LETTERS We hear from you
GOT SOMETHING TO SAY? NEED TO EXPRESS AN OPINION ON THE CLASSIC PORSCHE WORLD? WELL, HERE’S YOUR CHANCE…
CORVAIR v PORSCHE
I just received my copy of Classic Porsche issue #46 and was leafing through it when I saw the ʻAlternative Viewsʼ article by Keith Seume/jan-henrik Müche that was a comparison of a Porsche 356 B convertible and a Corvair Monza convertible. Normally, I read my issue of Classic Porsche from front to back and do not jump around the articles. But, because I am a Corvair enthusiast as well as a classic Porsche enthusiast, I had to immediately read the article. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it to fairly express the pros and cons of the Corvair.
As originally designed, the Corvair was intended to to an ʻeconoʼ car without any pretense or aspirations to being a sports car. That quickly changed when car tuners such as John Fitch, Bill Corey, and Bill Thomas began building competition Corvairs and selling speed equipment: four-carb conversions, springs, shocks, sway bars, and (like the 356B) a rear camber compensator spring to help reduce rear wheel tuck under.
General Motors got on the bandwagon and began to improve the Corvair, first with suspension upgrades, including a front anti-sway bar, then in 1962 a turbocharged Spyder. In 1964 the swing-axle early model received a compensator spring as part of the rear suspension upgrade. The 1965 and later rear suspension design came directly from the Chevrolet Corvette.
One thing the article didnʼt mention, however, was the impact of the Ford Mustang. Ford introduced the Mustang in mid-1964 and promptly sold more than a quarter million vehicles that summer – far surpassing the sale of Corvairs.
It was the front-engine Mustang, a more American-traditional car than the rear-engine Corvair, that was the major cause of the demise of the Corvair. The Mustang was cheap to build – basically a Falcon with really nice bodywork – and could use a variety of corporate engines: straight-sixes and V8s. (In contrast the unique Corvair engine was expensive to build and was not shared with other divisions in the GM empire.) To respond to Ford, Chevrolet started the design of the Camaro, a Nova with a more stylish body.
As for Ralph Nader, his book might have actually prolonged the life of the Corvair. The Corvair was originally slated to end production in 1967, when the first Camaros started rolling off the assembly lines. General Motors did not want Nader to have the last word and so continued production from 1967 through 1969, when the last 6000 Corvairs were virtually hand-built on a makeshift assembly line (the original Corvair assembly line being given over to another GM model).
Rightly or wrongly, people would compare the Porsche and Corvair. This is unfair to both cars. Each was designed to meet different criteria and each was successful to varying degrees. The Porsche 356 was an almost pure sports car designed and executed to provide exhilarating performance. The Corvair was an econo car that morphed into an inexpensive sporty car and, perhaps, laid the groundwork for the ʻponyʼ cars that followed.
For the record: I have a 1966 912, a 1964 Corvair Spyder (project car), and a 1962 Corvair Monza four-door. Keep up your excellent magazine. Joe White, Boulder, Colorado, USA
RSR 0894 – THEMISSING LINKS…
I very much enjoyed this article by Johnny Tipler on the 2.8 RSR in issue #45 and Iʼm glad to see that Eugen Kiemele is still around and healthy. Johnny wrote that virtually nothing was known about what happened to 0894 from the end of 1973, when Kiemele traded it in at Strahleʼs dealership up to when it went to Raymod Touroul. I think I can help.
Together with my French Porsche authority friend Philippe Rafesthian, we looked into this and found that 0894 had been, apparently, crashed in 1974. By whom, we donʼt know at present. After this, it was sold to Jean-louis Chateau, a gifted French amateur driver. Philippe was able to check this by speaking directly with Chateau, who repaired 0894 in 1974 and then achieved the following: 1974: Crashed. Sold to Manfred Freisinger, Germany 1974: Sold to Jean-louis Chateau, France. Car uprated to 1974 spec RSR 3.0-litre engine. Original engine sold to Raymond Touroul, France(?) 1974: Painted white 01/05: Magny-cours; 5th 19/05: Croix-en Ternois; 1st 09/06: Chartre; 1st 21/07: Croix en Ternois; 1st 08/09: Croix en Ternois; 1st 22/09: Montlhéry AGACI; 2nd ??/10: Montlhéry; 3rd (Noted as a Group 3 Carrera) 27/10: Croix en Ternois: 3rd ??/??: Montlhéry; 4th ??/??: Montlhéry ACIF; 4th 1975: Painted Metallic Pink ??/03: Montlhéry; 2nd 03/04: Croix en Ternois; 1st 20/04: Montlhéry; 1st 25/05: Montlhéry; 1st 22/06: Clermont Ferrand; 1st 20/07: Croix en Ternoise; DNF 28/09: Monza 6 Hours; 2nd ??/??: Nogaro Paques; 1st 1976: Re-painted Black 12–13/06: Le Mans 24 Hours: J-L Chateau/geurie/fornage, #48; DNF 1977: 11–12/06: Le Mans 24 Hours: #84; DNS John Starkey, via E-mail
“JEAN-LOUIS CHATEAU REPAIRED 0894 IN 1974…”
Keith Seume replies: Thanks, John, for filling in the blanks – 0894 has certainly led a full life, and it’s great to see it back to original spec today. Certainly Eugen Kiemele seemed pleased with the result…