It's part of Leno's collection, and he clearly adores it.
The Chevrolet Corvair. If you’re reading this, you almost certainly fall into one of two Corvair categories. You either love it for being a truly different, American-designed rear-engine car, or you think it’s a death trap that will either pirouette at random, explode, or possibly both. Being Autoclassics, we fall in the former category and we’re grateful for this fresh video from Jay Leno’s Garage, as Leno clearly shares our passion for this interesting and often misunderstood machine from America's automotive history.
Obviously, this isn’t the typical Corvair one usually sees. In addition to cars, Chevrolet built Corvair vans and pickup trucks like this 1961 Corvair 95 Rampside. Whereas rear-engined Corvairs were unorthodox cars back in the day, the same could be said for truck versions. Among other things, the 145 cubic-inch (2.4-liter) six-cylinder engine was still rear-mounted and still air-cooled, just like in the car.
It developed approximately 80 horsepower (60 kilowatts) and 128 pound-feet (174 Newton-meters) of torque, which sounds pretty weak for a pickup truck. However, the Rampside only weighed around 2,600 pounds, so it wasn’t saddled with excess mass to drag around. It's not fast, but as Leno portrays in the video, it's surprisingly peppy.
The engine wasn’t the only reason this was an unorthodox truck for 1960’s America. It featured fully independent suspension front and rear – something most modern trucks still don’t offer. And as the name suggests, there was both a folding tailgate and a folding ramp on the passenger side that literally dropped to the ground for easy loading. Moving things around in the bed, however, wasn’t quite as easy. The rear-mounted engine led designers to create a stepped bed floor– higher in the back to accommodate the engine.
Leno’s example is obviously meticulously restored. According to the video, he actually found it many years ago, selling near his shop for $600. The restoration is approximately 14 years old, and when his Jay Leno’s Garage website launched back in the day, it was one of the first vehicles to be featured. It never made the transition to his YouTube channel, however, so this is the inaugural clip for the old Corvair.
We’re happy he decided to share this rare machine. There certainly wasn’t anything like it back in the 1960s, nor is there today.