Once you get past the basic thrill of finding some decrepit hulk of a car out in a field or obscure for-sale listing, your attention shifts to getting it all functional again. Bringing something back to life is just fun, so much so that we based our whole Redline Rebuild engine series around it. I decided to give it a shot with a crusty flat-six that had been lurking in the corner of my garage.
This engine was included with the purchase of my 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, and the seller claimed it was original to the car. With Corvairs, there is no documentation available that can confirm such a claim; the numbers between body and engine are not identical and thus cannot be used for reference. The two-digit date code, however, does confirm it is the correct build for what the car would have been equipped with from the factory.
However, my Corvair is not a restoration project, and I don’t feel the need to put this engine back in the car. I never even spent time looking into what could be wrong with it beyond the obvious oil leaking on the floor for the last few years. The seller told me it dropped a valve seat, but could there also be something else? Or maybe it’s not as bad as he thought?
In Episode Six a few weeks ago, I asked you viewers what you would like to see from that engine. The ideas ranged from mild to wild, and (fortunately) very few included explosives. The first suggestion on the list was to see if I could get it to run, which I was absolutely game to try.
With the engine on the floor and missing parts, I looked to my white coupe to supply known good pieces that would hopefully help coax the grimy mess to make good noises. The starter and primary carburetors were the main things, and the ignition system is actually the old points system that was in the car before I switched to electronic ignition a few years ago.
These parts didn’t make for success, though. Instead of an exhaust roar, I learned of a knock on the driver’s side bank of cylinders and saw the top of a very mangled piston in the number one cylinder. I didn’t get it to run, but by trying I learned a lot about what might be going on inside the engine. Success by way of failure, maybe?
Next I’ll tear it down, inspect the damage, and talk through some of the details that make the flat-six Corvair engine unique compared to other Chevrolet designs of the era. To follow along with this and other adventures from inside my humble home garage, be sure to subscribe to the Hagerty YouTube channel.