Home » Rare Rear-Engined Derelicts: 1965 Chevy Corvair vs 1969 Siata Spring

Rare Rear-Engined Derelicts: 1965 Chevy Corvair vs 1969 Siata Spring

Sbsd 2 14 2024
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Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re looking at two uncommon cars with their engines behind the rear axle. Neither one has run in years, so don’t go expecting something you can drive home in – unless you’ve got some really strong friends who are willing to push.

Hey, I gave you two runners yesterday; what more do you want? One of them was even a bright red Porsche! In running condition! In our price range! Do I need to tell you it won? I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with a big-ass Chrysler coupe. Well, there’s a lot wrong with that big-ass Chrysler coupe, which I imagine is part of the reason it lost.

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But honestly, anything you put up against an affordable, running Porsche 928 with a lot of spare parts is going to lose. Hell, if I had $4,500 and a place to put it, I’d be tempted to head down to New Mexico and road trip it back up here myself. It must be said, however, that no matter how well the seller says it runs, long drives in an old German car are always – I can’t resist saying it risky business.

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For today’s choices, we have the most collectible version of an up-and-coming classic, and a car so obscure it has never been mentioned before on this site. Nope, not even by Jason. I checked. (Maybe he talked about them on that other site, but who goes there anymore?) Here they are.

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1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Turbo – $4,950

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.7 liter overhead valve flat 6, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Boulder Creek, CA

Odometer reading: 93,000 miles

Operational status: Has not run since 2005

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In the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity, the protagonist Rob makes a list of his top five dream jobs of any time, things like a record producer in the 1960’s. It’s a fun thought exercise, even if it’s impossible. I think if I were to make such a list, it would have to include powertrain engineer at General Motors, from let’s say 1959 to 1967. GM was wealthy back then, and brimming with fantastical ideas come to life – the Pontiac Tempest’s rear transaxle and “rope drive,” the aluminum V8s of Oldsmobile and Buick, the front-wheel-drive Oldsmobile Toronado, and of course the Chevy Corvair.

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The Corvair received a turbocharged engine option in 1962, a full thirteen years before that other company got around to selling a turbocharged flat six. In 1965, when the vastly-improved second generation Corvair was introduced, the turbo engine was all the way up to 180 horsepower, sixteen more than needed to break the one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch barrier. It’s a carbureted “draw through” turbo setup, with four carburetors, one primary and one secondary per cylinder bank.

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A three-speed manual was standard, but this car is equipped with the optional four-speed. That makes this the highest-performance Corvair ever offered from the factory. Or at least it was, once upon a time. Sadly, it hasn’t been started in the better part of twenty years, and probably hasn’t moved from that concrete pad in all that time either.

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Waking it up again, if it’s even possible, would be a monumental challenge, but considering the car’s rarity it might be worth it – if not for all the rust. The seller says the floors are solid, but the floors aren’t what concerns me. The base of the windshield and rear window have holes, and it looks like there was already some rust repair done; one or two photos show cracking Bondo. Anyone looking to restore this car has got their work cut out for them.

1969 Siata Spring – $4,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 843 cc overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual, RWD

Location: Phoenix, AZ

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Odometer reading: 69,000 miles

Operational status: Not running, and probably hasn’t in a very long time

If you’re looking at this car and thinking, “A what now?”, you could be forgiven. Siata started out making high-performance parts for Fiat cars before World War II, founded by a guy with one of those fabulous Italian names: Giorgio Ambrosini. After the war, Siata began making its own cars, Fiat-based, of course. Its last, and most successful, model was the Spring, a tiny two-seat roadster based on a rear-engined Fiat 850 chassis.

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It’s a funny-looking little thing, sort of like a cross between a VW-based kit car and one of those amusement park rides where the car runs on a track and the kids pretend to drive. The proportions necessary to adapt a traditional-style body on the rear-engine 850 chassis are pretty awkward, with the front too short and the rear too long. But it also looks like two tons of fun in a one-ton (or less) package, like all 850s do. It’s powered by a tiny Fiat inline four, with a four-speed gearbox.

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Although this looks like a fiberglass kit car, I think it’s actually steel. I think I see a dent on one rear fender. What I don’t see is any evidence of rust, which is encouraging. This car appears to have been sitting nearly as long as the Corviar has, if that 2007 date on some of the photos is to be believed. It also makes me wonder if they have been trying to sell it off and on since then.

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At this point, I think you’re looking at a full teardown and rebuild. At least the Fiat mechanical bits will be easy to find, the Siata trim pieces are pretty much all there, and as for anything else that you have to improvise, well, it’s not like anyone who sees it will have seen one of these before anyway.

Obviously, either one of these is going to be a massive undertaking. Is either of them worth it, especially considering the somewhat steep asking prices? And if so, which one? You tell me.

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Richard O
Richard O
2 months ago

Turbo Corvair all the way. Plenty of donors out there for everything except the turbo parts.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
2 months ago

I would rather have the Corvair, but that price is way too high. The “whatever the other one is” has no appeal at all.

67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
2 months ago

I voted for the Corvair on the condition that I can also pretend to have a workshop with space to tear it apart at do rust repairs on the body.

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
2 months ago

That Siata is rare but fugly. Who wants to put in any work on a car with those ungainly proportions? Even if you make it nice, it still sucks.

Here4thecars
Here4thecars
2 months ago

Voted Corvair just because it’s close to me and it’s a more interesting car. I’m sure the coastal mountain weather hasn’t done the Corvair any favors, so the rust is probably scary, but I gotta go with the Corvair.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
2 months ago

Turbo Corvair for me. That’s a car that deserves to be saved and restored.

Mike F.
Mike F.
2 months ago

The first car I remember riding in is the Corvair my dad had. I’d stand in the back and look out between the two front seats, thus ensuring my rocketing through the windshield had there been a collision. (Yeah, those were the days.) To this day, my dad maintains that it was the worst piece of shit he ever drove, but I nonetheless maintain a soft spot in my heart for them. That said, this one is a mess. The Cialis thing would look a lot better sitting in my driveway, so I’ll wait for another Corvair that’s in better shape and go for the weird-mobile this time.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
2 months ago

I’ll take the Corsair please

Patrick Szczypinski
Patrick Szczypinski
2 months ago

Gosh, the want is strong for a Corvair, but the rust makes it a non-starter for me. I’d leave it for someone who can deal with that stuff and I’ll take the…thing which looks like I could get running with a screwdriver and some heat shrink.

Scott Ashley
Scott Ashley
2 months ago

Really wanted the Corvair, but risy around windows well beyond my means.

Andrea Petersen
Andrea Petersen
2 months ago

Siata obviously, just add it to my pile of questionable Italian shitboxes.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
2 months ago

Sadly, both are a nope for me. I adore second-gen Corvairs, but the amount of work needed to get this one right is just far too high.

As for the Siata, I’d much rather have the significantly more attractive 850 Spider.

Put a gun to my head and I guess I reluctantly take on the Corvair.

Matt Woods
Matt Woods
2 months ago

No rust > rust, so there is the answer today. Too bad the Corvair is so rusty. It would be a fun car to get running, but not worth it with the body work.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
2 months ago

The corvair probably has issues related to the differential, carb, turbo, or it dropped a valve seat (somewhat common on corvairs, more so on 140hp models)

I think that 1965 had a somewhat weaker 4 speed, but not certain.

I’d still take it vs. the other option. Gotta love a 2nd gen corvair, arguably one of (if not THE) most underrated car of its time.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
2 months ago

As much as I like second generation Corvairs I had to vote Siata for the weirdness and cuteness and because I actually knew what it was

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
2 months ago

I want that Corvair, but I’d have mine with a Nissan Leaf electric powertrain, mounted in the rear.

Aaron
Aaron
2 months ago

For $5k, I’d take the Corvair. Either car is going to be a gamble to get running and restored. If you can get it fixed up, that Corvair would make a much better cruiser. If not, it’s a reasonable donor car with some desirable components.

Rapgomi
Rapgomi
2 months ago

I remember seeing images of Siatas when I was a kid and loving how fun they looked!

Sometimes emotion beats common sense – so I had to give the Siata the win.

JDE
JDE
2 months ago

For the Corvair, it is the rust you don’t see that scares a bit. the holes in the rear window sail can lead to a bunch of hidden and hard to fix rot, but Corvairs are fairly cheap still so the Turbo motor and 4 speed and rarity of this combo make me want it much more than the VW Kit car, that some how is not.

Randal Son
Randal Son
2 months ago

Oh man! My red ’65 Corvair Corsa Turbo, owned in ’70-’71, was a mountain of fun. One of those cars you regret selling forever.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
2 months ago

Siata isn’t the answer this time. I voted for the Corvair SS

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
2 months ago

That Corvair is wearing 4-series plates (~2000), so it had a fatal issue that caused it to be parked soon after being replated.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
2 months ago

GM was wealthy back then, and brimming with fantastical ideas come to life – the Pontiac Tempest’s rear transaxle and “rope drive,”

I believe the transaxle on the 61-63 Pontiac Tempest was a Corvair unit. John Z. didn’t have the development budget, so designed a chase for the rope drive to pass over the Corvair unit and then feed power through the rear just as it would in the Chevrolet.

Quite creative, and in line with such efforts as creating an I4 for the Tempest out of the Pontiac 389 V-8.

A lot of ingenuity applied to both models, and when they started to get it right–cancelled production.

I’ve always like the Corvair, and it got my vote.

CPL Rabbit
CPL Rabbit
2 months ago
Reply to  XLEJim700

…when they started to get it right–cancelled

The tagline for every GM history book.

Paul Smith
Paul Smith
2 months ago
Reply to  CPL Rabbit

Aww my corvettes shed a tear 🙂

Hillbilly Ocean
Hillbilly Ocean
2 months ago

I read Sciatica. Which that thing will aggravate. Gimme the ‘vair.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
2 months ago

If Miata is always the answer, then Siata is the answer to the question nobody asked.

Last edited 2 months ago by Boxing Pistons
Richard O
Richard O
2 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

Maybe Sciatica?

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