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Comparing Two Corvair Books: Corvair Basics & Corvair for the Not So Mechanically Inclined

Updated on September 17, 2009

Knowledge is Key

 There are many How-to Corvair books on the market because there are well over 75,000 of them still operational. Not bad for a car that was last produced in 1969.

Most of the books are written for the intermediate mechanic at best. These are the guys that know engines in general and can ID various parts and typical lingo that a grease monkey uses. They know in general how to work on 60s or 70s era cars far beyond the newbie stage and what is required. They understand these cars and probably have worked on them in their youth or more recently. So, when they come across a procedure in one of the books mentioning push rods and header studs, they know where they are and what to look for, even if they never actually worked on a Corvair engine. Engines share a lot of common ground and lingo.

The newbie to engines, let alone, Corvair engines, is alien territory. It's like moving to a different country and not knowing much about it or its lingo. Many new Corvair owners are frustrated by the lack of books targeted for them. The reason is that most owners work on the cars themselves and must do it to keep them going. Relying on others is inconveniant  and can be a waste of money as you are a target for ripoffs.

There currently really are only two books targeting a person new to car engines made for the Corvair, a 60s generation car.

Corvair Basics(2003), a collection of chapters written by Corvair pro mechanics, seasoned guys who probably have worked on cars off and on or all the time since they were teenagers. Many while new to Corvairs, easily assimilate the books for the intermediate learner. Published by CORSA (Corvair Society of America), a national organization dedicated to the Corvair. The produce a huge set of "technical papers", basically tips and how-to info created since the 70s. Not all of it is necessary, but it is good for a reference. This book, while it is about Corvair Basics, it presumes an intermediate level knowledge of engines in general and car mechanics and parts (what they look like, general location, some understanding what they do and why). A beginner would find the book a good buy but would be asking questions about many of the how-to procedures because they are not the intended target audience. For instance, in the O-ring how-to section, steps refer to removing studs from the head etc. For a person who does not where or what they are and look like, the procedure is worthless. The other thing about this book is that many sections tell the reader to "refer to CORSA technical papers", which is another way for them to sell them at $50 each. They tell you enough about a topic, omit the practicable procedure a reader wants and tells to go the "technical papers"! Rather self-defeating. In many ways, it reminded me of a "best of" their technical papers targeting new buyers to the Corvair but lacking in many procedures newbies might want (those who do not know how to, for instance, change brake shoes, flush brake fluid, spot bad bushings, remove a carburetor etc.). These are familar territory for the intermediate mechanic, but not a newbie with little training. That is the problem with this book. It seems like an entry level basic Corvair book and it is, but for interediate level knowlege that the reader is presumed to have. It is a good reference book for all levels, but lacks real nuts and bolts "how-to" for the beginner or newbie. It is available for $23 only through CORSA.

Corvair for the Not So Mechanically Inclined(2009) has been available on Ebay for $17 since April or so. Its author, who like many, loves the Corvair style and wanted one. He bought one and knew very little about the car. In fact, he was never a car mechanic previously. So, after months of research, advice from corvair pros, and owning just about all the Corvair books, he realized that the other books were not for newbies, which for him, only created more questions and problems as he sought to repair his own. The result is this 70+ page book and its 15 page supplement. The book, heavy with photos, illustrations and numerous procedures targets only the newbie to Corvair and to cars in general. Many key step by step procedures are documented accompanied with photos showing, for instance, what and where a push rod is, what a good one looks like versus a bad one, the intake and exhaust for a single cylinder, key in making valve adjustments, where the engine head and block are, which end of a push rod tube to insert into the block(very important). The book covers many of the most typical restoration repairs any Corvair owner will face. It is filled with practicable advice and tips also. I suppose that even for a seasoned Corvair owner, it would be a good book to own as the car has many nuances to it. The carburetor section has great illustrations showing the parts of the carb and where they go (invaluable reference when taking them apart!). The last chapter shows how Corvair developed through advertising from 1960-69, quite enlightening. Early on, one learns about the Corvair design stages and that an early computer helped with its design in 1956. Other sections detail tune ups, synchronizing carbs, idle and fuel adjustments, testing the automatic transmission, removing side panels, flushing brake fluid, convertible tops and more.

Overall, the book is well done but not perfect and as with any book, one can always find something to complain about depending on your own knowledge base. But for any newbie to restoring a Corvair and its mechanicals, this book is a must along with many others.

The key to successful Corvair restoration to a daily driver is to rely on several Corvair books, they all have something to offer depending on your own knowledge base of Corvairs and car engines in general. 


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