Update 2016-10-03: Scott McPherson is the newest owner of #1602. Scott, welcome to the club! Much of the info below was written by Kent Sullivan and covers the time that he owned the car.
If someone had told me in 1998 that there was a 1966 Canadian Corsa turbo convertible within an hour of my house, my reply would have been "in which junkyard?". I had never seen one of these very rare specimens in the ten years I'd lived in the Seattle area, so I naively assumed none existed in western Washington. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and this was definitely one of those times.
Even though the car was located in nearby Tacoma, WA, I found out about it from Eric Starkey (a.k.a. Rare 'vair Hunter), who lives in southern CA. Neither of the previous owners had ever attended a Corvairs Northwest meeting, so none of us in the club had any idea the car existed.
I purchased it from the estate of Harry Bachmeier of Tacoma, WA in October, 1998. Harry's son, Dave, handled the sale and told me that his dad had owned the car since about 1986 and had paid around $2500 for it. Harry hadn't done much to the car except some minor maintenance. Dave said his dad had intended to restore the car but he had a stroke in 1995 that curtailed those plans.
When I bought the car, the title was actually still in the name of Lewis Vaughan of Tacoma, WA, the person who sold it to Harry. I spoke with Lewis in 1998, when he was 84. Lewis had purchased the car in 1976. During the time he owned the car, he did mostly mechanical repairs on the engine, according to the invoices that came with the car. Of note was that he lost the rear seat bottom when the upholstery shop that was working on it went bankrupt! Lewis unfortunately had no information on who sold him the car in the '70s.
Almost exactly three years later, Mack Elliott of Shelton, WA contacted Rich Felzer of Rich Restorations because Rich had provided a link to this page from one of his eBay auctions. Mack was the person who sold the car to Lewis in 1976. It's amazing how the Internet brings people together!
Talking with Mack in November, 2001 was a lot of fun and very informative. Mack bought the car for $300 at Johnston Motors, a Chrysler dealer in Vancouver, BC, in 1973. The convertible came in on trade-in from the original owner. Mack was working at the dealership at the time and had previously owned a '65 Corsa convertible. When he saw the '66 turbo convertible come to the dealership, he just had to have it!
Mack loved driving the car. He told me about going fishing most every morning before work—a 120-mile round-trip drive to Hope, BC (at the base of the Fraser River canyon) and back! He added a '69 Camaro front spoiler (more down force) and Mack said he regularly topped 100 MPH on his early-morning cruises.
Mack was rear-ended in the convertible by a four-door Maverick in 1974 and had the car repaired at Dick Boyles Chevrolet in Nanaimo, BC, for another $300. At that time it was repainted Ford Midnight Blue (a '73 truck color), the color the car was wearing when I bought it. Pictures 18 and 19 below document the remains of this accident, at the time I bought the car.
For one of his modifications, Mack cut the middle bar out from the fresh air inlet above the turbo, in order to make room for an aftermarket oil cooler. That explains the reason for this piece being absent when I bought the car. Mack also ran a Chrysler 318 two-barrel downdraft carburetor for a time.
Mack moved back to the U.S. in 1976 and brought the convertible with him. He sold the car to Lewis shortly thereafter. Mack unfortunately lost all of his records from that era, including photos, in a flood in the late 1970s.
After hearing from Mack that he was pretty sure he was the second owner, I pondered trying to track down the original owner for about two years. Once I learned from James Hogarth, former CORSA West Division Director and British Columbia resident, that the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) keeps records on every car that has been in its system, I decided to go for it. A trip to their office in North Vancouver, accompanied by my friend Charlie Garthwaite, was very productive—and also allowed us to have a nice lunch with James, whose office is just down the street.
James had explained to me that due to the way privacy laws work in British Columbia, ICBC has to black out Pesonally-Identifiable Information (PII) on any records for which either I am not one of the named parties or I don't have a letter of release from from one of the named parties.
In January 2004, I went to ICBC prepared—or so I thought. I had asked Mack Elliott to sign a release, which he was happy to do. I also got to meet Mack in the process, which was great. Since Mack was the second owner, I expected to get complete copies of all of the paperwork pertaining to the transaction between Mack and the first owner. Unfortunately, Johnston Motors bought the car from the first owner so they became a party in the chain of ownership. This meant that all paperwork naming the first owner had to have his PII blacked out. Rats!
Not to be denied, I turned to the Internet and did some intensive research. Johnston Motors had long since closed. I tracked down many leads, all of which were dead ends. Then I spotted a web page on a small settlement in the Surrey, BC area called, of all things, Sullivan. The site mentioned a Johnston family several times so I thought, what the heck, I might as well follow this up too. I contacted the author, Jack Brown, who is a teacher and local historian. Mr. Brown agreed to help by contacting the one person still living who might know this Johnston family. This person had recently moved but had lived in the area for 44 years.
Much to my surprise, Mr. Brown's contact knew the married name of a daughter in the Johnston family and he was pretty sure this was the same family as had owned the dealership. Her married name, Farquhar, was much less common than Johnston so I had new hope of locating her via the phone book.
Of the five Farquhars in the Vancouver area, I hit pay dirt on the fourth. I had a very nice conversation with Ms. Margie Farquhar. She gave me the number of her brother, Bill Johnston, who lived in West Vancouver. She confirmed that I had the right family!
Just to add a little more suspense to the story, Mr. Johnston was out of town for several weeks so I had to wait patiently to contact him. In late March 2004, he and I talked by phone. Eureka! Mr. Johnston was very nice on the phone but I think he was a little surprised by how far I was willing to go to learn about the first owner of this car. He readily agreed to signing a release for ICBC.
James Hogarth then did me a huge favor by dropping by Mr. Johnston's home in early April to get his signature on the release. James then took the release along with my request for complete copies of the remaining paperwork to ICBC. I could barely wait for James to call after he returned from his trip. Success!
The paperwork James obtained for me identified the original owner as Horst Kobs. But, aggravatingly, none of the paperwork shared between Mr. Kobs and Johnston Motors gave Mr. Kobs' address or other contact information. That information was contained only on a single document for which I did not have permission to see undoctored, because Johnston Motors was not one of the parties. Arrgh!
Back to the Internet I went, since Kobs surely could not be that common of a last name. I did not find any in British Columbia, which was disappointing, but I did find a few in Alberta. What the heck, I thought. I've come this far—what's a few more long-distance international phone calls?
Amazingly, I hit pay dirt on the first call. I spoke with Walter Kobs, the nephew of Horst! Walter remembered his uncle Horst quite well. He told me that Horst had died a few years ago, followed shortly by his wife Joseé. Horst and Joseé had no children.
Walter even remembered my car! He told me a great story of Horst and Joseé driving from Vancouver to Montreal for the World's Fair (Expo '67) and stopping to see Walter and his parents in Alberta. This was when Walter was 5 or 6 years old. I was dazzled to learn that my car had been to this historic event and had traveled most of the way across Canada and back!
Walter said that Horst had emigrated with his parents from Germany in 1954. He believes that Horst traded the car in on a Plymouth Barracuda in 1972, which makes sense given the year that Mack bought the car and also given that Johnston Motors was a Chrysler dealer. Walter also related that Horst owned a red Corvair coupe at one time.
I hope to gather folks from all of the families of previous owners once the car is completed. I also hope to take the car back for a visit to Dueck, the dealer in Vancouver where Horst bought it, although the dealership is not in the same location now as in 1966.
Perhaps the final chapter in documenting the car's history occurred in January, 2005. In 2004 I petitioned ICBC's Information and Privacy Unit to give me an unobscured copy of the document mentioned above. They honored my request! I now know that Horst and Joseé did indeed live in Vancouver in 1972, the date of that document. Apparently, shortly before Horst traded in the car, he looked for the title and couldn't find it so he applied for a replacement title. This is the document that I received and it listed his home address.
Information from the tags
Vehicle identification tag
- Vehicle ID number: 610767001602 (6 = 1966 model year, 10767 = model [Corsa convertible], 001602 = 1602nd Corvair built in Oshawa that year)
- Body number: 261459 (1459th Corvair body built in Oshawa that year)
- Body build date: 11/09/65, first shift
- Paint: Marina Blue metallic (code F)
- Top: White (code 10)
- Trim: White/Black (code 795—carpet is black, upholstery and door panels are white)
- Options: turbocharger (code L87), 4-speed transmission (code M20)
- Engine code: T1015RL (T = built in Tonawanda, NY, 1015 = built on 10/15 [1965 assumed, and confirmed by GM Canada summary info], RL = suffix for turbo block)
- Transmission code: R1101 (R = 4-speed built in Saginaw, MI; 1101 = built on 11/01 [1965 assumed])
- Differential code: AB1101 (AB = 3.55:1 ratio without limited slip; 1101 = built on 11/01 [1965 assumed]) — replacement
- Alternator code: 5J21 (5 = 1965, J = September ["I" is not used due to similarity with "1"], 21 = 21st day of month)
- Starter code: 5J29 (5 = 1965, J = September ["I" is not used due to similarity with "1"], 29 = 29th day of month) — replacement
- Distributor code: 5J29 (5 = 1965, J = September ["I" is not used due to similarity with "1"], 29 = 29th day of month) — replacement
- Carburetor code: H5 (H = August, 5 = 1965) — replacement
- Turbo serial number: 48186
- Voltage regulator code: 5J2 (5 = 1965, J = September ["I" is not used due to similarity with "1"], 2 = 2nd day of month)
- Ignition coil code: 5K22 (5 = 1965, K = October ["I" is not used due to similarity with "1"], 22 = 22nd day of month)
- Convertible top rear window: 1065 (10 = October, 65 = 1965) — replacement
Build sheet information
Information from GM Canada archives
The summary sheet verifies the information contained on the VIN tag, body tag, engine block, and build tag. The summary also contains a few pieces of information not found anywhere else:
- Options (not found on body tag): tinted glass (all windows, code A01), front and rear deluxe seat belts (code A39), simulated wire wheel covers (code P02), 7.00x13 whitewall tires (code P54), AM pushbutton radio (code U63)
- Production date: 11/15/65
- Shipping date: 11/23/65
- Delivered to dealer: Dueck on Broadway, Vancouver, BC
The floor pans and trunk bottom are rust-free, an apparent rarity among its brethren. The car was certainly not without its problems, however. The usual cancer was rampant below the windshield and the rust is in the A-pillar area was terminal (see photos below). The car also sustained significant accident damage to the rear at some point—both quarters and the cove panel were deformed.
I originally hoped to have the car ready for the 1999 CORSA International Convention in CA (Lake Tahoe). I hired Rich Felzer of Rich Restorations to be project manager and to do final bodywork and paint. Rich hooked me up with Greg Soter and Brian Nordby at Phantom Restorations in Seattle to do the metal repair. In about mid-January '99 it became obvious that we weren't going to be ready in June—there was just too much cancer in difficult-to-repair areas, e.g. the rocker panels. Having a June deadline helped get the project off to a fast start but then we settled in for the long haul. Brian and Greg finished the metal work in July 1999 and we moved the body to Rich Restorations.
From July 1999 through October 2003, I didn't do much to the car except to collect a few more Canadian-specific parts. The main reasons for the project hiatus were that Julie and I had sons Kyle in 2000 and Sean in 2002. We also decided to build a new house. What little free time I had during that period was devoted to the Stage 2 engine for my '66 white Corvair coupe.
Rich Felzer's primary work situation changed during this time as well. He built an impressive eBay store specializing in high-quality die-cast models. Somewhat later, another key member of the restoration team became unavailable. Rich and I then jointly decided that I should switch strategies.
In the summer of 2003 I contacted my good friend Duanne Luckow in Portland, OR. Duanne owns his own restoration shop and has restored many award-winning classics, including several Corvairs. The plan was to finish the car in time for the 2005 CORSA International Convention, which, conveniently enough, was held in Portland!
Throughout late 2003 and 2004, Duanne and his associates worked steadily to restore many original parts and subassemblies. I added some pictures of that work below in December 2004.
Spring 2005 was a very busy time, as the pictures below show. The car was painted over Memorial Day weekend and shortly thereafter moved to Duane Wentlandt's shop for reassembly.
Reassembly occurred through June and into mid-July. We finished the car just in time for the Forest Grove Concours on July 17. Just over a week later the car participated in the 2005 CORSA convention, also in the Portland area.
After Duanne finished some fine tuning, I picked up the car in late September and brought it home to my shop in Kirkland. Duanne's uncle Fred Luckow took some great pictures in late October, 2005 that were used in the subsequent CORSA Communique article. Over the winter of 2005-6, Duanne made a few trips to my house and we improved some things.
July, 2006 featured a long road trip. The first stop was the Forest Grove Concours. At Forest Grove, my car and three other Corvairs boarded a long-haul truck back East to Oshawa, ON and Buffalo, NY for CORSA Ontario's Corvair Day and the 2006 CORSA International Convention, respectively. It was great fun having the car go home to where it was built 40 model-years ago. The car did very well in the CORSA Concours, taking third overall. Only .17% separated the top three cars!
I finished up the summer of 2006 by displaying the car at Discontinued and Orphan Car Show in Issaquah, WA, sponsored by my local chapter, Corvairs Northwest. The car took a rest in 2007 but was then on the road again in 2008, first just down the street from my house for Lee Johnson Chevrolet's 75th Anniversary celebration, then to the CORSA convention in Ventura, CA. I also hosted the taping of an episode of The Vintage Vehicle Show.
During the winter of 2011 and spring of 2012, I chased down a few details and made some changes to get a little bit closer to 100% factory stock. These last few details have required a lot of research but it has been fun figuring it all out, with the help of several friends and colleagues.
In mid-2015, I decided that in was time for someone else to enjoy this wonderful car. I enlisted the help of Gordon Apker, noted car collector and Corvair Rampside owner. He followed up on several leads on my behalf but ultimately ended up purchasing the car himself, which was a huge honor. Unfortunately, Gordon became quite ill during the transaction and ended up passing away just after the car arrived in Gordon's home in Arizona. In September, 2016, Scott McPherson, a close friend of Gordon's, purchased the car. I hope that Scott is able to share his stories as he spends time showing and enjoying this magical machine!