Plastered on the pages of Bring a Trailer right now is one of the coolest vintage pickup truck camper setups that you’ll ever see. For sale is a 1961 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside pickup. That alone is cool enough, but this beauty also comes with a camper made just for the weird pickup. And as of right now, it’s surprisingly affordable with bidding at just $10,250.
The story of the radical rear-engine, air-cooled Chevrolet Corvair is always something that gets me fired up. No, I’m not talking about Ralph Nader and his book. Instead, I love to read about all of the awesome things Corvairs can do. My favorite is how Corvairs crossed the Darién Gap, a strip of roughly 60-miles of road-free mountainous jungle, swamp and rivers that separate Panama and Colombia. Two Corvairs (allegedly) made it all of the way though, which couldn’t be said about their two four-wheel-drive support trucks.
And the Corvair wasn’t just limited to a durable sedan, wagon, and coupe. General Motors made utilitarian variations of its Corvair. These included forward-control vans and quirky pickup trucks. For a short period of 1961 and 1962, you could get a Corvair 95 Loadside pickup. These were forward-control pickups with a typical rear gate. But the cooler version, sold between 1961 and 1964, was the Corvair 95 Rampside pickup. The Rampside maintained the rear gate, but also added a ramp to the side of the bed (see center photo below). This allowed for the easy loading of motorcycles, lawn equipment, or anything else that you don’t want to lift into the bed of a pickup.
The folks of the Corvanatics Corvair enthusiast site note that the ramp had the same double-wall construction of the bed’s walls, and it could handle 1,000 pounds of whatever you wanted to roll up it. And with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,700 pounds, they could carry a 1,900-pound payload.
The beds were a bit strange, too, as a Corvair pickup’s was stepped thanks to the drivetrain in the rear. So they were a brilliant idea with a few kinks. And in case you’re wondering, 95 is a reference to the trucks’ 95-inch wheelbase, shorter than the 108-inch wheelbase of a regular Corvair, Hemmings notes.
If the stepped bed bothered you, there was one more thing that you could do with a Corvair pickup, and it’s turn it into a camper! I’ve long loved these cool trucks and want to own one, but that possibility never crossed my mind. This Bring a Trailer auction changed that.
As Hemmings notes, initial sales started off strong, but fell precipitously. Despite those slow sales, some companies decided to build bed campers for the Corvair 95 pickups. That in itself is pretty neat, because the irregular bed meant that these campers could only be used for Corvair pickups. I found a few examples of these Corvair campers, and all were from dead brands like Scamper and San-Cruiser.
I haven’t been able to identify what company made this one. The seller, Dylan Cain of The Import Guys, says that it was definitely manufactured by a company, but the camping unit lacks identifying marks. Indeed, the only mark on the camper is the “Corvair 95” badge that is also on the truck’s door. It also has a plate from the State of California Division of Housing stating that it’s clear for sale. If any of you out there know what company built this, I’d love to know!
That camper is riding on a Corvair 95 Rampside that appears to be in good shape. In the cab of the pickup, you get an interior that was reupholstered featuring a turquoise vinyl bench and matching doors. Features in the truck include a Delco AM/FM radio, a Cobra Classic CB, and a gun rack.
If you’re wondering about what’s going on with the instrumentation, you get aftermarket gauges for cylinder head temperature, oil pressure, and manifold pressure. Those are definitely handy to have when hauling a load like a camper. The rest of the dash looks pretty clean, though it’s noted that the fuel gauge doesn’t work and total mileage is unknown.
Popping a hatch in the camper reveals the Corvair’s characteristic air-cooled flat-six. This one is a 145 cubic-inch flat-six making 80 horses. That power is delivered to the rear wheels from a four-speed manual transaxle. It’s said to run well, and Cain had the clutch replaced and brakes serviced.
Peering inside of the camping unit, things are pretty simple. There’s wood grain paneling everywhere and amenities include an icebox, propane stove, sink, and bedding. Vintage campers like these sometimes didn’t have refrigerators, and you kept your food cool by periodically dumping ice into the icebox.
You do get some lighting inside and 110-volt power. At campsites, the camper is fed from a shore power connection. Admittedly, this doesn’t have a ton of practicality as a camping rig unless you upgrade it. But it would still probably be fun for local camping trips!
This camper has been passed around a bit in the past year. It sold on Bring a Trailer back in 2021, then sold to Dylan Cain earlier this year in a Barrett-Jackson auction. Less than 200 miles have been put on the odometer between these auctions, and hopefully the latest owner will take it camping.
Perhaps the coolest part about this is the fact that it’s not one of those outrageous Bring a Trailer auctions. Bidding is sitting at $10,250 with a day to go. Unfortunately, if you just want to toss the camper and have a Corvair pickup, you could, but you’ll need to source a ramp because it doesn’t come with one. But I wouldn’t, because this is one of the coolest truck campers you’ll ever see.
Last year while digitizing 800+ family slides I ran across numerous photos of one of these with my grandparents who obviously took a camping trip from South Dakota to the Pacific NW. Grandpa was a small town Chevrolet dealer and there were many many photos of him and his demo cars in various places in the US that I digitized. Really nice to have the background on this vehicle
That’s cool and clever. I expected a bed across the back like a VW rather than the dinette but I guess the Corvair has a much lower floor.
The van was called a Greenbriar my neighbor as kid bought one brand new he had merry grounds pinball bubble gum machines and other amusements he had in front of stores this hauled everything
A lot of strange “what if” design and engineering went on in those times. I daily drove one of these Corvair trucks in LA for a while. The overall wheelbase was too short to be considered safe above certain speeds and loads. The front and rear ends had a tendency to swap ends without warning under some hard braking or weight transfer during a cornering event. Lots of fun until it turns ugly. The power was barely adequate for the times, but with this huge box and weight attached, I just can’t make the math work here. A decent price still. But really not practical unless you stick it in Uncle Bob’s weird RV Museum in Branson…I enjoyed my exploding Pinto far more. YMMV. Appreciate the story here Mercedes.
This is an amazing find as they were uber rare even when brand new yet this one keeps popping up for sale. I thought my VW Westy was a slow slug but it would be like a race car compared to this Corvair camper!
I guess the camper doesn’t slide out like a regular pickup camper. Too bad.
That was my thought, too – you’d need an overhead crane to install or remove it from the truck.
“Admittedly, this doesn’t have a ton of practicality as a camping rig unless you upgrade it.”
It’s got as much practicality as half the stuff you saw in Elkhart that cost 5x as much. Let’s not sell it short, here. 😛
You can sleep in it, cook in it, get dressed in it, and go to the bathroom in it (if you line a Home Depot bucket with a garbage bag), that’s plenty practical enough for a weekend getaway.
Garbage bag? Hmmph…make that bucket work for a living.
Quick question to the commentariat. I am always so intrigued by the 90 degree fan belt on Corvair engines. It looks so sketchy, but it sure seems to work. Are there any other engines that have this?
The early cars were more troublesome, but it got better over time – GM went to deeper pulley grooves, added a belt guard, and switched to a lighter cast magnesium fan, and there’s aftermarket belts that also hold on better than what was available in the ’60s. Can still happen, but isn’t a huge deal after the first few years of production, and was never as much of an issue on automatics vs manuals. Carry a spare around and you’ll never need to use it, don’t have one, and you’ll be stranded.
It works, but it’s not ideal. They do throw the belt from time to time.
Many years ago a belt guard was available to keep the moving belt aligned better, fixing the throwing belt problem.
Name checks out!
The door in the opening formerly occupied by the ramp makes this brilliant. Modern slide-in campers in modern trucks require half a flight of stairs to get inside. And the low part of the load floor means you can stand up inside without the camper having to be ridiculously tall.
“This camper has been passed around a bit in the past year. It sold on Bring a Trailer back in 2021, then sold to Dylan Cain earlier this year in a Barrett-Jackson auction. Less than 200 miles have been put on the odometer between these auctions, and hopefully the latest owner will take it camping.”
With 80hp, a fair bit of weight, and a whole lot more aerodynamic drag, I can’t imagine this being anything but miserable to drive. As cool as it is … and it is really freaking cool … I like looking at it, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to own it. I bet that’s why it’s bouncing around from auction to auction so quickly.
almost as killer as this VW https://www.designboom.com/design/rare-1975-volkswagen-bus-05-05-2022/
If someone is actually going to take this camping, first thing would be to swap in the later 140hp 4-carb engine.
Corvair engines are mostly interchangeable. This 145ci 80hp unit could be upgraded easily to a larger block 95, 110, or 140hp engine. Personally, I think a “big block” 164ci (2.7L) high-torque 95hp engine would be the shizzle. At that point, it would be capable of highway speeds and climb hills easily.
The 140 would be the way to go, none of the temperamental issues of the turbo, but still sufficient power.
80hp was fine in traffic with an empty bed, but with this thing tipping the scales at a likely 4600lbs, its going to a moving road block on the Interstate. I think I remember hearing a Greenbriar van carrying its max load took over 30 seconds to get up to 60mph, which is probably a good ballpark for this one. I mean, there’s “a bit slow” and there’s “terrifyingly slow”, and this is probably in the latter camp.
Hey Mercedes i got a feal for you. Forget this crap. I am trying to get additional pics of 3 available campers you havent heard of for less than $5k. I could send the ad but the pictures suck.
The Corvair Rampside is pretty-much my all-time favorite pickup (certain variations of the Brazilian F-1000 do give it a run for its money, and there are also a few of those super-cool Terraplane-based Hudson pickups out there). I’d really rather have a regular one, but there’s no way I couldn’t keep the camper on this if I actually went through with purchasing it – it’s just too unique. Of course then I’d need to build another garage.
Could you imagine being a kid and riding in the attic section, watching the world screaming towards you at 40 mph? Pure joy!
David should buy this so he has somewhere to live in LA, $10k would only be 2 months rent of a 1 bedroom apartment.
You are correct. That is a comely vehicle.