20 Miles from Tampa, Mike Johnston's Chevrolet Corvair convertible is right at home
We are gatherers and we are collectors. Humans like pretty things. I mean, how else would you define our need to cultivate art and explore the possibilities of self-created evolution?
Loving something enough to maintain originality and preserve the essence of what we deem beautiful and true to its nature is an obsession only found among those who truly care. It is not (just) a passing fancy and can be quite time consuming, expensive and sometimes, even “challenging”. This defines passion.
Purchased in 1978, Mike Johnston still owns, drives and "upkeeps" his 1965 Chevrolet Corvair. Originally painted in red from the factory, the vehicle was given a refresh in 2010. The current color known as “vivid blue” was an idea that came from Mike’s wife and they both agreed this suited the car very nicely. Besides, after wearing the same coat for a few decades, this tone gave it a new lease on life – and I really dig it.
Following an unfortunate car wreck in 2016, an extensive restoration was undertaken to the entire right side. To this day, Mr. Johnston has estimated having spent around $20 k on various repairs and regular maintenance over the past years. This is a respectable sum of money, but all things considered, I found that number fair. A small price for longevity.
In 2016 - damage to the entire right side after colliding with another vehicle. Thankfully, all has been since restored.
I was also very pleased to hear that this is not just a garage-kept beauty queen.
Mr. Johnston takes the car out a few times a week. He enjoys involving it in local and national car shows and gets a kick out of the fact that it turns heads at gas stations, post offices and pretty much anywhere he goes. He once parked it next to a fully loaded, brand-spanking new Mustang with all the bells and whistles. The owner of the Ford told Mike that he paid a hefty sum of nearly $75 k for his hot rod and was somewhat displeased to find that very few took notice. Instead, most on-lookers wanted to know about the pretty little drop-top sitting across from the every-day-we-have-seen-it-car.
A true conversation starter and there is plenty to talk about. In fact, during one particular service at a local repair shop, they called him and explained (rather apologetically) that they had cracked the windshield during their work, and they would first need to find a replacement part. Usually not an easy task, especially when a vehicle has been out of production for so long. Surprisingly, and even given Mr. Johnston’s ties to the Corvair community, he was able to source a brand-new windshield himself – that very SAME day.
You gotta love that, because THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is passion. Knowing where and what to find when you need it.
The current mileage hovers around 140 k and the Corvair is still going strong. When I asked him how it drove, he said it drives incredibly smooth for a machine of this caliber. It drives like a sports car when it needs to be sporty and it cruises like a grand tourer when it needs to be more comfortable on long highway drives. It’s a pretty diverse car. He also stated that there is no power anything, no software to maintain and it is quite straightforward to fix if something does need to be tinkered with. And Mike does work on the car himself. Owning a car this long, you have to understand it as well. There is nothing wrong with having major overhauls done by professionals, but we commend Mr. Johnston for getting nitty-gritty and downright accepting of the challenge.
To provide you all with a little history, the Corvair was produced by Chevrolet from 1960 to 1969 in various body types. According to the Corvair Society of America (CORSA), during its 9-year run, a little more than 1.8 million Corvairs were manufactured in coupe, sedan and convertible forms. These numbers were last updated in 2017, and based on research conducted by Mark Corbin, Mark Ellis, Dan Desremaux, Mike McGowan and Dave Newell.
If you are interested in knowing more about the Corvair in general, please visit the CORSA website. But for now, enjoy these lovely pictures of a car that has been treated as though it were family. Mr. Johnston – we tip our hats to you and your wife for letting something live on in your hearts and in our minds.