1963 Corvair "Rampside" Pickup

When I was restoring my Corsa over at Bob's house, I got to know a little more about the Corvair based Rampside truck, or "Corvair 95" as it was marketed by Chevrolet. They called it the 95 because it rode on a 95 inch wheelbase instead of the standard 108 inch wheelbase of the Corvair passenger cars. Bob had two of them; one was his daily driver, and the other was a project car that he eventually sold. The Rampside was a very unique vehicle. It looked for all the world like a standard pickup truck that had undergone major rhinoplasty. The vehicle had a blunt front end, and the driver actually sat over the front wheels. Since it was based on a Corvair chassis, it was rear engined. The flat six motor resided under a panel beneath the load floor. Access was a snap via a top cover that came off with a few screws, plus they had designed in a separate panel on the rear that dropped down and gave access to the basics, such as changing the oil.

But by far the most innovative feature on the Rampside was the one that gave it it's name ... the ramp. On the passenger side of the vehicle was a wide ramp that dropped down so that you could load lawn mowers, wheelbarrows (or even ... pot bellied pigs) without giving yourself a hernia. There was also a conventional tailgate at the rear that I've found to be very handy for my Sunday morning shopping ritual.

This particular Rampside was totally restored by the gentleman I bought it from. He obviously took much pleasure in the project, and did a fabulous job! The paint job is so beautiful that it still looks wet until you get within a few feet. The only items I've had to restore (or have yet to restore) are the sun visors, and a little metal flange on the dashboard where the shifter sticks through. Speaking of which; Chevrolet offered the Rampside with a three speed, a four speed, or a Power Glide automatic transmission. This one has the automatic. At first I was disappointed by that fact, but I have since learned to appreciate it. The Power Glide was famous for feeling like an "all or nothing" transmission. Since it was only a two speed, the engine always sounded like you were either winding it out, or lugging it down. But I must say, that it shifts beautifully, and has the most interesting shifting mechanisms I've ever seen; a small stubby knob that pokes through the dash face like a kid sticking out his tongue. There's a position for Drive, Low, Neutral, and Reverse. But no Park! So it is VERY important that you keep the emergency brake up to snuff if you own a Rampside, or you'll be liable to find your trucklet rolling down the street when you get out. If you look closely, you'll notice a gaping hole where the knob protrudes through the dash; that was where the metal flange goes that I had to hunt down on the internet. It has since been stripped, painted and installed. I just about had to turn the Corvair community upside down to find that little bugger, but I finally did!

A few months ago, I decided that owning a pickup (hopefully a Rampside) was in my future. I had just completed a bout with cancer, and I wanted to congratulate myself for getting through it in one piece, so this would be my reward. Every Sunday morning, I make a run to Costco and buy anywhere from 20 to 28 gallons of milk, and several cases of paper cups and such items for my espresso business. By taking my regular car, a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, I drop the top down, and stack things in the trunk and in the back seat until they completely blocked my rear vision. But that was getting old, and besides, this is Oregon; how many days per year can you go topless? And taking the Pony Espresso truck was out of the question since it's so full of equipment, I'd be better off taking the convertible. So, I kept my eyes peeled for a particularly nice Rampside on e-Bay and on the Corvair web sites. Most of the ones I saw were pretty trashed. Rust is always a concern with a forty year old vehicle, and I was pretty meticulous about that. Then I saw an ad on the CORSA web site classifieds. This baby would be mine if it lived up to the billing I was reading online, and the owner was kind enough to send me a video walk-around tour so that I wouldn't have to fly to his hometown to see it first ... it was PERFECT for my needs, and it didn't have so much as one square inch of rust anywhere on the entire truck! So I bought it and had it shipped up here from California. Most people in the Corvair hobby are purists. That means that a truly prized specimen must have the original (but restored of course) engine, transmission, interior fabric, etc. I'm not that picky. I just wanted a sweet little Rampside, and didn't mind if the serial numbers didn't match up like they were supposed to. Such is the case with this one. The man I bought it from told me in advance that the motor is not the 1963 80 hp motor, but a 1965 110 hp model ... big deal! Like I said, I'm not that particular about such minutiae.

This turned out to be a great purchase. Not only is it ideal for my business needs, but it runs beautifully and drives almost like a brand new vehicle; everything seems so tight! It starts right up and drives so smoothly as to belie it's 41 years. And it doesn't leak oil! If you know anything about Corvairs, you'll know how miraculous that is. When the previous owner restored it, he evidently replaced all the suspension bushings and added a rust coating to the undercarriage as well. Nice perk!

I almost miss the pleasure of restoring such an old truck, but there will always be some catastrophe that will pop up as time and finances permit. My next project will probably be to install a Corvair Spyder dash panel in place of the stock Rampside dash face, but that'll be down the road a while if at all. I already have an operational Spyder dash, but I reeeeally don't have the heart to modify such a pretty and correct dashboard. Maybe someday. Anyway, here's a before/after of what the modification would look like. You'll notice that the Spyder gauges are more complete than the Rampside dash, providing a tachometer and an overall sportier looking cluster.

The previous owner found an original set of 1963 style wire hubcaps in very nice condition. These are the correct style for this truck, but they stick out far enough that I'm nervous driving in town with them installed for fear of trashing them against a curb. So, I scored a set of 1965 "mag" style hubcaps on E-Bay that look great! They're not correct for this model year, but oh well ... they're already in lousy shape, so if they get banged up some more, it'll be no loss. I keep the original wires in the garage for safe keeping and just use them for car shows.

Anyway, here are a few shots of the beast.

 

And in keeping with my insatiable desire to speculate what Corvairs might look like today had they not died out forty years ago, here's my version of a Rampside for the new millenium.