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Advice on 1960's Convertibles


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I want to purchase a 1960's convertible. One is a 1967 Buick Electra 225 loaded with P/S, P/B, P/W, etc. and the other a 1962 Corvair Monza 900. Which is the best choice and why?

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Your asking us which is better?? On one hand you have a luxury car, on the other a economy car. The two ride, drive, handle, have different fuel consumption, maintenance cost, performance and in general apples and oranges apart. People from either side will state their preferences. I would suggest you define what you want in a car and go from there. Drive both and see how you feel about them. Only you can decide because anyone's answer will be skewed.;)

Don

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Corvair for parts availability and support. Though the Buick would certainly be a class act, little to nothing is reproduced for it and their weight made them crusher bait.

The Buick will drive and handle like a conventional land yacht car and look fine doing it. If you get the 'Vair, learn how to drive it. 62 still had the swing arm axle which can put inexperienced drivers into hairy situations. A front sway bar would be a great investment.

***

In spite of Ralph Nader's ravings, the Corvair was no worse than contemporary VWs, Porsches or Mercedes-Benz which all employed similar rear suspensions.

As usual, GM marketed the damn car wrong, touting it as an economy compact when it was really more in tune to a sportscar. Sportscar people realised that and had a ball with it. "Normal" car buyers didn't and got into trouble when they tried to drive and maintain it as a conventional car, and Nader made a name for himself.

They did the same thing with the late-70s Diesels, the Fiero, and the latter-day GTO. Idiot marketing that doomed otherwise interesting cars.

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I have always been a land yacht person. Finding new dealer parts will be almost impossible unless you find some country dealer with old stock. You will be able to find some aftermarket ones, used parts at yards that specialize in older cars, and swap meets. It would be the same for almost any car over 20 years old outside of the more popular ones like the T'Birds, Vetts, 55-57 Chevy, etc...

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hi, my choice would be the buick, in 1967 buick made only about 4,000 electra 225 convertibles, i had one back in the late 70's, the car was so easy to work on, distributor is up front, spark plugs in wide open spaces, you can change the oil pump without dropping the oil pan, the 430 engine is a darn good one to have. i wouldn't worry about parts, just my opinion. charles coker, 1953 pontiac tech advisor.

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Deuce and a Quawaaataahh and the Corvair. Both nice cars.

As mentioned, these two cars are too different to compare. I prefer the Buick, but I am a Big Car guy. How about a choice in the middle? Look into the GM "A" bodies, from '68 to '72. Buick Skylark, Olds Cutlass, Pontiac LeMans and the Chevy Chevelle. The Chevelle is my last choice because they are very overpriced compared to the other "A" body choices and IMO not as nice looking in the interior and dash gauge areas.

I have had 4 Cutlasses all with 350 V8s. I live in CA and they had 2:73 rear end ratios and got 20 MPG highway. 14-15 around town. Just a pleasant modern classic that can keep up with today's freeway speeds and not handle like a boat. Love the Olds Rocket 350. Many parts available repro and used for these models.

Edited by Paul K. (see edit history)
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Everyone has different experiences and different ideas. I had the Corvair fever about 10 or 12 years ago, and cured it forever by buying a nice convertible that came up for sale at a local show.

It had four carburetors, which were a lot of fun to adjust. There's a device that you put on one carb, adjust to right setting, then move on to the next. After you do all 4 carbs, you come back to the first one, and it's off because of the adjustments on the other 3, so you start over. Fun stuff.

Then, the third time it threw a belt going down the highway, I decided my fever was gone, and sold the car.

I'm sure it was just something wrong with that particular car, but they are a little different animal.

I'd go with the Buick.....or better yet, find an A-body GM convertible of the late 60's, looks and performance and the right size.....

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The Buick will drive and handle like a conventional land yacht car and look fine doing it. If you get the 'Vair, learn how to drive it. 62 still had the swing arm axle which can put inexperienced drivers into hairy situations. A front sway bar would be a great investment.

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A friend showed me the movie of the three new compacts of 1960. The Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant, and the Chevrolet Corvair. A grueling movie of handling test. Guess which one rolled over first???? The Ford Falcon.

If I were to pick a Corvair it would be a 65-66 model..Why?? because when Bunkie Knudsen came over to Chevrolet from Pontiac in the fall of 1961, he told corporate that he wouldn't take the job unless they (corporate) would allow him to make even further changes to the suspension. So you have further suspension changes- double jointed axles, and the new body style. BTW there is nothing wrong with single joint axles providing the rear suspension is firm enough....Porsche knew this when he built the Auto Union Grand Prix race cars from 1936-1939. and his own cars after the war using many parts straight from the VW factory. Pontiac was able to keep any roll to a acceptable level on the rear transaxle Tempest (1961-62) by using 15" wheels instead of the usual 13" wheels that were used on Corvair,Valiant, and Falcon, F-85 and Buick Special. VW knew this as well and originally up to the early fifties used 16" wheels. The larger wheel size moves up the incidence of any tuck problems a improperly sprung and uncontrolled swing axle would have. Pontiac Tempest really got it together for the 1963 model with modified trailing arms. The original Pontiac goal (1957) was to have all Pontiac's with trans axles by the early 60's. After they got it all sorted out in the 63 Tempest GM Corporate killed the Transaxle Tempest and any thoughts of full size Pontiac's having one too, Just like they killed the Fiero when the suspension had been perfected on the last model of 1988.

Don

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Guest my3buicks

The 67 Electra's are elegant well mannered road cars and boulevard cruisers - parts are out there and unobtainable, maybe not as easy as a Chevy, but unobtainable. The 430 gives excellent crisp performance, and if tuned properly will give respectable fuel economy on the highway - no worse than many SUV's on the road today. The styling as stated is elegant, but with a bit a a sporty flair - the single rear slim taillight is clean and unique in design. THe Buick's of this vintage where huge, but still handled fairly well if pushed.

You will be proud to own an Electra 225, as a past owner of 225 convertible, I can tell you nothing beats how many times you hear, "Oh, theres a deuce and a quarter, I always wanted one of those" or gliding around town and someone yells "Deuce and a Quawaaataahh" - they are gone, but not forgotten.

Edited by my3buicks (see edit history)
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If you want "conventional", then chose the Buick or something similar. If you want "unconventional", then it's the Corvair.

There was an add-on "Camber Compensator" for the Corvair's rear suspension, which was something like a leaf spring mounted transversely between the two lower control arms. Made something of a parallelogram geometry of the rear suspension, which fixed the bulk of the "jacking" issue in sudden turn or transient maneuvers.

For the last gen Corvairs, the '65s and later, those were THE BEST as for handling as they re-designed the rear suspension to something more like Corvette used. HUGE improvements!!!

Corvairs were prone to engine oil leaks . . . not due to some dna from Harley's, but probably due to the gasket materials of that time, plus some maintenance issues with "the thermostatic doors" on each side of the engine . . . to help regulate engine temp of the air cooled engine.

4 carbs have to be synchronized, which can be fun and needs a special tool to usually do it right. The fan belt could fly off at higher rpms due to the number of turns and bends it had to make.

For general "drive around cars", the Corvair can be as good as anything, BUT be prepared to find the Corvair specialists in your area as they can be your saviour in many cases. Certainly more parts availability and support than you might suspect, but not always in your back yard.

IF you find one with factory air conditioning, it might be advisable to change the A-6 compressor to an Asian look-alike that pulls much less horsepower to run. Even back then, the PowerGlide cars with a/c were considered "slow", at best.

To me, one of the worst things about the Corvair is the engine and the fact that (from the last thing I saw years ago) there are no really good ways to get more CID out of the existing design. Even with the wilder mods of the day, fast acceleration was just not really achievable. Even the factory Sypder Turbo was not that fast, back when a "fast" car was 0-60mph in 7 seconds (which many fwd Buick 3800 V-6s can do without supercharging, according to road tests).

Obviously, a later Corvair with some suspension upgrades and modern tires/rubber would be a fun car to drive, with reasonable economy, but be prepared to get dusted by many more modern cars as they drive normally away from red lights (maybe not that bad, but you get the picture).

GM built some really beautiful convertibles in the 1960s, both in the fuller-size and especially in the intermediate-size cars. The Cutlass is the GM intermediate-size perennial favorite, which their resale values reflect, but you can probably find similar Pontiacs, Chevies, and Buicks for less money that are equally nice/good cars. Key thing is to do due dilligence in the body area, PLUS fully evaluate the convertible mechanism and top.

Rather than the Electra 225, I think I'd be more inclined toward a Wildcat or LeSabre (I know where a '68 LeSabre's for sale -- one of our chapter members), or possibly a '65-'66 (which I really like the lines of, as I also like the '68). There might not be much support in the aftermarket/repro areas for the larger cars, BUT there are still some Buick-only salvage yards which might be sources for things you might need. Naturally, with their "muscle car" tie-ins, the GM intermediates will have better repro support in the areas of interior seat covers and other items.

In the end, as neat and unique as the Corvair (of any generation) might be, I believe that more repair people might know what they're looking at when they see a GM front-engine car of the 1960s than a rear-engine Corvair . . . should the unfortunate happen while on a cross-country trip or similar, with all due respect. Finding mechanical repair parts "in the wild" would be easier with the front-engine car, generally. PLUS, I could hang some better shocks, bigger sway bars, do some brake upgrades, some moderate engine/powertrain upgrades, and have a GM front-engine car that would be neat to drive, get reasonable fuel economy, and look neat as it went down the road. THAT would work well for any of the GM full-size or intermediate-size convertibles.

To me, the other thing is that finding a buyer for a front-engine "conventional" car would probably be easier than finding a buyer for a Corvair when it might come time to sell. A much broader market, I suspect.

Just some thoughts . . . Your money, Your desires, Your dreams . . .

NTX5467

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(What might it take to transplant a Subaru WRX powertrain in a Corvair???)

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Short answer: neither of them.

You do not give us much to go on but from the question I deduce that you are new to old cars and do not have a lot of mechanical savvy. Therefore I suggest you buy a Chevrolet, preferably a 1955 56 or 57 model or newer. Chevrolet has far and away the best and cheapest parts availability and there are mechanics from coast to coast who can fix them in their sleep.

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Yes there were fan belt issues. When it came time to to replace a belt under normal maintenance most parts houses did NOT carry the special belt required for the 90 degree twist and would match up a belt for a conventional car off the shelf. Belts did last longer after 1961 because Chevy changed the cooling fan from stamped steel to magnesium alloy. Oil leak issues mostly came from cars which overheated and compromised the seals.

Apples and oranges comparing a economy car to a luxury car, however a 66 turbo Corvair has comparable 0-60 times as a E225....but I would much rather be in the Corvair on a short course road racing track. As far as engine size and horsepower go, you can make a Corvair bigger,especially if the corporation wanted it so. Porsche flat six has no problem making huge amounts of power----but a Corvair is not designed to compete with a Porsche or a Grand Nationals or a E-225.

Finally a Corvair that happens to have A/C will be worth much more if you keep the original A/C compressor especially if you show it at a AACA or a VCCA event. The older GM compressors are more durable because most if not all aftermarket compressors do not have a oil sump. Newer systems use just the oil suspended in the system with a low and high pressure switch to save the compressor if a leak occurs. But the switch would be another ding besides the compressor in judging....Some mark only shows will put your car into modified catagory

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Short answer: neither of them.

You do not give us much to go on but from the question I deduce that you are new to old cars and do not have a lot of mechanical savvy. Therefore I suggest you buy a Chevrolet, preferably a 1955 56 or 57 model or newer. Chevrolet has far and away the best and cheapest parts availability and there are mechanics from coast to coast who can fix them in their sleep.

I agree but not for this reason.

To have 2 such widely divergent choices indicates to me that there are 2 specific choices, perhaps the 2 best cars/buys in one's price range that happen to be available in this week's Pennysaver. This is not how to get into the car hobby.

By all means, check both cars out and test drive them. Research them thoroughly, good and bad (some of which to is to be found in this thread). If there is not much familiarity with old cars to begin with, as is indicated to us by wanting to compare what may well be the 2 least similar American convertibles of the 1960s, then do more homework before you buy anything. Read as many "Cars of the 1960s" books as you can get your hands on. If you find a particular marque or model you like more than others, research online what parts availability for it is like.

Then widen your search as much as possible. Be ready to get what you want, not just what's available close by. There are always Corvair convertibles available, and Electra 225s come down the pike with fair frequency as well.

As to the specifics on these particular 2 cars, there's not much I can add to what's here. The Corvair belt issue is a pain (my college roommate had one, and carried a spare at all times which got replaced about every 1000 miles). The safety issues with the car are real, but should not be an issue unless they are driven at their limits (which may very rarely happen in emergencies). Read Unsafe at Any Speed to be informed, but take it with the grain of salt it deserves. The Buick is the boat ride of a lifetime, but parts specific to the car will be rare and expensive (much more so than for the Corvair). It'll easily burn twice the gasoline of the Corvair, but if you're only going 500 miles/yr. to car shows so what?

Just remember there are a lot of other fish in the sea. Find the one you want to spend the most time with first, not the easiest one to land. It's just like finding a spouse!:D

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You might also consider the Dodge Darts of the middle 60's, especially with the slant-6, talk about bullet-proof. great styling, economical, parts are readily available and not expensive, I have had my 65 GT convertible since 1983 and it gets raves anytime I take it out. Just another opinion to add.

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The 67 Electra's are elegant well mannered road cars and boulevard cruisers - parts are out there and unobtainable,

maybe not as easy as a Chevy, but unobtainable (My emphasis).

Keith, did you mean that parts are obtainable for the '67 Electra?

As for which car to choose, consider where you and your passengers will spend the majority of your time...

the view from the bridge. In the Electra you'll be swathed in luxury and elegance, with a dashboard and door panels

trimmed in real walnut. As mentioned above, the Corvair's ('63 Monza shown) sporting nature is a bit more intimate,

with a look and emphasis on economy. With the Buick there's much more maintenance (cleaning and polishing alone)

and more things that can go wrong; PW, P-seat, A/C, etc., without taking into consideration basic mechanicals.

You've posed an interesting question, also answered in other posts, as the cars couldn't be more different,

except in that their tops go down. Both cars have ample club support, but trim bits for the Electra are likely

going to be harder to find.

Personally, the first-generation Corvair is a cute car, but the Buick is a beautiful car.

TG

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I love all the "urban legends" and myths about owning and driving a Corvair. I've driven many many Vairs for the last 15+ years.In that time I did break one fan belt but it was my fault. Started out with a less then good belt. As usual I always carry one with me. The proper wrapped belt,properly adjusted won't break or spiral off the pulley. As for oil leaks,technology has finally caught up with the Corvair. Today's modern push rod tube seals eliminate leaks.Engine damper doors; if having a heater is not a priority remove them.Engine will run cooler.In 64 GM installed a leaf spring between the rear suspension points. It made the car handle a whole lot better.In 65-69 the rear suspension was changed altogether. As far as regognition everyone has their own story with a Corvair and when I drive my Corvair panel van the comments are unbelieveable.

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Dad was in the tire business and had a Corvair RampSide. Great for loading heavy truck tires. In high school I drove a faded blue 4 door Corvair automatic. Had some reliability issues but never lost a fan belt and never had an issue with handling. I remember it having a gasoline fired heater or is my memory playing tricks?

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I love all the "urban legends" and myths about owning and driving a Corvair. I've driven many many Vairs for the last 15+ years.In that time I did break one fan belt but it was my fault. Started out with a less then good belt. As usual I always carry one with me. The proper wrapped belt,properly adjusted won't break or spiral off the pulley. As for oil leaks,technology has finally caught up with the Corvair. Today's modern push rod tube seals eliminate leaks.Engine damper doors; if having a heater is not a priority remove them.Engine will run cooler.In 64 GM installed a leaf spring between the rear suspension points. It made the car handle a whole lot better.In 65-69 the rear suspension was changed altogether. As far as regognition everyone has their own story with a Corvair and when I drive my Corvair panel van the comments are unbelieveable.

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Absolutely correct about the wrapped belt......people will hang a improper belt on a Corvair then complain the car is no good. It's like the guy who blames you for something HE just did!

http://www.corvaircorsa.com/tech/earlyaxle.jpg

http://www.corvaircorsa.com/tech/64-65.jpg

FYI; The rear suspension from 1965 is essentially Corvette except instead of a third member a transaxle and engine are in it's place.

D.

D.

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Restorer32,yes the Rampside was one super truck,what an idea. I've been looking for one for almost a year that isn't beat to death.They will carry just about anything loaded in them and do it with ease.In fact my 64 convertible is up for sale to help purchase a rampside. Gasoline heaters were installed in 60's and some 61's and were an option on 62-63's and trucks. I have one in my 60 sedan and although I don't use it much here in Fla it still works great.

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I guess the answer lies in what you want to get out of the old car hobby. Being a small car person, I will say that the comraderie and love of fun is a prime factor in owning a smaller car. I haven't owned a Corvair since high school, but I have been to a couple of Corvair meets and those guys have fun.....ALL THE TIME. They are generally a great group and always willing to help each other. their shows are relatively "loose" events geared toward friendliness and having a good time (BTW this seems to be true in almost ALL small car groups). If the 2 you've stated are the only choices...take the Corvair!! If you are looking for other things out of the hobby, or other cars, there is a world of choices. I'd be happy to help you find a Crosley , for example!!!

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Keith, did you mean that parts are obtainable for the '67 Electra?

As for which car to choose, consider where you and your passengers will spend the majority of your time...

the view from the bridge. In the Electra you'll be swathed in luxury and elegance, with a dashboard and door panels

trimmed in real walnut. As mentioned above, the Corvair's ('63 Monza shown) sporting nature is a bit more intimate,

with a look and emphasis on economy. With the Buick there's much more maintenance (cleaning and polishing alone)

and more things that can go wrong; PW, P-seat, A/C, etc., without taking into consideration basic mechanicals.

You've posed an interesting question, also answered in other posts, as the cars couldn't be more different,

except in that their tops go down. Both cars have ample club support, but trim bits for the Electra are likely

going to be harder to find.

Personally, the first-generation Corvair is a cute car, but the Buick is a beautiful car.

TG

I think my spellcheck was playing games - it is supposed to say obtainable LOL

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If you want to see a complete Corvair line-up on display . . . I found a VCR tape of older car commercials. One of them was a Corvair infomercial, done in somewhere like South America. You see various models of Corvairs crossing the wilderness, over some very rough and rutted roads or trails, not wavering in the least. The final event in the trek is crossing a running stream (the rainy season down there?), which it does with ease. On the other side of the stream, the destination, is every variation of Corvair produced that year (1960?), as if "the final frontier" has been conquered by Corvairs!

The original car had many attributes, to be sure, but it was probably a little "too much" for mainstream USA car buyers who still considered Volkswagens "funny little cars with the engine in the wrong place".

As for the video of a Corvair on the test track, leading a Plymouth Valiant and a Ford Falcon . . . it was later revealed (after frame-by-frame scrutiny), that the superior-handling Valiant was just cruising around behind the Corvair, but at a selected point, it was noted that the reason the Falcon spun out was that the driver suddenly started spinning the steering wheel to cause the spin-out which took place. The "film" was designed to prove to executives that the Corvair's handling was comparable or better than other similar cars of the time.

I believe the other thing which came out from Nader's activities was that Chevy originally wanted an aluminum block, which resulted in similar weight distribution/placement as the VWs, but GM wouldn't go for the additional money, which meant more weight behind the rear wheels, which led to a "pendulum effect" which further worsened the "jacking" situation.

I was thinking today that any year of Corvair might benefit from a modernization activity, using the many advances to make it a better car in many respects. Electronic ignition would be one, as would sequential fuel injection with a central throttle body. Then using the "ram tuning" principles which Chrysler pioneered in that earlier time to boost lower rpm torque, which could also be augmented by different cylinder head designs/porting. I believe there are already "headers" for Corvairs, to complete the system? Roller valve lifter camshafts, with improved event specs, too, to further agument the induction and fuel system improvements. Electronic Cruise Control? What about using an engine oil cooler set-up to be the heater's heat source?

Then run the central cooling fan with an electric motor rather than a belt. Plus using stepper motors to run the side baffles rather than the earlier system. Not to forget the newer electric power steering assist, especially if wider tires are used.

The trick would be to not over-power the transaxle unit. I'm not sure of how much torque it'll take OR if there's another automatic trans which could be adapted.

Why not get BOTH cars??? The Corvair as the "conversation piece", upgrade as possible, and the GM convertible for "profiling" and such?

Enjoy!

NTX5467

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NTX5467,the Corvair film you mentioned was called Daring the Darien. All of the cars were stock and all were 61 sedans. Rumor has it that the cars were left there.One of the drivers lived here in Fla and passed away several years ago.

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These are worth seeing! It's not hard to see why the cars were left behind, based on their condition by the end of the film!

Interestingly, the cars in the film were 1961 models, but by the time the film was finished the 1962 models were out. The final shot in the film is a promotional clip of 1962 2 door coupe.

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BTW, as the film states the Corvair did have an aluminum engine, albeit one with cast iron cylinder liners that the Vega should have had as well. ( Chevrolet Corvair engine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

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I say it depends on what you're looking for. If it's a driver, I'd say go for a Corvair but not necessarily a '62 model. If you want to have a show car to maybe drive once in a while, I'd definitely say the Buick. My brother had a '62 Corvair that I drove a lot. I loved the way you could drive through a turn but if you wound it out the belt was going to come off. For 1964 they put deeper-grooved pulleys on them that pretty well stopped the belts coming off. By the way, I don't think there was a belt made that would stay on that '62 Corvair if you downshifted into 3rd gear at about 45 mph. Not a nice situation when you're headed to work at 5:30 am and the belt goes.

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I think most Corvair owners installed their belts tight like normal V-belts. Once you learn to adjust them pretty loose (like spinning the alternator fan with one finger loose), they're fine. Trust me, if you want to buy the Corvair, go to corvaircenter.com and do some research. They rust in strange places (especially convertibles, but not so much with the early body styles) and they have some mechanical quirks to get used to. It's not a hard car to work on, but everything's different from a typical front engined car. On the plus side, you can buy them cheap, parts are pretty readily available, and the community is willing to get its hands dirty...they like working on their cars and most people have run into your problems before. My advice: buy a good one. I bought a cheap one, and now I have more into it than if I had bought a pristine one, and mine's not even pristine! I think that goes for all vehicles though.

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The choice between the Buick and the Corvair should be easy.

If you can afford to buy either, choose the car that is in better shape and missing less stuff. Don't buy either if they are rusty and/or incomplete.

Fixing rust and chasing down hard to find trim items can make you less enthusiastic about the car and lose interest.

Buying a car just because it is "cool" makes the hobby a short one for many just getting in.

Joining a club dedicated to the marque you choose is a good idea for the support. Both the Buick and Corvair are supported by fine clubs.

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