Not America’s First Rear-Engined Air-Cooled Vehicle – The Autopian
All we’re really doing here is re-inventing the 3rd generation Mitsubishi Delica
*cries deeply in van-filled retrofuture we Americans never deserved*
Making a modern rampside vehicle would be quite easy with a BEV.
The latest battery packs are only 11 cm (little over 4 inches) high/tall, and a flatter design could be done for a lower capacity pack.
Wheelchair acces, delivery van.
Could be the new Dog Bus, which recently went viral since an Alaskan school bus for dogs is super cool. They need a rampside!
Send us other musings from your planet Corv.
A Galaxy 500 million miles away no doubt.
Automobiliaobsessive- Will do, and it’s not a Galaxie 500. That’s a Ford.
This series is so great. In an alternate reality I would have owned several Chevann’s by now, beginning with the ’76 Chevann I bought from a friend of my mom that I used to haul my band around to gigs in the ’90s.
The only thing you have to apologize for is putting the ramp on the wrong side of the Truxter! What are you, a Brit?
Bronzemeister- Ha! I see that now. I was tracing the wrong side. Still, we could ramp both sides and you could do sick bike tricks
These are absolutely amazing!
Marc- thank you!
Wow. Just Wow. And stop apologizing! This exactly the sort of insanity we signed up for. I sure as heck didn’t buy a membership for just another site doing car reviews…
The adjustable floor height in the rampside is a great idea, although part of me wonders just how robust it would be under abuse.
The updated front end treatment really goes for the mass transit vibe but it works and seems period-appropriate.
The Safari is super cool but I fear it would have the torsional rigidity and crashworthiness of a wet noodle. I still want one.
The one-box nature of the Cheventure really does lend itself to an RV conversion. It seems remarkably workable. Technology-wise, were people doing slideouts with any frequency in the 80s?
Origami- a few things:
-Not sure how the floor would raise. It could always be an add-on piece that drops in. Or, pins could be installed in the side to support the floor insert (which would just sit on the
-Yes, the Safari would need to have a lot of welded on chassis reinforcement and the crossbars on top you see would need to be structural as well.
-I think slide outs were appearing in the 80s, but I was thinking this slide out would be manual or a hand crank thing instead of electric motors.
Glad you like it!
I want all of them. I’m upset to not live in your Corvair timeline.
Anoos- Glad to hear it! Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 and you can take the best of what was made then, meld it together, and then add ingredients that nobody thought to add in period, but maybe should have.
I ache for the Safari.
I’m in the process of buying a used Voyager (the fleet spec version oddly with all the equipment you’d actually want from a Pacifica like Stow N’ Go) so you know I have an appetite for a semi-strange van. This purchase is classic cheap bastard behavior from me. But if something like that Safari was available new, I’d be tempted to go full American forever loan to buy that thing.
taarustaargus- the Japanese vans of the era (at least the Toyota and I think the soon-to-be-crushed Nissans) had a pop out sunroof in front and a big sliding roof over the rear seats, so sort of open air.
Btw, the two tone green on beige is *chefs kiss*
All of these doorstops are absolutely adorable.
Since you’re going full Torchinsky with the linear windshield wiper we will need to see some rear 3/4 views of the new Corvair vans to show off the exciting and innovative taillights.
Slow Joe Crow- ah, I knew I forgot something. I’ll see if I can get it posted. Basically a lot like the Vanagon, or similar to the front end, with the lights and plate down low.
You realize, of course, that if you keep going with this, you’re going to have to come up with a retro Corvair design for the aught years.
Canopysaurus- still working on the nineties one, so that will be later. But will likely happen.
All of these cars designed by The Bishop are so good. I wish I could buy all of them.
They should make 1/12 scale diecast models of these to sell in their merch section.
10001010- sadly I don’t have these modeled up (well, just a very rough 3D DWG I trace over). If I did I’d run you some on the 3D printer at work.
Don’t apologize —and don’t stop. This series rocks.
These designs are, without a doubt, inspiring. You triggered memories of my 1980s Hot Wheels coloring books, the replacements for which are now happily in my ebay cart.
The Sunrunner reminds me of the Brubaker Box-based Roamer from Ark II. Just add the rampside gate and weld the front doors shut. Perfect!
MaximillianMeen- yes, the Brubaker was one of my influences for the look, of course. Also, as I mentioned, some of the more modern subway trains or airport shuttle rail units I’ve seen.
I would very much like to buy these vehicles. Please get them into production via time machine so that I can end up with used ones several years ago.
These vans could be some of the few American car designs with a chance of actually selling in Japan. By selling, I mean maybe the Japanese would have bought a few dozen, but that’s still way better than US models usually do there
Hey, the Japanese already bought quite a few Astros and Dajibans. A true one-box Chevy would have sold like hotcakes against the boring Hiace!
Your series has broken me.
I am now shopping for a corvair.
Jurassic- last weekend I went to the tiny Milwaukee Auto Show and the Corvair club had a setup. You really need to see the second generation car in real life- just beautiful from every angle and a totally underrated, underappreciated design.