Yesterday I went to pick up my latest acquisition which has been 7 months in the making.
A few years ago my wife and I were attending a classic American car show when we came across an unusual van, a Chevrolet Corvair panel van. For some reason we both liked the look of it and saw it again the next year. We'd been thinking about getting a modern American day van or a nice VW day van but they have got stupidly expensive and most are full of rust and plop. As well as the panel van Chevrolet also made a passenger van version and I found one on Ebay earlier this year but we never got round to looking at it and it ended up selling for more than we wanted to spend anyway. We both decided that we quite fancied one though.
I contacted the Corvair Club in America and a helpful chap named Ron said he knew just the van for me. A fellow member called Ruby local to him in Indianapolis was looking to part with her van following the death of her husband a few years before. Ruby doesn't do computers so Ron sent me some pictures of the vehicle and it seemed to be in really good condition for the age. I spoke with Ruby on the phone and a price was agreed, all I needed to do was get it from Indiana to the UK.
I contacted a shipping agent in the UK who can handle everything. They were recommended to me by a former colleague who imported a car a few years ago. They arranged for the car to be collected and driven to New York, loaded onto a container and shipped to the UK. They started planning this back in June but it took a really long time to even leave the US and get on the ship. In fact it wasn't until late September that it arrived in the UK. It was then taken to the import facility and checked over and MOT'd.
Predictably it failed the MOT on a few items such as brake hoses and some steering components. It took a while to obtain the parts but eventually they were fitted and the car passed the test. Once MOT'd it could then be registered, again several more weeks passed before eventually the registration was issued and the car was ready to be collected.
I got on the train yesterday morning headed to Milton Keynes, with a friend and a one way ticket. We arrived at the import warehouse to find a very professional operation. Loads of cars, proper workshop facilities and a board saying 214 cars currently in transit. After a brief chat with them there we set off of the run back to Stoke on Trent.
Have to say the weather was far from ideal for our journey. Cold and a bit wet. We did experience a tremendous draft until we figured out how to close a flap on the front, though we never really got the heater working. Driving such an old car, and being LHD does require some recalibration of the brain. This particular example has a 3 speed manual gearbox. The gearing is very widely spaced but the gearchange is easy if a little vague. The steering is heavy as you'd expect, and also vague but it does have a very tight turning circle. Brakes aren't bad for a car with drums all round, of course not on a par with even a Dolomite they did the job. Overall the refinement wasn't bad. The air cooled 2.4 litre, flat 6 engine purred away quite nicely and we ran at 55-60mph quite happily with no shakes or vibrations. Cross winds and big trucks were 'interesting' but I got the hang of it in the end.
If someone had asked me what I thought at the end of the journey I would have been very negative but actually it really isn't that bad. Remember we bought the car blind but the condition is very good, clearly looked after. The indicated mileage of 32500 is probably correct judging by the overall condition. Would I want to go to France in it, probably not but for shows it could be fun and certainly it's a far superior van to a VW. I agreed to the purchase on the proviso it was to be my wife's classic car and/or something we can enjoy together. Not sure she'll like it but we'll wait and see. If we decide it's not for us then we can always sell it on and probably make a small profit on it. Don't worry though I'm still working on the Sprint.
So may I present to you our 1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier. I think we'll call her Gladys.