My Part of the Seattle Saga, Part 1
Published July 2014

It is CCE tradition to Coravan to CORSA conventions. This is where everybody caravans together in their Corvairs to an event. Such was the case with the 1975 CORSA Convention in Seattle, WA.

However, in typical Charley tradition, I Coravaned with the rest of the club, except I was off by several days and about a thousand miles separate.

Unlike my last Great Western Adventure, this time I had my second Corvair (of what would be many), a 1965 Monza Coupe 140 HP four speed. It was essentially a Corsa model, but without any of the Corsa trim, a Corsa dashboard or Corsa suspension or steering components. It had an AM radio, bucket seats and a heater, which doubled up as a window fogger-upper in the rain. It had BF Goodrich radial T/A tires, so it cornered like a mouse in tennis shoes. It was red and had a dent in the driver’s door.

My travels across the country were uneventful. No flat tires, no dropped valve seats.

I did come across some good ol’ boys on the highway in a jacked up pickem up truck, who thought they’ed have themselves some fun with the guy in the little car with out of state plates (me). They pulled along side me on the Interstate, and probably using a sparkplug in their exhaust system or something, made their truck backfire into my side door. They laughed and roared off. I thought it was funny, too. I used to do the same thing in my 1964 Corvair. Early models didn’t have an Accessory position on the ignition switch, so I had rigged an ignition shutoff switch under my dash. That way, I could play the radio with the engine off and not risk burning up my points. It also allowed me to shut off the engine at speed. When I did so, the muffler would fill up with unburnt fuel, and when I turned the ignition back on, a big flame would erupt from the exhaust pipe with a loud bang. I did this one night on the Eisenhower Expressway to some dude. Lit up his entire car. The look on his face was priceless. So, I understood what them good ol’ boys were up to.

There is a difference between Interstate highways in the Midwest and Interstate highways in the Rocky mountains. Around here, Interstate highways are flat, with multiple lanes in each direction with wide grassy dividers between the sets of lanes going in opposite directions. In the Rocky mountains, they paved two-lane logging roads that wind thru mountain passes and stuck red, white and blue Interstate signs along them. Opposing traffic is just over that double yellow line. You have to trust that it stays there.

I mention this, because I met up with a group of Corvairs from the Kansas City area, just before heading into the mountains. We all were going to the Seattle CORSA convention, so we decided to travel together. One of the guys had a Turbo and they all had CB radios. The problem with driving thru the mountains, even on what they called Interstate highways, was that you could not see what was around the next corner. It could be nothing, or it could be a runaway logging truck. They loaned me a CB walkie-talkie. It could not transmit very well, but it could receive. The guy in the Turbo went on ahead, and radioed back if there was any traffic coming. If not, the rest of us followed and took those mountain curves, using ALL the lanes. Kinda like an autocross, but with mountain walls and droppoffs instead of rubber pylons. We made real good time, and it was a lot of fun.

Next month, the Seattle Convention and “Oklahoma Crude.”

My Part of the Seattle Saga, Part 2
Published August 2014

Last month, I related my adventures on my trip to Seattle, for the 1975 CORSA Convention.

I drove my second Corvair, a red 1965 Monza 140HP, four-speed. On the trip to Seattle, nothing broke, no valve seats dropped and no belts flipped.

As I recall, there were 1500 attendees, and 800 Corvairs. I participated in the Autocross, doing as well as I did in autocrosses in the Chicagoland area: terrible. But, it was fun. And, nothing broke.

One of the tours was a trip up nearby Mount Rainier. This is an extinct volcano (which thankfully has stayed extinct) with roads on it. One of the features of the trip was travelling up to the snow line and having a snowball fight in the middle of the summer.

On the way back from the trip, we were travelling on local dirt roads, taking the scenic route. This trip was styled as a rally, without actually being a rally. There was an actual rally at the convention, but this was just a sightseeing trip.

Now, let me tell you about one of the more colorful characters who attended this convention. There was this older gentleman from Oklahoma, who had a blue late model Corvair with every option in the Warshawsky catalog that he could find, and then some. This car had aftermarket side trim. It had door edge guards, It had trim pieces where no Corvair has ever had trim pieces. He had three tail lights on each side, all of them used for turn signals. He had aftermarket driving lights mounted under the rear bumper as backup lights. He had extra sets of driving lights on the front. He had brush screens over the headlights. He had stainless trim around all edges of all of the side windows. And he bragged he had the best looking Corvair, even if you didn’t ask him. Not knowing his name (or wanting to know his name), we nicknamed him, “Oklahoma Crude.”

On this trip back from Mount Rainier, we were on a dirt road at a stop sign intersection with a little bit bigger dirt road. I stopped for the stop sign. Suddenly, blam, I am sitting just about in the back seat of my Corvair, my hands about a foot or so from the steering wheel. The engine died. Oklahoma Crude never saw the stop sign, or me, and had driven at speed into the rear of my car.

The impact ripped my seat from its tracks, which is why I suddenly found myself sitting so far back. I was in gear at impact time, and my foot was pulled back from the clutch, causing the engine to die.

We got out to survey the damage. Oklahoma Crude’s front bumper was bent upwards. My rear bumper was bent a little, but most of all, the rear cross frame, that has the engine mount on it, was bent in about an inch. There was a dent in my oil filter, but not much other damage. When I restarted the engine, no oil spewed out, so the damage was only cosmetic. The engine was now located a little more forward than before and the gear shifter pattern changed a little, but everything worked.

However, with the driver’s seat all the way against the back seat, I could not drive the car. The seat track would no longer keep the seat in position, and my arms and legs aren’t that long.

I managed to reposition the driver’s seat by placing my Sears tool box behind it, and then I used my just fine Sears scissors jack sideways to push between the rear seat riser and the tool box. The seat was still a little bit loose, but I was able to drive. In fact, that is how I was able to drive the 2,000 miles to get home.

Next month, more adventures on the way home, or why one should never try to outrun the police.

My Part of the Seattle Saga, Part 3
Published September 2014

Last month I related my adventures at the 1975 Seattle CORSA Convention. The worse thing was my Corvair being stuffed in the rear by another convention attendee (or inattentee?).

With the convention over, a group of us headed south from Seattle/Tacoma. This included Larry Claypool and Kirk Parro in one Corvan and Skip McCue and Pat Carroll in another. I, having a faster 140 Monza, followed up the rear. The thought being, that they could not outrun me, and I could always catch up if I got behind.

We took a ferry ride across Puget Sound and traveled to the shore of the Pacific Ocean, something none of us had ever seen. In Chicago, we have Lake Michigan, but we can drive to the other side in about three hours, depending on traffic. We arrived at the top of a cliff overlooking an ocean beach at about sunset. Not being content in leaving nature in its pristine form, we climbed down to the beach and, using our feet, traced out a huge CCE logo in the beach sand.

From there, we took some good Corvair-twisty logging roads thru the forest. It was getting dark, so all I could see were bottoms of very large trees, very close to the road.

I followed up behind the two Corvans, easily keeping up. We were the only vehicles on the road. It became very dark. The only thing I could see ahead was the tail lights of a Corvan. Being that there were probably very few Corvans in that area, I was confident I was following the correct ones. Nothing was behind me.

I gawked at the part of the forest I could see in my headlights, and eventually dropped behind the other Corvans. No problem, I can always catch up to them. They must have been around a bend or two in the road.

By then, a set of headlights appeared in my rear view mirror, kinda far off, but there, none the less. Since I had the stock inside rearview mirror, without the optional day/night feature found on the higher GM models, I took the second option, which was to floor the accelerator and outrun the pesky headlights.

That worked fine, and I soon saw the tail lights of the Corvans I was following. As I was catching up to them, those headlights from behind reappeared, but this time they had a set of flashing red lights above them. Busted!

The officer pulled me over and took my license back to his car to write me a ticket. Great, all I need is a court appearance 2000 miles from home. But, he came back, gave me the ticket AND MY LICENSE. In Illinois, they always keep the license, as an incentive to get you to come to court. You’re allowed to drive, but you drive “on a ticket.” Not good if you get busted for anything else before your court date. However, I had both. The ticket included an envelope in which to mail back the fine, which, as I recall, was $50.

Of course, my fellow club members kept going. I had explained to the officer that I was just following my friends up ahead, and was simply keeping up with them. He muttered something like, “We’ll see to that,” and roared off after them.

The best place to be on the road, when you know there is also a police officer there, is behind him. As long as you don’t pass him, you won’t get a ticket. At least that was what I was counting on.

So, I gave him a few seconds to get ahead, and I followed at a good clip, knowing that if I saw that I was catching up to him, I could slow down. I figured he would catch up to the Corvans, at which time I would “slowly” catch up to all of them.

However, I never saw the cop again. Figuring that the Corvans were probably half a state away by now, I kept on going at a good clip. No cop, good; no friends, bad. They must be even further up ahead.

Little did I know, that the trailing Corvan had seen me getting busted. They hid in a dark parking lot in a dark restaurant (or something) in the dark forest. I apparently passed them by while trying to go as fast as possible but not so fast that I caught up to the cop again.

Eventually, I slowed down a bit, fearing that the cop had set up a radar spot somewhere. And eventually, two sets of headlights came up from behind. Having been busted once already, I slowed to the speed limit. The lights behind were my friends in the Corvans, who apparently had seen the officer go by at high speed, followed by me going by at almost the same high speed. They gave chase, but it took a while to catch up to me.

The rest of the night was uneventful, and the next day I took a different path home. I don’t remember just where I went from there, but I eventually arrived home, safe and sound. They did too, but by a different route.