The lowly Corvair. Chevrolet’s little lemon. No car since the Edsel has suffered the ridicule, controversy or stigma associated with America’s first rear-engine car.
In 1965 in Washington, Ralph Nader pronounced the Corvair “unsafe at any speed” with a “fatal tendency to go out of control and roll over.” In 1969 in Detroit, a red-faced General Motors stopped production of the controversial car while simultaneously denying Nader’s charges. In 1977 in Dallas, the lowly Corvair has made Joe Burch a millionaire at the age of 34.
Joe says he never intended to transform his backyard into a virtual graveyard of rejected Corvairs. He says he never had ambitions for becoming the resident United States Corvair expert. He says he never planned to be founder and owner of two-and-a-half acres called One Corvair Place. That was 178 Corvairs ago.
Somehow it just got started. People began to call him up and tell him that if he would tow their Corvair away, he could have it. Joe’s sentimental interest in the little devils grew. Over the years he paid as little as $10 and as much as $2,000 for a new addition to his useless orchard of lemons.
Then it happened. Nostalgia hit and the Corvair began to emerge as a modem-day collector’s item. Suddenly Joe and his Corvairs were in demand. Phone calls came in from coast to coast at all hours of the night. But now people weren’t looking to have their cars towed away – they were looking for spare Corvair parts to restore their own.
So how much are 178 of Ralph Nader’s little beasties worth on today’s market? “I’d be scared to death to figure it,” Joe says slowly. “I could probably get about $500 minimum for each one right now.” Joe apparently sells himself short: Others who have surveyed his collection with an eye for worth have proclaimed him a potential millionaire, if he’s not one already.