For nearly 40 years, Kevin Rafferty has owned a Corvair of some sort. It’s a fairly impressive feat when you consider the vehicle was only in production from 1960 to 1969.
Rafferty laughed when he said the Chevrolet Corvair owed its last few years of production to Ralph Nader, who in 1965 published a book called, “Unsafe at Any Speed.” The Corvair was Nader’s top target because of its handling. The manufacturer wanted to prove Nader wrong.
“The book just dogged the Corvair and Chevrolet,” Rafferty said. “I can personally tell you they are safe, but I better not say how fast.”
Rafferty enjoys the brand so much that he always has his eyes out for one, whether to restore at his Raytown home or to use.
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He bought the one he drives now, a 1961 Corvair 95 Rampside, in 2000. He bought it from another Corvair enthusiast in Blue Springs.
It is a unique-looking truck. It has the engine in the rear, and its ramp is on the passenger side. In some ways, it looks like a cross between a truck and a van.
“The inspiration came from Volkswagen,” Rafferty said. “They had a van, a truck, a wagon. You can see some similarities.
“The actual mechanical design is called forward control because the controls are in front of the wheels. You will notice a lot of cargo vans have taken that similar design.”
Rafferty admits his Corvair would not win a beauty contest, but that is what he likes about it.
“They are so ugly, they are beautiful,” he said.
Through the years, Rafferty has added features and reworked other parts to ensure the vehicle runs nicely on the road.
“It has a 140 engine, which is a more powerful engine that helps push this big block down the road,” Rafferty said. “It was taking the Branson (Mo.) hills at 65 miles per hour, which I was pretty amazed.”
Last fall, the Corvair club Rafferty belongs to, the Heart of America Corvair Owners Association (HACOA), celebrated its 50th year in existence. It is the oldest incorporated, continuously active marquee Corvair club in the country.
“We have what is called the Great Plains roundup, which is where five states rotate hosting a fall get-together of all the Corvair clubs,” Rafferty said.
“We had over 100 cars in Branson. Just amongst ourselves, we decided the rampside and there is a truck called the loadside, got the most attention out of all of them.”
The look of the Corvair 95 will definitely capture your eye. The sound of the engine is what pulls in Rafferty.
“The sound of the engine is very unique,” Rafferty said. “It is a flat six-cylinder. It sounds like an airplane engine. I love aviation. I have a pilot license. This is the closest thing to flying on the ground that you are going to get because of the engine.”
Rafferty continuously tinkers with his ’61 Corvair in his garage. He is also in the process of restoring a 1966 Corvair Corsa.
There is one other major project he is working on is his garage. It is an antique door for the house. It is a present to his wife, Sheila, for allowing him to use the garage for his Corvair hobby.
“She gives me the freedom to work on these things,” he said.
Rafferty still has more work left to do on his Corvair.
“I had the undercarriage from the back third look like it came out of the factory,” he said. “I will be working on the front two-thirds of the undercarriage. I will get back on the top side and do the rust repair and put another paint job on it.”
Some of that work will have to take a back seat now that the weather is warming up. It is time to get the Corvair back out on the road.
“It is just too much fun to drive,” Rafferty said.
Do you have a car, truck or motorcycle or other vehicle you would like see featured in Make It Yours? If you do, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com