One really is a lonely number.
Just ask Kasey Vandenberg and his 1967 Dana-Yenko Corvair Stinger.
Corvair isn’t even a word in spell check after all. It’s like the car never existed.
But on a recent Saturday, Maryville’s Vandenberg loaded his antique onto the trailer and headed to Bristol Dragway for a car show in which he was still almost like an outcast, an afterthought.
As he tells the story, Vandenberg attends many of the cruise-ins at Foothills Mall, where owners show off their antique cars and trucks. He got into a conversation about the locations of other shows when someone mentioned the Menards Chevy Show that travels the country. One of its stops is Bristol.
That conversation happened last year and Vandenberg was too late to get involved for 2017, so he set his sights on 2018. He sent several messages to the people in charge before they finally told him they do accept Corvairs into the show.
“We have seen some and I’m sure they will find a place for you,” was the reply he received. Turns out there wasn’t even a class in the show for Corvairs like there are for Corvettes or Camaros. Nope. Vandenberg would be in the open conversion class, one of 14 classes in the show.
In a car lot far, far away ...
He and a friend arrived at Brisol on that Saturday morning to check in and get their location for setting up.
“If it was a football field in distance away, it was two maybe three fields away,” Vandenberg said. “I asked if there was a gas station along the way. I felt like I might have to refuel to make it down there. They had to pipe in air it was so far away.”
This good-natured car enthusiast made his way to his designated area. And what did he see? Two Ford trucks and a Mercury. In an all-Chevrolet show. Apparently the cars had Chevy engines and were admitted into this class for the show.
So there is Vandenberg, the owner of a Chevy Corvair, the only one in a car show of hundreds, talking with other car owners and answering questions like “What is that?”
Playing the Beach boys seemed like a good way to pass the time, so Vandenberg turned up his stereo. Along comes a golf cart with two people inside. One has a video camera and microphone, and they want to talk to Vandenberg.
“How did you find me?” Vanderberg asked them.
The two were from Velocity, a cable television channel, and they wanted to hear about the Corvair. Vanderberg said he talked to them for half an hour as the crew filmed. He was told he can watch the show when it airs at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17.
The Corvairs were made between 1960-69 and garnered a lot of bad publicity when Ralph Nader included it in his book “Unsafe at Any Speed” due to safety concerns. The problem Nader said, was the front end was too light because the engine was in the trunk. At high speeds, the Corvair would run off the road.
Despite fixing the problem, the negative review led to the Corvair’s demise.
Vandenberg has owned his for 14 years; its restoration was done 25 years ago by someone else. The marina blue antique that gets looks of puzzlement from some and laughs from others, has a special place in Vandenberg’s heart.
Talk of the town
It’s allowed him to meet tons of people. Many share stories about their Uncle Steve or Aunt Sally having owned one. He’s also been featured in magazines and now a television special.
Chances are, if you are under 30, you probably never heard of a Corvair, this owner said. He recalls one phone call when he was trying to register his car with a GM collectors society. The young woman on the other end of the call asked what kind of car he had.
“A Corvair,” Vanderberg replied.
“What was that again?”
Dead silence, and then, “Do we make that?”
Vandenberg had to tell her yes, they were made over a 10-year period.
In his younger days, Vanderberg didn’t just own cars, he raced them. Drag racing, road racing and auto-cross were his passions back then, starting in high school. He’s always admired Chevys.
“Old Blue” as he likes to call her has afforded him some great experiences over the years. He has owned other cars, but this one seems to overshadow them all. Vandenberg said he just wants to encourage people to get out there and have some fun, gather with others and learn something.
That he didn’t bring home a trophy from this adventure didn’t really matter.
“This is the fun of having a fun car,” he said. “I don’t want to be the only one.”