The '60s were different things to many types of people. For some it was protesting the Vietnam War, while for others it was free love. For those reading Super Chevy, it was probably about horsepower, muscle cars, drag racing, and low-priced petrol. Fast-forward 40-some-odd years, and the muscle car is back in fashion. With the advent of the LS series of engines, horsepower is not only in abundance, it's also matched up with great fuel economy and reliability.
The '60s were known as colorful times, with some outlandish paintjobs (and interiors) both from the factory and on the dragstrip. Mike Meyers has kept this line of thinking alive. One look at his front-engine, LS1-powered '69 Corvair is proof positive of that.
Two obvious questions are, well, why a Corvair and why an LS1 conversion? "My first car was a '65 Corvair, which I still have," Mike explains. As a matter of fact, according to his wife, Marsha, Mike not only has one, but one dozen. That's right, folks, 12 Corvairs to go along with his 10-second '73 Nova drag car. "I bought my first one when I was 14. I had always wanted to build one, but never had the time nor the money to until recently. There are a couple of reasons why I like the Corvair. I love the body lines, the car can be found relatively cheap, and it's different than the typical Nova or Camaro. I guess the reason why I love the Corvair so much is simply because of the question you and everyone else asks me, that being why."
In actuality, the LS1 was a backup plan. "When I set about starting to build the car, I originally thought about putting a TPI motor in with a supercharger," Mike explains. "The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that the LS was more affordable and better to do than a blown TPI motor." With the change in plans solidified, Mike set out on his path to Corvair righteousness.
"In all honesty, the whole thing happened by accident," Mike comments. "The '69 was basically just a frame and a body. I took the motor and drivetrain out of it to use in the restoration of my '65. I got bored, had some extra time, and started to get everything together." Mike started with a foundation from an entirely different car, that being an '85 Monte Carlo. After he made the necessary modifications to the front and rear frame horns, he worked over the suspension. Up front, a pair of AIM 2-inch drop spindles combines with the stock Monte Carlo A-arms and springs along with Gabriel shocks to hunker down the nose. Out back, Alden adjustable coilovers conspire with a set of ladder bars to aid in traction. The Corvair rolls along on the staple of the drag racing community, a set of Weld Pro Star rims. Sized 15x6 up front and 15x8 out back, the wheels are wrapped in BFGoodrich TA radials measuring 195/60x15 fore and 245/60x15 aft. For track duty, the rear BFGs are swapped for sticky Hoosier 29/9.5x15s.
With the foundation squared away, Mike moved to the exterior of the Corvair. "I have been an auto mechanic for 23 years, so the mechanical work wasn't an issue," Mike comments. "When it came to the bodywork, though, well, that was the one thing I couldn't do." To remedy that potential problem, Mike enlisted the help of friend Chris Milford, who handled the subsequent sheetmetal work. Dave Waters fabricated the front spoiler, which was put on right before Milford blasted the Corvair with Corvette White paint. Once the paint was dry, Milford laid out and shot the orange stripes before finishing off the Corvair's new look with a couple of coats of Dupont clear.
Knowing that the intended quarter-mile times the Corvair would run would require some interior enhancements, Mike had Waters fabricate a rollbar to keep the chassis tight and the NHRA tech officials happy. The rollbar was powdercoated the same orange as the stripes, and was followed up with the addition of a set of Pontiac Grand Am chairs up front. "I could probably have made the car a bit lighter, but I have three kids and I wanted seats to be available for them," Mike says.
Thus, the stock rear seat went back in, but not before it and the rest of the interior were recovered in a charcoal gray and orange schematic. A black carpet covers the custom-made floorboard by Waters, and Mike wraps his mitts around a Grant steering wheel. The car is put into and out of gear via a B&M shifter, and the Meyers crew enjoys the tunes being pumped out by the Sony Xplod head unit and 6-inch speakers
Said shifter actuates the forward and reverse gears in the 4L60E four-speed automatic overdrive transmission that Mike installed. The slushbox squashes a Precision 3,400-stall converter inside the bellhousing. The input shaft of the trans is spun thanks to the power provided by the stock '98-vintage LS1 5.7-liter Gen III small-block. The all-aluminum mill was fortified with a set of Keith Black slugs, as well as the addition of a Comp Cams hydraulic roller bumpstick. The 'shaft showcases specs of 0.610-inch lift and a 274 duration on the intake side, which coincides with 0.601-inch lift and a 276 duration on the exhaust.
The stock LS1 intake manifold was heaved in favor of an LS6 intake. The LS1 exhales through Street Performance 1 3/4-inch shorty headers that dump into a 2 1/2-inch exhaust system that is quieted down with Flowmaster mufflers. The powerplant is kept cool thanks to an '87 Camaro radiator, while modified Corvette engine covers enable Mike to keep the LS1's coil pack location. All told, the engine is good for 336 rear-wheel horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque. The power is put to the ground thanks to a 12-bolt rear stuffed with 4.10 gears and a Posi differential. Linking the engine/trans combo to the third member is a custom-made driveshaft courtesy of Authorized Auto.
"I love the attention that the car gets," Mike says. "I am a pretty laid-back guy, but I love it when I take the car to a show and people come up, gather around, and pass comments. I enjoy driving it and racing it. After all, that's what it was built for."
And race it Mike does, as he has run a best of an 11.82 at 114.50 mph. "When I tell people what the car has run, they are like, 'Well, OK, a bit slow,' but the car will run high 11s and low 12s all day long and it's still very streetable. I had originally thought about putting in a 6.0-liter LS2, but I decided to stay with the LS1. I would love to get the car into the 11.50s, and I figure a set of heads and a swap over to full-length headers should do the trick. I think it would be cool to go 11.50s with a streetable car without a blower or nitrous."