It was early in the afternoon when Jim Brossard found it. He was with his 5-year-old son at the time. His wife had their toddler at home...
It was early in the afternoon when Jim Brossard found it.
He was with his 5-year-old son at the time. His wife had their toddler at home.
And there it stood in the lot: the car he would drive back and forth to work for the next 37 years. A tan-colored 1961 compact, air-cooled, with a horizontal six-cylinder engine made almost entirely out of aluminum.
A bit of excitement for a Boeing engineer.
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“The Corvair kind of caught my eye, as something I could enjoy,” said Brossard, now 78 and retired.
Celebrated, then attacked, and now celebrated again, the Chevrolet Corvair is one of dozens of car models that will make an appearance at the 8th annual Discontinued and Orphan Car Show in Issaquah this weekend. The event is a tribute to the experimental side of automation, where good ideas do not always make money.
Corvairs Northwest is organizing the show, which has drawn as many as 80 cars in previous years. Among the known draws this year are a 1930 Franklin, a 1948 Packard Super 8 and a 1960 Hilman Husky.
Tastin’ N Racin’ Today-Sunday. Hydroplane races, arts and crafts, entertainment, children’s activities, vintage hydroplanes, motorcycle and classic-car shows, 4-8 p.m. today; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday, Lake Sammamish State Park, 20606 S.E. 56th St., Issaquah. Cost: $3-$5 admission (free today); $5 on-site parking. Shuttle from Issaquah Park & Ride, 1050 17th Ave. N.E., tomorrow and Sunday. Information: 425-254-9252 or www.tastinracin.com
Concert for Greenway Days Sunday. An afternoon of music and entertainment to celebrate Mountains to Sound Greenway Days, with community information booths, kite-making and an awards ceremony for the Adventure Relay Race; refreshments available, 1-6 p.m. Sunday, Issaquah Community Center Lawn, 301 Rainier Blvd. S. Information: 425-837-3300.
Strawberry Festival Starts today. Marysville’s annual salute to the strawberry includes a salmon ceremony at 1 p.m. today at the Tulalip Tribal Longhouse. Other events include a farmers market and carnival.
Bicycle Saturday Tomorrow. Four miles of Lake Washington Boulevard and Seward Park are closed to all but cyclists, tricyclists, unicyclists and the occasional Big Wheel, for peaceful rides along the lake. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Maple Valley Days and Arts Festival Today-Sunday. Entertainment, indoor gallery space, carnival, artists’ demos and hands-on art for kids, 3-9 p.m. today, noon-7 p.m. tomorrow, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Lake Wilderness Park, 22500 S.E. 248th St., Maple Valley; free. Information: 425-432-2356 or www.arts.maplevalleywa.com
The Corvair is likely to be a central attraction. The first model was built in 1960, winning praise from critics who called it revolutionary. But in 1965, consumer advocate Ralph Nader took on the automotive industry in a book called “Unsafe at Any Speed.” And the first chapter featured the Corvair.
What followed was a backlash to the backlash. Fans across the nation formed the Corvair Society of America. The Society set up a foundation. The Foundation built a museum. And now, 36 years after the last Corvair left the production line, an entire culture has grown up.
Brossard was a big part of creating the culture in Puget Sound. He helped form Corvairs Northwest in 1972. The group would get together to swap parts, tinker with engines — even host a couple of national Corvair conventions.
“There was everybody in the club from stockboys to millionaire ranchers,” said Brossard, who worked in the space division of Boeing. “Everyone was very congenial.”
Over the years, the club has drawn more than 100 members, from drivers focused on performance to people who love the whole underdog feel of it.
Yvonne Martin said she would not part with her Corvair for anything in the world. She gets so much attention, driving her Lemonwood Yellow car all over Seattle — people honking their horns, stopping her at gas stations.
She rented a car once, and what a letdown that turned out to be.
“After two days, I thought: Gosh, no one’s waving at me,” she said. “This is boring.”
Her husband, Roland Martin, former president of Corvairs Northwest, likes the car for a different reason. He belongs to the do-it-yourself crowd, mostly engineers who like tinkering with machines.
It was Roland who came up with the idea of a Corvair Cavalry, a roving band of handy people who will help others in need. “We will ride to your rescue if your Corvair is under attack, as it were,” he said.
There is not much expertise out there on how to fix the car. The Corvair has its fans, but demand is not high. A finely tuned machine might fetch $12,000.
“Owning a Corvair, that’s not a status symbol,” said Kent Sullivan, 38, of Kirkland.
It can get uncomfortable for Corvair owners to join other car shows, where expensive models sit around, looking pretty. So Sullivan started the Discontinued and Orphan Car Show several years ago, hoping to give those less-popular cars a community.
It’s that sense of community that has kept Brossard in Corvairs Northwest. For years, it was a focus for the family. It’s how his five children saw the country — they would pile into the motor home, hitch that tan Corvair onto the trailer, and head for another national Corvair convention.
These days, the Corvair sits in the driveway of Brossard’s Bellevue home, its body wrapped in a tarp. It has gone more than 300,000 miles so far, and is on its third engine. He built that engine, with the help of two other Corvairs Northwest members.
“We put it together with tender loving care,” he said.
Come Sunday, Brossard plans to drive his car over to Issaquah, and open the trunk, for all to see.
Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or firstname.lastname@example.org