The Chevrolet Corvair has gotten a bad rap. Ralph Nader took aim at the car in his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, and its reputation has never really recovered. But now, Jay Leno looks at a largely forgotten portion of the Corvair legacy in his latest video. Don Yenko, best known for his modified Camaros, saw the Corvair's performance potential and built 100 upgraded cars in 1966 called the Stinger.

Leno's Stinger is a Stage 2 model and is in fabulous shape, comprised of mostly original parts. It packs a 164-cubic-inch (2.7-liter), air-cooled, flat-six engine with 190 horsepower. In addition to the more powerful engine, the Yenko cars received a fiberglass trunk lid with air intakes, upgraded brakes, improved suspension and a slightly revised interior. The only major change to Leno's car is the 15-inch wheels.

Scroll down to get the full scoop on this mostly forgotten part of '60s Chevy history, and learn that the Corvair has been unfairly maligned in automotive history.


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  • 17 Comments
      drew
      • 10 Months Ago
      That is a great-looking car.
      Hazdaz
      • 10 Months Ago
      I've always been a big fan of the Corvair, and I always wonder what would the American domestic car industry have been if GM had actually looked at the safety issues with this car (and its other cars), instead of doing what they used to do back then and simply try to bury the problem and shoot the messenger. The Corvair, like Leno said, was a very different car from what any of the Big 3 were building - much more European in design and scope.
      Jaybird248
      • 10 Months Ago
      I learned to drive on a '61 Corvair. It was a delight, easy steering,. light weight, good traction, cheap to run and easy to repair. Only real issue: One night, the rear of the engine dropped to the ground. Dragged my auto-butt into a nearby gas station. Guy put a tire jack under. Lifted the engine, replaced the missing bolt in the rear engine mount and we were good to go in 15 minutes, for 10 bucks. Try that in your 911!
      Ed Rocco
      • 10 Months Ago
      very cool, my parents had two Corvair's a burgundy and light blue. I never knew yanko made a version, until now. thanks Jay!
      v6sonoma
      • 10 Months Ago
      What no burnout? lol
      Novie
      • 10 Months Ago
      Had 2 friends with MG, 1 a 72 MGB the other a 77. They had access to a new development with road completed but no houses built. They had been timing themselves making hot laps and invited me to come by and give it a try. I had a 65 Monza with the 140Hp motor, 4 carbs. On my initial pass I dropped their best time by 15 seconds. I was never invited back:(
      Stinkyboy
      • 10 Months Ago
      I hope it blows up with him in it.
      Haelphadreous
      • 10 Months Ago
      The Corvair was actually a really great car, it was a rear engine, rear drive light weight gem. Nader's claims in unsafe at any speed centered around the fact that the anti roll bar was removed from the production design. The 1972 D.O.T press release on their testing of the Corvair concluded that it's handling characteristics compared favorably with other contemporary cars and did not result in any increased likely hood for loss of stability or roll over, of course this came 3 years after GM had stopped production and Nader's unfounded had already ruined the Corvair name and killed one of the most innovative car designs to come out of Detroit in the era.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Haelphadreous
        Actually Nader's claim did have merit. The original Corvair had swing axles, and they were notorious for lift throttle snap oversteer. GM knows this- that's why they switched to a double-jointed design (so-called IRS). Other swing axle cars, like the air-cooled VWs and the Triumph Spitfire, also switched to IRS for this reason. Whether they did it in response to Ralph Nader is anybody's guess of course. Also- the Corvair was different, but not exactly innovative- GM was mostly just copying the aircooled, torsion bar suspended, rear engined, pancake-engined VW. I'll grant you that the 90 degree fan belt was innovative (and stupid), but the only real innovation the Corvair had was the turbocharger. The late model Corvair was a beautiful car though.
        RetrogradE
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Haelphadreous
        I don't blame you if English is your second language. If it isn't, sheesh, move on. Do something else with your life.
      BruceH
      • 10 Months Ago
      yup> I had a turbo. It was a 150hp turbo on a 110 NA motor. Too much compression. It rattled like a can-o-marbles.
      Bonez
      • 10 Months Ago
      Me (13-17) and an Elmer named Ben Holby (in his late 70's at the time) used to work on many mopeds and autos together. He had a 1963 covair spider engine and 100hp exhaust turbo and a vw carmengia. The engines are a lot alike. The exception is the crankshaft turns in the opposite direction. To the carmengia we put 2800cc jugs and pistons on the machined block and had the crank modified or changed (I can't remember) and also installed the turbo on this engine. And all I can say is the power to weight ratio was incredible. And with the engine in the rear (over the drive tires where it counted) the handling was incredible. It cornered like it was on rails. And it felt like it accelerated harder than my 74 super duty big block v8 trans am. The trouble was stoping it at high speeds. Ceramic shoes on the front was a must! That took care of the spongy feel after a good and hard stop! Downshifting also helped but once the spooled up turbo kicked in, exhaust breaking was pointless. Overall a very fun car to drive none the less. Also the heavier Corvair we later obtained for him was a 64 year and had another turbo. We did the same mods to the engine. Having a different suspension and wheelbase this Chevy had a different attitude on getting the corners and power to the road. Now having 6 cylinders to make up for the weight and a turbo helped immensely. The bore improvement and mods increased to 255hp at the wheels and was more than he wanted to drive. We sold it to a neighborhood cop that still drives it near daily! How I miss the times we'd work together and had fun doing it. Many days I'd look forward to going there after school to see what the ol guy was doing! Now I'm doing the same thing with my nephew and myself. The corvair would and is very economical for these times and if given the budget id look very seriously at one. There's no computer to fail from an emp or nuke fallout! Just points and a coil to keep up. Completely mechanical and minimum electrics to fail. And nothing wrong with few carbs and there brass bowls and floats to keep clean along with the needle and jets to tweak. Fun stuff! Hit the key and go anytime. We didn't need check engine lights! We had gauges (and got out and looked if necessary) to see what's really going on! Driving, I believe was more educational and you where more in tune with your vehicle. Whatever it was, you did a pre-trip and checked your tires and lights. Felt the breaks and checked water if nessary and when under the hood checking oil and power steering if equipped. There was a guy for that at a full service station. Not anymore, now your car tells you when the tires are low or people have blowouts and thrown belts, engine lights on that are reset at a push of a button. How times have changed. Enjoy that classic ride Jay, we miss you on late night!
      • 10 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      diffrunt
      • 10 Months Ago
      Rented a 4 dr in 65. 2 adults, 4 children, good road, 65MPH , I could turn the wheel a 1/4 turn either way w/o changing the straight ahead direction of the car. Houston, we had liftoff !
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