First Drive: 1966 Corvair Corsa

Don Sherman
A. J. Mueller

The Chevy Corvair's swing axles and heavy tail are implements of the devil, at least according to Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed diatribe. Paul Siano, the creator of the mid-engine Siano Special, doesn't buy any of that. He has owned, modified, and drag-raced Corvairs for more than half of his seventy years without suffering a single unintended spinout.

Siano bought -- brand-new -- what began life as a 1966 Corvair Corsa after supercharging a Volkswagen Beetle and owning a '64 Corvair Monza Spyder convertible. He drove the coupe 50,000 miles before ripping out the stock 180-hp turbo engine.

A vintage Crown Manufacturing kit provided the means of upping the cylinder count and moving the engine from the back porch to the rear seat. That package included a tubular-steel subframe, an engine-to-transaxle adapter plate, a new transmission input gear, cooling-system pipes, a new shift linkage, and two new antiroll bars.

Siano's prize possession is a rare, experimental, 283-cubic-inch aluminum engine block that General Motors pitched out as scrap. Engine builder Bryce Flinn added a roller cam, aluminum heads, and the induction overkill. Siano fabricated the necessary bits and brackets with an emphasis on minimal weight. He also added four-wheel disc brakes, Minilite wheels, radial tires, and a Ron Davis aluminum radiator.

Siano didn't partition off his eight-pack of Weber intake trumpets, because he's a patron of the rolling, reverberating, internal-combustion arts. Living with Webers is not for the meek of heart. When cold, they spit and stumble. When they're up to operating temperature, they fill the interior with a combustible cloud of reversion gases. Smoking is discouraged.

Headphones are available for those rides when hearing preservation takes precedence over the din of a barely muffled Chevy V-8. Only two things keep the whirring water-pump pulley from biting the occupants' elbows: the flush bolts that Siano installed in place of hex-head screws and every human's natural preservation instincts

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Patrick F
What about the steering & suspension?  Car came from the factory with 4-wheel independent coil spring suspension, and possibly fast-ratio steering...  Did the stock suspension handle it?  If there was an upgrade, was it custom or "off the shelf" parts?
Check out video footage -- and the incredible sound -- of Paul Siano's crazy Corvair at
So it's not even an original 1966 Covair anymore, I don't see the point. Siano probably resolved any of the Corvair faults.
I'm not a fan of retro, but this is insanely cool.

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