Gearhead News

May 11, 2021
That Lifted Chevy Corvair Wagon Built for Off-Road Recoveries Is Finally Finished

We cover some of the incredible 4×4 rescues documented on Matt’s Off Road Recovery YouTube channel every so often, but there’s been a project going on in the background we haven’t talked about for a while—the custom Corvair wagon known as MORRVAIR.

The vehicle, a 1961 Corvair Lakewood Wagon, has been restored and modified heavily throughout 2020 and 2021, with the project finally crossing the finish line a few days ago. It’s been heavily modified for off-road recovery duties with barely anything remaining stock on the vehicle. Needless to say, it’s impressive.

Matt’s Off Road Recovery via YouTube

The story begins, believe it or not, when Matt was 12 years old. He spotted this very Corvair in Vail, Colorado, sitting at the side of the road. Being 12, he didn’t have the money to buy it, so he waited for years, always keeping tabs on it for when it would finally end up in his price range. After 28 years had passed, he finally managed to purchase it from a friend, but it needed some serious work.

The car had decayed after its time sitting in various junkyards with the rockers, hood, and floorplan all heavily damaged by rust. Those parts were cut out and replaced with new sheet metal, but even with the repairs, the car’s unibody needed to be heavily reinforced for recovery duty. The sub-100-horsepower Chevy flat-six had to go as well. 

It’s powered by a 5.3-liter Chevy LS V8—an L59—which sends power to all four wheels via a Turbo 400 three-speed automatic and NP 205 transfer case. The axles are from a 1990 Dodge diesel pickup, with a Dana 70 in the rear and a Dana 60 in the front. Both have 5.13 gears with a Detroit-style locker in the front and a Spicer limited-slip out back.

The suspension is homemade, with semi-triangulated links and around a foot of travel at each end. Those tires are massive Milestar Patagonias fitted to bead-lock wheels to keep them secured. Below, you can see the beginnings of the project before it got all of its new parts and fresh paint.

All in all, the new drivetrain, wheels, tires, and chassis reinforcements put the Corvair’s curb weight up to 5,460 pounds. That’s not to mention the new re-upholstered interior that’s mostly taken from an XJ Cherokee. It’s pretty nice inside, really.

And speaking of Cherokees, no, the channel’s staple XJ that does most of the recoveries isn’t going anywhere. The Corvair is a much heavier duty vehicle that will only be used when it’s needed, and judging by its fresh paint and expensive new glass—some of which was custom-ordered for the vehicle—that may not be too often at this point.

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