Custom Cruise Friday
Among the many things that are great about being a car collector is that a person can really express themselves in exactly the manner they desire. Type A personalities have models like Camaro or Corvette with horsepower for days and months of performance debates to be had. The more relaxed types can opt for vehicles built to be pleasure cruisers like a classic Cadillac that’s the length of shipping barge and gets about the same fuel-economy. Greg Bilodeau went a different way, as is his prerogative. Bilodeau wanted to stand out, like everyone does, just on his own terms. He easily accomplished that with this week’s Custom Cruise Friday feature, a 1962 Chevy Corvair Monza Spyder.
“You go to a car show and you see 50 Camaros and 50 Mustangs,” Bilodeau said. “But no Corvairs. It’s unique.”
Something very different
The 1962 Corvair Monza Spyder isn’t Bilodeau’s first classic car that he’s owned. Over the year’s he’s had a restored Buick and a 1969 Camaro. But the rare nature of the Corvair Monza with the true Spyder package took a small bit of searching. General Motors only produced about 2,500 Corvairs of this type. In addition to being a hard to find car, the Corvair has first successful turbocharged engine to be built in North America.
Even the turbocharging unit for the Corvair is something of an engineering wonder. Unlike modern turbochargers, the unit attached to the rear-mounted six-cylinder boxer engine of the 1962 Corvair actually draws in from the carburetor. The engine compartment also holds the spare tire.
In 1962, ordering the Spyder accessory package cost around $550. For the money the owner got, a turbocharged engine, four-speed manual transmission, 3:55 positraction rear end, heavy duty suspension with sway bar and special Spyder badging. According to Bilodeau, a self-taught expert in all things Corvair, there are a number of Corvair Spyders for sale online. However, many of them have likely been upgraded after production. The way to tell if a Corvair is a true Spyder is to find a ‘D’ in the accessory line of the VIN.
Getting ready for the show
Bilodeau purchased the car from its previous owner in Spokane, Washington 15 years ago. He initially found the car on eBay and found a fellow Corvair enthusiast to take look at it before any money exchanged hands. When Bilodeau took possession, the exterior left a bit to be desired. However, the front seats had recently been reupholstered and the mechanicals were just in need of a little TLC. After completing repairs mandated by the out-of-province inspection order and replacing what was serving as a convertible top, the Corvair just needed some new paint. Outside of a few small dings that are essentially unavoidable in car that’s been on the road for so long, there was a negligible amount of body work to be done.
When the engine and transmission were being rebuilt, Bilodeau learned about a troublesome quirk of the car. Because of the flat boxer style engine, the drive belt has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, thus the belt was known to break or be thrown off. Being a prudent owner, Bilodeau purchased a spare belt. And still has the same one.
“I’ve never tossed a belt in 15 years,” Bilodeau said. “The key is not to over tighten it.”
Cars are meant to move
Over the years and gaining experience in the sometimes frustrating world of owning classic cars, Bilodeau and his family have one simple rule when it comes to the collection: If you can’t drive it, sell it. Bilodeau and his wife (who owns a Corvair even rarer than the Spyder) have taken the car on quite the series of adventures on both sides of the border. The 1962 Corvair Monza Spyder has taken home awards for “Top Early Convertible” in two international Corvair shows, one in Oregon and the other in Colorado.
In keeping to the family’s rule, Bilodeau has driven his car to every single show that the car has ever entered. Although, as great as it must be to be recognized for having such a beautifully maintained and unique car, Bilodeau gives the impression that driving to the show might be as much, or more, the best part.
As the car sits right now, the odometer reads in the neighborhood of 152,000 miles. That number is likely to only climb because Bilodeau has no intention of breaking his rule.
Do you have a special, customized or simply cool vehicle in your garage or storage shed? We want to hear all about it. If you would like to see your car profiled in a Custom Cruise Friday Blog, contact Don Wheaton Brand Manager, Melina Kawecki by email – email@example.com with some photos and basic information and we will be in touch.