The Land Rover Writer

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who Needs Reverse?

Last fall the Corvair played a major role in getting me back and forth from Bristol, ME, to Rockland [about 100 miles round trip] where I catch the ferry home to Vinalhaven. The bi-weekly drives demonstrated the Corvair's nimble, light driving traits but also two potential problems: one involved a noise emanating out of the right rear of the car; the other was a marked, albeit occasional reluctance to engage reverse gear.

In December, the Corvair returned to the island, its chores completed. The local mechanic put the car on his lift for me and together we examined the rear wheel's brake shoes and springs. They looked perfect. Then we unbolted the rear half shaft from the right side - sure enough, the noise continued as the hub rotated. Steve Goodman of Rear Engine Specialists in Golden, CO, had a rebuilt rear hub assembly ready to go and shipped it out to me. When the mechanic had some weekend time, we installed it in the car and the wheels now rotated smoothly.

Then issue #2 reared its head. The Corvair was parked facing the harbor alongside my shop. One day I filled it with recyclables to take to our local dump and the car would not go into reverse gear. Nothing I did would coax it into gear. I bared my problems to a Corvair forum and discovered I likely had a worn out coupling in the shifter linkage.

So a few days later I bummed a trolley jack from a friend and with a second mate, crawled under the car to examine the linkage. Sure enough, we found that a slight tun with a pair of pliers would permit the car the go into reverse. Of course, I could not travel with jacks, jack stands, and a mate to move the car into reverse every time that was necessary, so I looked into purchasing the parts from Clark's in Shelburne Falls, MA.

Clark's Corvair is to Corvair enthusiasts what Cabelo's is to hunters - an emporium of everything you could need for a Corvair. Yes, Clarks had all the parts in stock. But since the job has to be done on a lift, and the local mechanic has marginal enthusiasm for digging into old cars, I hesitated to purchase the additional parts.

Then a machinist friend suggested the wayward linkage pieces could be tack welded for the short term. It took the local mechanic 20 minutes to complete the job, and sure enough, it worked quite well. Reverse is now engaged easily, and if the weld holds for a while, I can wait on the new parts until the mechanic is in a good mood to tackle the inevitable replacement.

Did I mention that I had loaded up the car with a dump run of stuff before I tried to engage reverse? No? So the mechanic looks inside the car and sees a couple of Christmas wreaths. "What are those for" he asked, "are you finally going to bury this thing?"

The dump is open tomorrow so I can finally empty out the interior of the car - and I parked the car facing forward just in case.

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