1964 Corvair: Half century of memories

Farm Forum

Fifty years ago, a 1964 Corvair Monza Spyder convertible painted Tuxedo Black with a white top and a red interior was purchased by a man in Minnesota. The base price of the 2,580-pound turbocharged flat-six-cylinder, rear-engine car was $2,811. Only 4,761 such models were manufactured.

About the same time, a virtual twin to that Corvair came into the hands of a teenager named Garland Gentry in Charlottesville, Va. But before owning the Corvair, a garage mechanic doing some mechanical work on Gentry’s MGA managed to wreck it during a test drive. The garage wanted to attempt to repair the MGA, but Gentry’s father, a circuit court judge, suggested that offer was lacking. So the garage had to deal with the injury by offering a black 1964 Corvair Monza Spyder convertible with a white top and a red interior.

A few years later Gentry sold the Corvair and mostly forgot about it for the better part of half a century. In 2013, Gentry started looking for a car identical to it because, he says, “I had a lot of fun in that one.”

He discovered that there are plenty of Corvairs available but, he learned, about 80 percent of them are painted in pastel colors and he specifically wanted a black one with a white convertible top and a red interior.

Thanks to the Internet, he became well versed in every site offering Corvairs. Finally, a few weeks ago, at about two o’clock in the morning he came across the elusive prey for which he had been hunting. Gentry anxiously waited by his telephone for the sun to come up before calling the seller in Nebraska. He didn’t negotiate with the owner of the car he wanted.

“If you find what you’re looking for,” Gentry explains, “just shut up and buy it.”

This Corvair had been owned by the Minnesota man and had later been sold to the second owner in Nebraska, who in turn, had sold it to the third owner, also in Nebraska. Gentry then became the fourth owner.

The next day an unlikely happenstance occurred. A friend stopped by and inquired, as he had done for more than a year, how the Corvair search was progressing. Gentry told him of his recent success and that the car was in Nebraska. Gentry’s friend told him that he had just sold a restored Mustang to a buyer in Nebraska and that he and the buyer were going to meet halfway in western Indiana.

Since both men were going to be towing enclosed trailers, Gentry asked his friend’s Mustang customer to pick up the Corvair in Nebraska Island on his way to Indiana. Upon meeting, the Corvair and the Mustang switched trailers and everyone was satisfied with the outcome, with Gentry helping with the fuel expenses.

Gentry says the truck towing the trailer with his Corvair arrived at nine o’clock on a Friday night. “It fired right up,” Gentry says. He immediately drove his prize up and down the street.

The next day he took the time to carefully inspect his hard-won Corvair and he discovered only two surprises: The black paint was nice but was not original and the spare tire and wheel were missing.

Although the carpeting and dash pad are original, they were faded so much that Gentry has ordered replacements. Also, the replacement spare wheel needed to match the four Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels already supporting the car on its 108-inch wheelbase. All four wheel wells are trimmed with brightwork, as is the fuel filler opening on the left front fender.

Cooling air is fed to the 164-cubic-inch engine through two rows of 25 louvers each that perforate the engine hood. Its 150-horsepower, turbocharged engine mated to a four-speed manual transmission can push the car to the limit of the 120-mph speedometer. While there is no air conditioner, the car does have a heater.

Other niceties on the Corvair Monza Spyder include a driver-side outside mirror, a tinted windshield, a courtesy light package, and an AM radio. Each of the five radio station selection push buttons is adorned by one letter spelling C – H – E – V – Y.

The odometer reads 65,000 miles, a figure Gentry believes is accurate. Now that he has acquired his second black Corvair he says, “I plan to drive it and relive the years.”

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