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Car Spot: Chevy Corvair Greenbrier

One of America’s 1st minivans?

Chevy had big plans for the Corvair when it debuted in 1960. The lineup included everything needed to sell a lot of vehicles. Besides the cars which came as a sedan, coupe, convertible, and wagon, there were also several trucks like the Greenbrier, which were added in 1961, the subject of this week’s car spot, er truck spot.

I spotted this example at a recent air and car show event I was at in Oconto, WI

Like the passenger cars, Chevy followed in VW’s footsteps, ie the Transporter, placing the driver controls ahead of the front axle providing impressive cargo and passenger carrying space within a compact car footprint. The Greenbrier wasn’t alone in the marketplace competing against Ford’s Falcon based forward-control Econoline and Dodge’s similarly Valiant-affiliated A100 van which arrived in 1964.

Related Story: Read about a priceless Corvair

The Greenbrier found its niche as a camper-van. The low floor gave 1.5 inches more inside height than the 10-inch-taller Econoline, and the side doors were taller and wider. Field & Stream magazine loved it, and in a review wrote: “My test vehicle remained rigid and rattle-free over the worst roads.”

That’s a lot for what was a big, open box stuffed with all manner of aftermarket plywood furnishings including a kitchen sink. What the media wasn’t high on was the vehicle’s 80-hp engine, but in 1964 it received a bore and stroke increase that boosted displacement from 145 cubic inches to 164.

This is where the engine breathed.

Base output increased 15 hp to 95, with the still naturally aspirated but higher compression Turbo-Air engine producing 110 hp, nearly double the output of VW’s by then upgraded 1500 engine (52 hp), and comfortably ahead of the Econoline’s 105. Car and Driver‘s Barry Brown went so far as to build himself a sleeper performance van: “I am satisfied as I have never been with any other automobile — it is a business tool, family car, and sports car all at the same time.” Wow, that’s saying a lot.

While total Corvair sales totaled almost two million the van didn’t prove as popular as the cars and sold around 50,000 units. It was a hit out of the gate selling 15,806 it’s first year and just 1,528 its last year, 1965. Like the passenger versions it’s very affordable. I found many listed in great shape for around 10 grand.

Love the decal on the window, Nader Vader.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots with a little bit of history and have a great weekend.