The Triumph Dolomite Club - Discussion Forum

The Number One Club for owners of Triumph's range of small saloons from the 1960s and 1970s.
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 Post subject: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:49 pm 
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Location: The Old Asylum
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.

Image

Image

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Mark

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon
1980 Dolomite Sprint project using brand new shell
2009 Mazda MX5 2.0 Sport
2018 Infiniti Q30


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:02 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 03, 2006 5:21 pm
Posts: 42
Location: Ten Boer, Groningen, Netherlands
Nice van!
Although I'm totally hooked on my VW T25 (Brick), I love the barn doors on your van.
Engine in the back, strong sidewinds and oncoming trucks make driving these vans an ultimate experience.

Rolf

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1973 Dolomite Sprint (New White) in an almost rebuild stage
1977 MG Midget 1500 (it's heart is a Triumph:) (Black) the most reliable of all four cars I own (!)
1980 Volkswagen T3 (UK: T25) Westfalia 2.0 aircooled boxer (Assuan Brown) ready to go after a total engine overhaul
2007 Volvo V70 Sport Edition 235 (tuned) BHP D5 Geartronic (Silver)
2014 Azor e-bike 8 Speed (Black) daily transport


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:47 pm 
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Location: London
I like it, and as said the side barn doors are a plus plus point.

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Construed as a public service, self preservation in reality.


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:10 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 17, 2017 5:28 pm
Posts: 522
Location: NANTWICH.
What a very nice motor 8)
I used to love the corvairs back in the 70'S when there were a few about....
It also reminds of the russian UAZ 452, but with twin headlamps :D Nice to stand out in a crowd.
The heaters never worked in the saloon's either, so best of luck with that one :wink: :wink:
Cheers, Tony.

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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:12 pm 
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Location: Andover Hants
Lovely looking van, the condition looks to be very good.

Another vote here for VW T25, I fitted a Subaru 2.5 flat 4 to mine which has transformed it. :D

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Modified Dolomite Sprint MSO 662P
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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:34 pm 
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Location: Nr Kenilworth
A great story and a great looking van!. I'd always liked the saloon and never realised there was a van version. Looks like a very nice example. I wonder if there are bolt on disc brake conversions etc for them? Be nice to modernise it to make it nicer to drive, but all reversable :)
Im also already thinking of a 2.5 Subaru non turbo motor :)

Tony

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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:16 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:10 pm
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Location: Darn saarf..
An unusual and fabulous choice! 8)

I never knew such a car existed.. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:22 pm 
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If you have an old car then people often comment but I was surprised to get such a comment at our first pit stop just a mile or so down the road. I just want some nice weather now and I can do a bit of servicing on it and go for another drive, though I really should fit some seat belts.

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Mark

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon
1980 Dolomite Sprint project using brand new shell
2009 Mazda MX5 2.0 Sport
2018 Infiniti Q30


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:45 pm 
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Location: Bristol
As it has twin headlights, I guess this must be the Sprint model! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 11:56 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:12 pm
Posts: 4803
Location: Highley, Shropshire
What a beauty! And an excellent choice over the common as muck and heavily scene taxed VW.

But you mustn't winge about the lousy road manners as you can't possibly be unaware of American consumer safety campaigner Ralph Nader's unequivocal condemnation of the Corvair as "Unsafe at any speed!"

With the passing of time, there are cetainly a number of things that can be done to improve the van's performance, braking and handling with bits from "Year One Chevrolet" amongst others as well as factory "parts bin" upgrades. The decision in your hands is how far to go with such an original vehicle. Improving the heater is a bit of a lost cause as they use the same inefficient and likely-to-poison-you-with-carbon-monoxide-fumes heat exchanger system as air cooled VWs do! And they rarely work either!

With 20/20 hindsight, I would have bought a Ford Econoline from the same period, which looks almost identical, has none of the mechanical drawbacks of the Corvair and even better parts backup. But that's just me being a smartass!

Congratulations on a stunning and thoroughly left field choice, I love it!

Steve

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2 door '73 Toledo with Vauxhall Carlton 2.0 8v engine OWF 797M (The Carledo)
'78 Sprint Auto with Vauxhall Omega 2.2 16v engine EGP 247T (The Dolomega)
'91 Cavalier 2ltr 8v auto
'95 Cavalier 2ltr 16v auto
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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:35 am 
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Location: Bromley, Kent
A wonderful vehicle Mark - I love it. The look, the colour, everything.

Contrary to popular belief, the heaters can be made to work very effectively, but it is a painting the Forth Bridge job to keep them that way.

A really lovely vehicle. well done for getting it and good luck with it.

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Martin.

2016 Range Rover Vogue SE
2017 BMW X3 MSport
1954 Austin Healey 100M
1963 Austin A40 Rally Car
2016 Triumph Street Twin


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 1:11 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2006 6:45 pm
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Location: East Lothian, Scotland
I love it!!
I know the feeling of buying unseen from the USA and waiting for the vehicle to arrive. It is so exciting, but there are often a lot of things wrong, which seem to not bother the safety inspections over there.
I hope you wife will love it to and you will enjoy it for many years to come.

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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 3:44 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2006 1:08 pm
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Yes Ralph Nader's book is a great read. I bought it some years ago and he did raise some really interesting points. I'm not entirely convinced the Corvair was any more dangerous than a lot of other cars at the time but it certainly helped to make some things safer. It's funny because safety never became an issue again until the 70's. BL made several safety cars which pioneered some 'modern' safety features such as run flat tyres, ABS, side impact bars etc. long before they became the norm.

It probably wasn't until the early to mid 90's that safety became important again. If I remember Ford had a terrible time with the 1990 Escort in crash tests but come 92/93 the Mondeo led the way being Europe's first car equipped with a standard drivers air bag.

Now everything is all about safety and star ratings. Only this week the Fiat Punto was given a Zero star rating which is odd because a few years ago it got 5 stars! Safety in modern cars is much better but you do feel more of a passenger than driver.

We did see some Ford Econoline's but they do lack the air cooled charm that comes with the Vair.
Quote:
What a beauty! And an excellent choice over the common as muck and heavily scene taxed VW.

But you mustn't winge about the lousy road manners as you can't possibly be unaware of American consumer safety campaigner Ralph Nader's unequivocal condemnation of the Corvair as "Unsafe at any speed!"

With the passing of time, there are cetainly a number of things that can be done to improve the van's performance, braking and handling with bits from "Year One Chevrolet" amongst others as well as factory "parts bin" upgrades. The decision in your hands is how far to go with such an original vehicle. Improving the heater is a bit of a lost cause as they use the same inefficient and likely-to-poison-you-with-carbon-monoxide-fumes heat exchanger system as air cooled VWs do! And they rarely work either!

With 20/20 hindsight, I would have bought a Ford Econoline from the same period, which looks almost identical, has none of the mechanical drawbacks of the Corvair and even better parts backup. But that's just me being a smartass!

Congratulations on a stunning and thoroughly left field choice, I love it!

Steve

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Mark

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon
1980 Dolomite Sprint project using brand new shell
2009 Mazda MX5 2.0 Sport
2018 Infiniti Q30


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2017 12:27 pm 
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With no Dolomite to run I took the Greenbrier to our club meet last night, the first run since it came home. I'd suffered a battery failure earlier in the week so had to source a replacement. Fortunately we have good contacts at work and one arrived within the hour. Weirdly American battery sizes have different codes to ours but an 053 seems to be the exact same size as a Group 51R!

Taking the original battery out I was slightly concerned at the state of the terminals. The positive one had no cover and used a spring type clamp which seems a bit rubbish. The battery wasn't clamped in either so I fashioned a clamp up from some bits and feel a bit better now that it's secure an less likely to short out on the lid.

Next job is an oil change. The oil in there is past its best and of course being air cooled the oil is critical to cooling. I've got some filters in stock, 25 litres of 10w30 oil, now I just need some decent weather to find the drain plug. Being an old car there's about a million grease points too so I can do that at the same time.

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Mark

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon
1980 Dolomite Sprint project using brand new shell
2009 Mazda MX5 2.0 Sport
2018 Infiniti Q30


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 Post subject: Re: Not a Dolomite
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:01 am 
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I've been pretty busy doing some work on the Greenbrier over the last few months. Parts have proven to be easy to get hold of and delivered within a few days which has been handy.

Biggest job so far was replacing the exhaust. Naturally manifold studs broke so that required use of a torch to heat them up, thankfully my neighbour had one. I tried getting a system made locally but it didn't work out so I bought one from the US. The first pipe out the manifolds differs slightly between cars and vans so I needed to modify a car one as van ones were not available. All told the job took a few months but the weather was horrible so it didn't matter too much. I used the time to clean the underside too and apply some Dinitrol to some key areas. The underside is 100% original, no rust and no signs of welding.

Image

Image

Image

Couple of other things:

3 point front seat belts fitted

New tyres have been fitted to replace the 25+ year old previous ones

Interior clean and decor

Image

New brake master cylinder

New fanbelt (old one shredded leaving me stuck on the A50)

Most recent job has been to try and solve the issue of jumping out of top gear. Seems they all did this from new and many were given a modification in period, mine had not. I fitted 2 rubber blocks between the suspension arm and gearbox mount which was a real pain but seems to have solved the problem.

Doing this job I also now understand why the heater was so ineffective when we bought it back home in December. Can you spot why?

Image

The other weekend TDC North West members had the chance to poke around the van at Tatton Park.

Image

Now back to the Dolomite!

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Mark

1961 Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier Sportswagon
1980 Dolomite Sprint project using brand new shell
2009 Mazda MX5 2.0 Sport
2018 Infiniti Q30


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