Four years before Porsche ever put an air-cooled flat six in the back of one of its cars, Chevrolet put one in its Corvair. In 1965, the year Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe At Any Speed,” was published, the Roman red 1960 Corvair Model 700 you see here was converted into a racecar, and it’s been racing ever since.

Beyond the empirical, hold-my-beer evidence that Corvair racers prove Nader wrong with each time they race, it’s important to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration established a three-person advisory panel in 1972 — three years after Corvair production ended — to study the car’s handling with regard to Nader’s assertions. The end result of that study was a 24-page report that concluded “the 1960 – ‘63 Corvair compares favorably with contemporary vehicles used in the tests … the handling and stability performance of the 1960 – ‘63 Corvair does not result in an abnormal potential for loss of control or rollover, and it is at least as good as the performance of some contemporary vehicles both foreign and domestic.” Texas A&M also studied the car and found essentially the same thing as NHTSA. So, do please sit down, Ralph.

NASA MidAmerica racer Jeffrey Moore bought the car in 2019. It was originally prepared for racing in 1965 by Chuck Forge, an electrical engineer for computer companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple based in Cupertino, Calif., in the Bay Area. Forge owned the car and raced it from 1965 through 1976 retaining it until his death in 2009.

This car is one of many Corvairs Moore has owned throughout his life. The infatuation with these cars began when he was a child, riding to kindergarten in the back of the Corvair sedan his mother drove, which was not much different from the one you see here. Moore says he’s owned Corvairs since he was 12 years old, so many that he’s lost count. However, he remembers well all of the 11 Yenko Stingers he’s owned.

Along the way, Moore started a company called The Automotive Archeologists, Ltd. with a partner in 1989. They were buying and selling European sports cars from the 1950s and 1960s, and that took a turn into building and supporting vintage cars for racing, including entire engine and transmission rebuilds. That part of the business ebbed, and Moore got away from racing and into restoration work on cars from that era. Now retired, Moore builds a few race engines for friends and acquaintances he’s known through the years, and focuses on his own stuff.

When he bought this Corvair in 2019, he went to comp school the same year and began to enjoy racing and Time Trial, the sport he had helped so many others get the most out of through the years.

The key to getting these first-generation cars to handle, Moore said, is adding the camber compensator to the rear, which includes a transverse leaf spring that came from the factory starting with the 1964 models. The car rides on cut factory springs controlled by a set of Koni shocks. It’s also essential to add negative camber, which is done in the front by shimming-in the upper control arm pivot shaft. Cutting the springs helps in that respect, too. Moore says about minus 2.5 degrees up front and minus 3.5 to 4 degrees in the rear is the setup he’s been using. Despite the old-school technology, Moore said the car is balanced and well-mannered on track.

“The old ‘60 Corvair is really easy to drive. It’s fun,” Moore said. “It’s not work. You get in it and you get a good flow going. It pretty much goes where you put it.”

The balance is due to some removal of weight in the rear of the car and moving the battery to the front. Moore estimates it’s about a 45/55 front-rear weight balance. Another factor that makes it so easy to drive is the 108-inch wheelbase, which is 3 inches longer than a C6 Corvette and 21 inches longer than an early 911. That added wheelbase gives the driver a little leeway when correcting for oversteer, something other rear-engine cars aren’t known for.

“The difference between the Corvair and a 911 is the Corvair is a little easier to recover from when you’re stepping out in the tail end a little bit because the wheel base is longer,” Moore said. “It’s gives you a little bit more time to bring it back around. And normally I don’t have the tail hanging out. I’ve only spun it one time.”

Since purchasing the car, Moore has been careful to preserve the period-correct elements of the car while adding contemporary safety improvements such as a fire system and a full roll cage instead of a roll bar, a modern fuel cell, and AN lines and fittings in place of the factory fuel tank and stock plumbing. He also added an oil cooler in the wheel well behind the right headlamps. Cooling air gets in through a clever cutout in the factory headlamp bezel.

That keeps oil temperatures in check on an engine that had a factory gross horsepower rating of 140 at the crank. The car now makes a net horsepower of 190 at the rear wheels, which sounds like a lot of fun when you consider the car weighs only 2,500 pounds without a driver.

The car makes all that added power with some modifications that are permitted in vintage racing, and immaterial in NASA Time Trial. Gone are the four factory Rochester one-barrel carburetors. In their place is a pair of Weber 48 IDAs bolted to adapter manifolds that Moore designed and had CNC’d a local shop. They’re larger carburetors and they’re easier to make jetting changes to, and they don’t suffer from fuel starvation during hard cornering. They’re much better than the stock Rochesters.

“The jets get uncovered in a hard corner,” Moore said of the Rochesters. “You can modify them and you can rotate them and so forth, but they don’t work. They’re not that great. They work great at wide open throttle, but they don’t mix fuel that wonderfully off idle and in midrange.”

Cylinder heads from a factory 140-horsepower model benefit from porting, which is difficult because the intake manifolds are integral to the cylinder heads. That makes porting work more intricate because you have to cut the manifold off the head, do all the porting and radius work and weld the manifold back onto the cylinder head, which is aluminum. Those aluminum heads also present challenges with the valve seats.

From the factory, the seats are made of steel, which expands and contracts at different rates than aluminum. You also could go with copper beryllium, which has similar expansion characteristics as aluminum. However, it is expensive and harder to get, and can be difficult to find machine shops who can work with it because emits a poisonous gas when you machine it. That’s always fun.

“On an aluminum head with a steel seat, when you shut them down and they heat soak and they’ll grow and sometimes the seat will just sort of plink out. You fire it up and they just beat the hell out of everything,” Moore said. “But we’ve got processes for giving them eight and a half to nine thousandths interference fit, a little bit deeper seats that they’ll hold it pretty well, but it’s still no guarantee. That’s the biggest problem to overcome. The copper beryllium, they use a lot in air-cooled motorcycles because its growth rate is very similar to the aluminum. But I just had a friend of mine, with one of our engines, dropped a copper beryllium valve seat out of a head in Colorado over the weekend.”

A high-performance Crower camshaft, Clark’s Corvair Parts tubular headers, stock points distributor and MSD box — what Moore calls “controlled lightning” — also are part of the recipe for adding power. Compression has been increased to 10.5:1, and the car runs well on 100 octane aviation fuel. The crankcase ventilation system from a Porsche helps reduce pumping losses by evacuating the crankcase efficiently. The system vents to the atmosphere through a hose the exits through the left reverse lamp.

Unlike nearly every other Corvair you’ll ever see, this car uses a vertically mounted cooling fan — like a 911 — to push air through the fins on the heads and cylinder barrels. Because Corvair engines rotate counter clockwise when viewed from the rear, Moore’s car uses a fan from a first-generation Mini Cooper and an aluminum fan shroud, a system pioneered by Charlie Clark and Tom Holstrom on the Yenko Stinger cars they developed for competition. The early Mini Coopers had transverse engines, which are unique in that the fan pushes air through the radiator, which actually mounts to the engine.

As proficiently as the engines oil themselves, the heads do need refreshing at frequent intervals, about every 12 weekends of racing. That’s the commitment it takes to race a car built when Eisenhower was president. Reliability and component longevity have come a long way since then, but there’s nothing like the sound of a Corvair flat six at full song.

Originally built and headquartered on the West Coast, the car has raced at Laguna Seca and Sears Point and other tracks that no longer exist in California. Moore is entertaining the idea of applying to race it at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion that takes place each August at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. That would be a fitting salute to the car and its history, and a perfect fit for the Reunion.

Lately, Moore has been running the car in vintage racing and NASA Time Trial. If he can persuade enough people to show up with their vintage cars, NASA MidAmerica will give them their own race group. It’s a fun little toy for Moore, who’s living the vintage racing dream in a car he loves after spending years helping other people do just that.

“When people asked me what I do for a living, you know, in years past, I said, I’ve done whatever I had to do to keep from having to have a real job,” he said with a chuckle.

Look how flatly this 1960 Corvair corners at Cotati Raceway in 1967, another Northern California track that no longer exists.
Owner: Jeffrey Moore
Year: 1960
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Corvair
Weight: 2,500 lbs. without driver
Engine/Horsepower: 2.7-liter flat six/190 rwhp
Transmission: Four-speed Saginaw, Yenko close ratio gear set
Suspension Front: Unequal length control arms, Koni shocks, cut factory springs
Suspension Rear: Swing axle with camber compensator from 1964 Corvair, Koni shocks, cut factory springs
Tires Front: Hoosier 205-60-13 Speedsters
Tires Rear: Hoosier 205-60-13 Speedsters
Brakes Front: Jeff Moore-design discs with four-piston caliper
Brakes Rear: Factory drums with factory metallic linings
Data system: Garmin Catalyst
Sponsors: The Automotive Archeologists, Ltd.
Images courtesy of Brett Becker and Jeffrey Moore


  1. Sorry that I did not get to meet you at Indy. You must have been packing up when I arrived Saturday noon. Carl Briggs, St. Louis, Mo.

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