Interested in purchasing CORSA merchandise? You've come to the right spot!
CORSA is proud to announce we have entered into an arrangement with Silkworm, Inc. to handle the sale of CORSA merchandise. Founded in 1981 by Bob Chambers, Silkworm is a leader in custom graphic design, promotional products, embroidered apparel, banners, signage, awards, and of course, printed t-shirts. This means lower overhead costs for CORSA and better choices for you.
When you arrive, you'll see that you can purchase items as a guest or open your own account. Either way is fine, but if you want to open an account with Silkworm, you'll need to establish a username and password.
Note to CORSA Members: There's nothing stopping you from using the same username and password that you use for logging into the CORSA site.
Registration is now OPEN for the 2019 Annual Corvair Society of America (CORSA) Convention in St. Charles, Illinois!
You can register online, right here on this website, by clicking HERE. (Be sure to log-in first with your username and password). Or if you prefer, use the handy registration form printed in the latest edition of the CORSA Communique magazine.
Don't forget to book your hotel reservation, too. Reserve your room online to receive our special group rate. To reserve a pet-friendly room, please call Pheasant Run Resort directly at (630) 584-6300.
Do you need more information? Chicagoland Corvair Enthusiasts, our host chapter, is maintaining a separate website with everything you need to know. Click HERE to check it out!
Attention! Although everybody is welcome to enjoy the sites and sounds of our conventions that will be taking place in and around the host hotel, participation in our events is limited to CORSA members and their families. In other words, you need to be either a Full Member or Virtual Member of CORSA to register. Upon joining CORSA, you will receive the personal username and password mentioned above. We encourage you to join CORSA today!
Lowell “Tommy” Espy was hired in at the Willow Run Assembly Plant on September 18, 1959, and worked there until its closing in 1993. He was hired in as an Assembler at Fisher Body at a pay rate of $2.29 per hour. He also spot welded in the Body Shop and ran the machine that drilled the holes into the Corvair bodies to prepare them for the chrome and emblem attachments. He would set the machine up for whatever the next Corvair on the line would need, i.e. a Spyder emblem, etc. He would then drill the hole(s) on the side of the body shell and then go in the back of the car and pull the fixture down and drill holes where needed.
There is a rare photograph that was taken of Tommy (who was 21 at the time) working at this machine. He said that the reason the photo was taken was because two skilled tradesmen had made a suggestion about the machine he ran. After one of the tradesmen took the picture (by Polaroid camera), they immediately threw it into the trash. Tommy observed them throwing the photo away and waited for the gentlemen to leave the site before digging it out of the trash bin and keeping it as a souvenir.
There was no explanation as to why they threw the photo away, but back in the day, no photographs were allowed to be taken in the plant due to confidentiality policies with the exception of two occurrences:
The Japanese car people were invited and given special access to the Willow Run Assembly Plant and took many photos that were used to help set up their own car plant facility (to this point in my interviews, no one knows why they were given access).
The other exception was when another GM plant needed to see how something looked or if an improvement was made; a representative would take an instant Polaroid photo of that site or improved item. The photo was then hand carried to the other facility for viewing by management and the photo was then to be destroyed. Instant Polaroid photos were taken so that negatives weren't available for reprints.
Tommy showcased his name plate explaining that all Willow Run Assembly Plant employees were given a name plate that was affixed to the wall by their work station. When the plant closed in 1993, the employees were allowed to take their name plate. When the Willow Run Assembly Plant closed in 1993, Tommy retrieved some souvenir items that he knew were tucked and hidden away in the Migweld Booth at the former Fisher Body side of the plant.
These items were hanging off the ceiling ever since the 1960's. They were special made by an unknown former Corvair auto worker who worked at Fisher Body. He used the discarded roof tabs and other pieces of metal fragments from Corvairs to create four metal flying objects to pay homage to this air-cooled automobile.
These creative objects of art include a helicopter, bi-plane, water plane, and the Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek television series from the 1960's. These flying objects, along with many other Willow Run Assembly Plant memorabilia, were generously donated by Tommy and we thank him for preserving these historical items.
Tommy recently gifted me with a 'Fordite' (also known as Detroit agate or Motor Agate), a chip made of accumulated old automobile paint from the Willow Run Assembly Plant Body Shop. Workers would chip away the built up hardened paint off the floor and sand them making beautiful pieces of jewelry.
The particular chip Tommy gave me is very old and he stated that it's highly probable that it's from Corvair days. I'm trying to see if I can recognize any colors of my Corvairs in this particular fordite. Tommy was one of the guest speakers at my “Meet the Makers of the Chevrolet Corvair” event held on May 14, 2015. I want to thank Tommy and all the former Corvair auto workers, engineers, and GM designers who have participated with this historical preservation project I've created to ensure that the history of this one of a kind air-cooled wonder will be enjoyed by future generations of Corvair owners and enthusiasts.
The photo of a 1960 Corvair coming down the assembly line with four workers underneath it in July 1959 was taken off of a promotional brochure made for visitors and employees of the new Chevrolet Corvair Assembly Plant at Willow Run, Ypsilanti, MI. The four men pictured in the photo are as follows:
Left side of photo under right headlight is Larry Gilbert. Larry was an hourly employee and never held a salary position. He became President of the Local UAW and was very involved with the union. Larry died in 1970.
Left side of photo under driver headlight is Jones “Woody” Woods. Jones was an hourly employee who worked his way to being Foreman and then General Foreman of the motor line. Jones is the only survivor who is still with us of these four gentlemen in this photo.
Right side of photo under rear passenger side of Corvair is Bob Mulready. Bob was always an hourly employee. Shortly after this picture was taken, Bob became the head guy in Heavy Repair (engines, major components). He was known to be able to take everything apart on a car.
Right side of photo under rear driver side of car is John Mitchell. John was a utility man in this photo. A utility man had to know every job and aspect of the assembly process in order to be able to give workers on the line a break. John became a millwright and continued his career at Willow Run until the closing of the plant in 1993.
Other photos within the brochure depicted various stages of assembly, Corvair models that were available in 1960, and facilities within the plant including the famous Rotunda building affectionately known as the Fishbowl where two Corvairs were on display in their showcase lobby.
Due to the uniqueness of the vehicle having a rear mounted engine and uni-body construction, instead of the conventional floor mounted conveyor belts, plant designers decided on an overhead assembly conveyor made by a company owned by Mr. Jervis Webb. They even went a step further and varied the height of the conveyor at each work station to make operations easier for the employees.
The assembly process was divided into sections which became known as “passes” through the plant. The brochure photo of the Corvair on the line was taken during the fourth pass of the assembly operations where the front and rear suspension in addition to the engine mounting to the body shell occurred. Prior to the fourth pass, the vehicle would have had some of the following items already installed including the instrument cluster assembly, mast jacket, accelerator, brake and clutch pedals, headlights, front bumper, voltage regulator, dimmer switch, gas tank, radio, windshield washer and wiper motor, ash tray, heater, brake lines, and gas lines, just to name a few.
To make the installation of the engine and suspension possible at fourth pass, two green colored Towveyor machines were used for lifting the front suspension and drive train assembly/rear suspension to the body frame. These would go in simultaneously as depicted in the photo and the process was affectionately known as the “marriage”. As you look closer at the picture, you will notice two orange colored locator alignment pins with silver points which aided the workers in lining up the mounting holes where the bolts were fastened. These locator alignment pins would have to line up perfectly for both front and rear. Other details occurring at fourth pass included brake fluid being added to the master cylinder, energizing the brake system (bleeding brakes), installation of shifter tube assembly, and clutch cable or shift cable for Powerglide.
At the front of the vehicle, you will notice a piece of paper attached below the bumper and on the windshield. This was called the Broadcast sheet for the Corvair being built . It would indicate what the vehicle content was and tell the individual work stations what parts were needed to build this particular car. These sheets would show the model number of the car and the Vehicle Identification number (VIN). However, the Broadcast Sheet would have its own internal number called a Plant Sequence Number which indicated the order in which the car was to be assembled within the Chevrolet side of the plant. This was also posted at each sub-assembly work station to ensure proper assembly.
After fourth pass, the vehicle would continue through fifth and sixth pass (known as the final line) where it would complete assembly and be inspected for electrical and mechanical functions.
The gentleman who had the privilege to drive the first production Corvair once it came off the assembly line at Willow Run was Dominick Orlando. However, there was a bit of a problem when that occurred...the car didn't start! There he was with the top management in attendance to see this monumental occasion of the launching of GM's first mass produced rear engine compact car and it wouldn't start! The following is Dominick's own account of what occurred during that attempted start up of that first Corvair taken from my interviews and his speech at the Meet the Makers of the Chevrolet Corvair event on May 14, 2015.
Dominick had stated that there were some top people in attendance to witness that first Corvair coming off the line and when he tried to start the car, he heard a lot of “What the Hell?!”, because it wouldn't start. The problem they discovered was that there was a terminal block connector from the main body harness to the engine wiring harness which could be, by design, installed incorrectly. The original design of this wiring connector allowed improper connection of 180 degrees off. When Dominick discovered the error, he had fun tricking new employees by turning the harness connection so that the car wouldn't start. At this point, to allow continued assembly at Chevrolet, they physically marked the connectors with a white spot to ensure proper assembly. The design of the connector was later changed by Packard Electric by adding keyed connectors to prevent improper assembly.
Dominick Orlando began his employment at the Chevrolet Willow Run Plant in 1959. His specialty was in electrical but due to no positions being available in that field, he began working in traffic control by parking cars for shipping by rail and truck. He then went to assembly, then to salvage and Quality Control. Some of Dominick's duties included installing the Corvair windshield wipers, mounting motors to the body, installing front wheels, and front end bumpers. The only problem he ever saw with the Corvair was that the oil cooler would leak (because of the seals).
Dominick also shared another story about those first assembled Corvairs. At one point, there was no room to store the first several thousand cars at the plant before the October 2, 1959 launch so they transported them to be stored at the GM Milford Proving Grounds until they could be shipped out to the dealerships. One day at work, Dominick was approached by Bob Hatfield, the Assistant Superintendent of the Willow Run plant. Dominick was in the Department of Traffic at the time. Bob and Dominick both had a love of fishing and had previous talks about their favorite pastime.
On this particular day, Bob asked Dominick if he still owned his fishing waders because he wanted to take him out to Milford without giving Dominick any details of what was happening. Dominick told Bob that he did, indeed, still have his waders and got excited thinking that Bob was going to take him fishing because Cass Lake was near Milford... but that wasn't the reason. When Dominick and Bob arrived at the GM Proving Grounds, Dominick saw something that he said he'll never forget: approximately 250-300 Corvairs drowning in a lake! Apparently, some of the Corvairs that were parked were stored in a dry lake bed that hadn't seen water in many years. It had a fish bowl shape to it so the middle was the deepest section. There had been a terrible rain storm that came the previous night. When Dominick saw these cars, Bob then asked him, “Do you know what these waders are for now?” Dominick responded with an affirmative deflated mutter, “Uh huh.”
According to Dominick, they had guys pulling these cars out and at one point, they even tried using snorkels on the exhaust pipes in attempts to start some of the cars. Dominick stated, “You're trying to start a Corvair using a snorkel?! Come on guys!!” Dominick was not amused.
Another former Willow Run worker, Dave Polmounter, was also sent to the Proving Grounds with other workers to help fix and restore these drowned Corvairs. After putting in a regular shift at the plant, they would take workers from different departments of Fisher Body by bus out to the Proving Grounds and work under a tent. Dave stated that some of the cars started and some didn't . His department had to change all the trim including floor mats, seats, door panels, and even some of the headliners had to be replaced because of water damage. They did manage to fix all the Corvairs and they all got sold.
Here are some other interesting factoids about those first Corvairs: Cecil Cole was the employee who hand assembled the first Corvair in a special area known as the Pilot Line without the use of power tools before it was ready to be put to the assembly line . I've written about this story entitled “Pilot Line Memories” which is available for reading on the CORSA web site under the Preservation Foundation link, and then click on Meet the Makers for each article or look in the July/August 2015 issue of the CORSA Communique.
The first initial Corvairs made were 500 and 700 four door sedans. Dominick Orlando stated that to the best of his recollection there were approximately 500+ first made Corvairs that had the horn slots in the front and that most of those horns usually didn't work.
In January 1960, they added the coupes to the model mix and then the Monza coupe followed in the Spring of 1960 after the success of the 1960 Super Monza made its debut at the 1960 New York Auto Show. It was such a big hit that GM decided to put a version of it into production. The Super Monza was a special car with customized features created under the direction of Bill Mitchell as a birthday present for his daughter Lynne. The Super Monza is currently owned by the Corvair Preservation Foundation.
A side note from the Fisher Body Plant at Willow Run: There were two framed photographs that hung in the Fisher Body Plant Manager's office at Willow Run from day one of Corvair production in 1959 until they switched to GMAD in 1972. One photograph is of a 1960 Corvair as it looked when assembled on the Fisher side and the companion photograph is of the famous Fisher Body Coach. A note card on the back of these photographs gives a list of each manager's name during those years it hung in the office. These photographs are currently owned by a former Willow Run salary worker who wishes to remain anonymous but allowed me to take photos of them to share with others.
On a sad note, Dominick Orlando passed away in October 2018, but he will always be remembered as the guy who drove that first production made Corvair off the assembly line, and as my personal friend. His family recently gave me a personal gift of the keys he had to the Willow Run Assembly Plant. These keys were issued by Plant Protection (what the Security Dept. was known as back in those days). Once the employee left the plant, they had to be returned. I'm grateful to have a unique piece of Corvair/Willow Run history with these keys.
If you hold stock in a closely held business, you may be able to use that stock as a powerful way to support our future. Closely held stock is most often used to support our work in the form of:*
An outright gift. You can make a gift of closely held stock as long as the constituting documentation for the business permits additional owners and it is debt-free. The donation of closely held stock first requires you to value the interest in the business entity. Review this checklist to see if you may benefit from donating closely held stock. Then, consult your professional legal and tax advisors to see how to maximize the benefits of this tax-efficient strategy for making a difference.
You are a majority shareholder in a closely held corporation.
You would like to maintain a controlling position in the corporation’s outstanding stock.
You would like to avoid capital gains taxes on the shares you donate to the Corvair Preservation Foundation.
You would like to receive a federal income tax deduction for the full appraised value of the gift.
You would like to support our mission.
A gift in your will or living trust. If you are not ready to make a gift of these assets during your lifetime, consider making a gift of all or a portion of your closely held stock through a gift in your will or living trust.
A charitable gift annuity. Funding a charitable gift annuity with closely held stock not only provides you with fixed payments for life and allows you to support our work, but it can offer numerous financial benefits . You may receive a federal income tax deduction and, if you use appreciated stock, you can eliminate capital gains tax on a portion of the gift and spread the rest of the gain over your life expectancy. It is possible to contribute stock in either a C or S corporation in exchange for a charitable gift annuity. The contributed shares must be valued by a qualified independent appraisal whenever the deduction exceeds $10,000. The appraisal is required in order to substantiate your federal income tax deduction.
A charitable remainder trust. You may be able use your all or a portion of your closely held stock to fund a charitable remainder trust. If you do, you receive a federal income tax deduction for your gift and there is no immediate capital gain on the portion gifted to the trust. The trust pays you or other named individuals payments every year for life or a term of years. When the trust term ends, the remaining principal goes to the Corvair Preservation Foundation as a lump sum. Although a charitable remainder trust with a flip triggering event works well with most business interests, this type of trust cannot be the owner of S Corporation stock.
A charitable lead trust. In certain situations, you can create a charitable lead trust that allows you to pass your closely held stock to your heirs after supporting the Corvair Preservation Foundation. The trust makes regular payments to the Corvair Preservation Foundation for a period measured by a fixed term of years or the lives of one or more individuals. After the term ends, the remaining assets, including any appreciation, pass to your heirs. A properly designed lead trust will produce an estate or gift tax deduction for the value of that portion of the trust designated for the Corvair Preservation Foundation.
* A gift of closely held stock requires special handling, so you should always consult with your legal or tax advisor first.
Did you realize that valuable antiques, stamp and coin collections, works of art, cars, boats, and other personal property can be used to support our work? Your treasures can make suitable charitable gifts today or after your lifetime. The financial benefits of the gift depend on whether we can use the property in a way that is related to our mission.
Related use property—e.g., a unique piece of Corvair memorabilia—is deductible at the full fair market value. Any other property is deemed non-related use property and the deduction would be limited to the lesser of fair market value or your tax basis in the property.
If the federal income tax charitable deduction claimed for a gift of tangible personal property exceeds $5,000, you must obtain an appraisal from a qualified appraiser and submit a special IRS form with the tax return on which the deduction is claimed.
There are several ways to make a gift of personal property to us:
An outright gift. This allows you to benefit our work today and receive a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize.
A gift in your will or living trust. You can leave a legacy at the Corvair Preservation Foundation by donating your treasures to us through your will or living trust. A benefit of donating property through your will is that it gives you flexibility to change your mind at any time.
A bargain sale. You can sell us your property for less than the fair market value of the item. For example, if you sell us an antique for $25,000 that is worth $50,000, you will receive a federal income tax charitable deduction of $25,000 plus the payment from us of $25,000.
A memorial or tribute gift. If you have a friend or family member whose life has been a long-time Corvair enthusiast, consider making a gift to us in his or her name.
A charitable gift annuity. You can sometimes use non-income producing property such as a valuable stamp and coin collections or works of art in exchange for life payments and a federal income tax charitable deduction. The amount of the charitable deduction depends, in part, on whether the donated items are retained by the charity and used for its tax-exempt purpose.
Securities and mutual funds that have increased in value and been held for more than one year are one of the most practical assets to use when making a gift to the Corvair Preservation Foundation. Making a gift of securities or mutual funds to us offers you the chance to support our work while realizing important benefits for yourself.
When you donate appreciated securities or mutual funds you have held more than one year to us in support of our mission, you can reduce or even eliminate federal capital gains taxes on the transfer. You may also be entitled to a federal income tax charitable deduction based on the fair market value of the securities at the time of the transfer.
Securities are most often used to support our work in the form of:
An outright gift. When you donate securities to the Corvair Preservation Foundation, you receive the same income tax savings that you would if you wrote us a check, but with the added benefit of eliminating capital gains taxes on the transfer, which can be as high as 20 percent. Making a gift of securities to support our mission is as easy as instructing your broker to transfer the shares or, if you have the physical securities, hand-delivering or mailing the certificates along with a stock power to us in separate envelopes. (Using separate envelopes safeguards your gift—the certificates will not be negotiable without the stock power.)
A transfer on death (TOD) account. By placing a TOD designation on your brokerage or investment account, that account will be paid over to one or more persons or charities after your lifetime. It is not necessary for the TOD designation to transfer all of the account solely to charity—you can designate a certain percentage of the account. With a TOD account, the beneficiary you name has no rights to the funds until after your lifetime. Until that time, you are free to use the money in the brokerage account, to change the beneficiary or to close the account.
A gift in your will or living trust . If you aren't ready to give up these assets during your lifetime, a gift of securities through your will or living trust allows you the flexibility to change your mind at any time. You can continue to receive dividends and participate in shareholder votes, and the securities are still yours if you need them for other expenses. In as little as one sentence you can ensure that your support for the Corvair Preservation Foundation continues after your lifetime.
A donor advised fund. When you contribute to a donor advised fund with appreciated securities, you may receive a federal income tax charitable deduction for the fair market value of the asset and eliminate capital gains tax. Because of our nonprofit status, the Corvair Preservation Foundation does not pay capital gain tax when we sell the gifted securities.
A memorial gift. If you have a friend or family member whose life has been touched by the Corvair Preservation Foundation, consider making a gift to us in his or her name.
A charitable gift annuity. Funding a gift annuity with appreciated securities or mutual funds will not only provide you with reliable payments for life and allow you to support our work, but it can offer numerous financial benefits. First, your annuity payments are often more than the dividends you would receive each year from the securities. Second, you will receive a federal income tax charitable deduction (when you itemize) in the year the gift is made and eliminate part of the capital gains tax you would have paid if selling the securities.
A charitable remainder trust. Highly appreciated securities are one of the best ways to fund a charitable remainder trust. You may be reluctant to sell such assets directly because of the tax you would pay on the gain; however, if the assets were transferred to a charitable remainder trust, the assets can be sold without incurring the capital gains tax. The trustee can then reinvest the proceeds in order to secure a higher current income yield.
A charitable lead trust. Rapidly appreciating assets such as stocks are a great way to fund a charitable lead trust . The assets transferred to the lead trust are frozen in value for transfer-tax purposes at the time of funding. At the end of the trust's term, all appreciation that takes place in the trust will pass tax-free to your heirs.
One of the easiest and most common ways for you to support the Corvair Preservation Foundation is with a gift of cash. Cash can be used to support our work in the form of:
An outright gift. By making a cash gift by check, credit card or money order today, you enable us to meet our most urgent needs and carry out our mission on a daily basis. You will have the opportunity to see your generosity in action and will also receive a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize.
Memorial and tribute gifts. If you have a friend or family member whose life has been a long-time Corvair enthusiast, consider making a gift to us in his or her name.
A payable on death (POD) account. A POD bank account or certificate of deposit names one or more persons or charities as the beneficiary of all funds once you, the account owner, pass away. The beneficiary you name has no rights to the funds until after your lifetime. Until that time, you remain in control and are free to use the money in the bank account, change the beneficiary or close the account.
A gift in your will or living trust. Through a gift in your will or living trust, you can support the Corvair Preservation Foundation with a specific amount of money or a percentage of your total estate. This type of gift allows you the flexibility to change your mind at any time.
A donor advised fund. A donor advised fund, which is like a charitable savings account, gives you the flexibility to recommend how much and how often money is granted to the Corvair Preservation Foundation and other charities. You transfer cash or other assets to a tax-exempt sponsoring organization such as a public foundation. You can then recommend—but not direct—how much and how often money is granted. In addition, you avoid the cost and complexities of managing a private foundation. In return, you qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction at the time you contribute to the account. This also allows for a centralized giving and record-keeping system in one location.
Interested in helping the Corvair Preservation Foundation in its mission to preserve and promote the history of the Corvair? A simple, flexible and versatile way to ensure we can continue our work for years to come is a gift in your will or living trust, known as a charitable bequest.
A charitable bequest is a written statement in a will that directs that a gift be made to charity upon the death of the person who made the will (the testator).
By including a bequest to the Corvair Preservation Foundation in your will or living trust, you are ensuring that we can continue to celebrate Corvair cars and trucks for years to come. Corvair – the most innovative production vehicles ever produced in America.
Seek the advice of your financial or legal advisor.
If you include the Corvair Preservation Foundation in your plans, please use our legal name and Federal Tax ID.
Legal Name: Corvair Preservation Foundation Business Address: PO Box 68, Maple Plain, MN 55359 Federal Tax ID Number: 36-3638163
There are other ways to provide financial support to the Corvair Preservation Foundation. Please click on any of the "sliders" that appear when you click on "Supporting the CPF".
Beginning in January 1987, Larry Claypool (with the help of an occasional guest writer) published a wonderful series of Corvair restoration articles under the banner "Stock Is...". The articles appeared in nearly every issue of the CORSA Communique magazine for six consecutive years and covered an amazing amount of territory.
Here is a list of all the "Stock Is..." articles that were published in the CORSA Communique magazine. If you are a CORSA member, you can look them up in our online Communique archives. Larry believes it is complete. However, he notes that additional information has surfaced since they were written so many years ago. Some statements in the articles may not apply to all the years noted.