25 August 2005

Restoration Tale 1965 Corvair Monza Convertible

It all started on Independence Day in 1998. We were on the way to Grandma’s house. Little did I know that the trip to my mother-in-law’s house would sure change things around here.

We were going through a small town on the way there and on the side of the road was a poor orphan waif of a car, a 1965 Corvair Monza convertible. We drove by – I always notice old cars along the road – and then my wife said something almost more powerful than “I do.” As we drove by she said, “I always liked those.” I almost threw us into the windshield when she said that. I backed up and looked the poor little car over. It had been stolen at one point, some kids had cut the back window out to get in and whatever panels weren’t already dented ended up so. It hit a pole, denting the front end, but there was so much other damage and rot, who could tell?

We took down the phone number and looked at the car the next day. We drove it and it pulled to the right a lot. The air conditioning still worked, though. The seller lowered the price before we could even ask what it was, and we took the Corvair home. The car has some rare options – being a ragtop and having factory air conditioning is unique for a Corvair. It also had the wood steering wheel and telescopic steering just like the Corvette once had. I have the Protect-O-Plate for it too. I thought we had a diamond in the rough; rough doesn’t describe what the next few years brought on.

My neighbor is a street rodder and has the tools, ability and patience needed to do just about anything. He decided that the best way to take care of the front end was to cut it off and weld in a donor. The next several months saw me gathering parts; the Corvair has a very good vendor network so most parts were easy to find. I found a donor front end from a club member, a hood from another person, and then eight metal patch panels were purchased from Corvair vendors and welded in. Then he had to be creative and make a few pieces that just don’t exist. There was rust and bondo everywhere. Before the metal work, we had to make it safe so all the rubber parts, wheel bearings, shocks, springs, gas lines and a new dual master cylinder were put in.

The pull it had to the right was from the cross member being almost rusted through. I found a donor, had it sand blasted, and we painted it before it went back in. At times as you eat rust, bondo, dust and dirt, sweat and write checks, you wonder what you’ve done. Once the car got to the primer stage, things went fast. Next thing I knew, one October day in 2003, the car saw paint. I couldn’t believe it, after all those years, dollars and days of wanting to give up, it was painted.

You think it’s done, but the next step was assembly, new carpet and seats. I went with high-back leather seats from a 280ZX, given to me by another club member for more comfort, but even they had to be restored. They were the wrong color. I had to clean, prep, fill holes, dye them black and figure out how to mount them. Next, new repro wheel-well trim with re-chromed bumpers and finally, a new top.

It sounds so fast and easy when you tell the story. I couldn’t have made it without my wife, she was the one that spotted it, but she was also the one that supported me when I wanted to give up on a few occasions. We’ve never looked back.

For more restoration photos visit: community.webshots.com/user/davair1.

Joe and Debbie Robbins

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