GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our Custom 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Film Shoot
Christopher Mejia’s brother used to tell him he talked in his sleep, and always about Chevrolet Corvairs. When faced with the question of why someone might be mumbling about an odd car from more than half a century ago, Christopher says he doesn’t know why—his enthusiasm for the air-cooled flat-six-powered Corvair is such that it’s burrowed deep into his subconscious.
He might not remember every time he’s dreamed about them but he does know where this passion came from. At an age of about five years—a fully-grown toddler in need of some Hot Wheels—Christopher used to be brought to school in his grandfather’s Corvair. He didn’t know what it was back then, didn’t know most cars from the next, but he categorically loved that car and being driven in it. It was the coolest one he could think, and days when it would replace the school bus were looked forward to like birthdays, but thankfully they occurred more frequently than annually.
His grandfather purchased the car new in 1964 and owned it until the day he died at age 95. It was his only car throughout that time, and so it was more than just “what he was driving at the time”; a car that couldn’t just be passed off in an estate sale. It went to Christopher’s mother after the funeral, and she drove it for a short time but didn’t really love it or even much like it so Christopher begged her to give it to him instead. She knew how much it meant to him and its family history, so it was passed down one more generation and in doing so became Christopher’s first car. He drove it all throughout high school and enjoyed his chance to finally drive the thing he’d grown up in awe of until an elevated manhole cover ripped its guts out on a road that was being resurfaced. Without much in the way of money to fix the car on a student’s budget, the Corvair was relegated to the fate of so many cars in need: indefinite storage.
Thankfully this wasn’t a tale of gradual neglect and detonation, and it was only about three or four years before the family Chevy started to receive some proper attention again. The decision didn’t come without sacrifice though, and the funds for the rebuild were secured from the sale of the daily-driver Christopher had at the time. He borrowed his girlfriend’s car occasionally when it was necessary, but many trips back then were made by way of city bus while his grandfather’s Corvair was waiting to come back into being.
He got it running again soon enough though and was back to thoroughly enjoying the unique experience of the rear-engined air-cooled coupe… when he crashed it again, not more than a week after it was finally on the road again. We wouldn’t fault Christopher for calling the car cursed and moving on to another shell, but this there’s no putting a price on sentimental values and this was that used to make his childhood word go ‘round so abandoning it wasn’t even considered.
This round saw it sitting for more than a handful of years though, but when he had the time and money to really dig into it again he could avoid doing just the bare minimum to get it going again. The body was completely redone, the interior was reupholstered, three engines went in and out of it, and nearly everything else was disassembled, repaired, replaced, or modified to eventually turn the Corvair into the low-slung black knife that it is today. It was a long process, and while a lot of the original car is no more, it’s still the same one he grew up with. History isn’t a single point in time, and this Corvair still has a long life ahead.
Crashing and rebuilding this Corvair gave Christopher a deep understanding of how they were designed and how they should be restored, and once you’ve taken one apart and put it back together a few times you tend to get a sense for how things work. In this case, it only pulled Christopher deeper into his infatuation with the Corvair, and as you can see in the background of his facility in the film, his grandfather’s Corvair is today joined by a group of others that he owns or otherwise directs his efforts towards (he’s had 25 in all, all thanks to his Grandfather’s car).
Far from its factory form today, the one that started it all for Christopher is now sitting on bespoke Dayton wire wheels attached to a wild air-ride suspension system that features a push-rod setup up front. The rear is an air-ride conversion of the independent suspension that came out with the second-gen Corvairs to replace the maligned swing-axle setup that they were launched with. Nader famously used the Corvair to set an example about automotive safety, saying it was unsafe at any speed. Having put a V8 in one of his, Christopher clearly doesn’t agree, and he enjoys them at any speed and in any form with convertibles, vans, coupes, modified, and stock examples all passing through his garage at one time or another. He loves the Corvair however it’s packaged, but this particular one can never be recreated. It’s been a part of his life since he can remember, and when it’s time for him get out of the passenger seat he plans to hand it down to his own kids—what else?