You don’t have to know anything at all about the legendary Don Yenko – with his various exploits with Chevrolet factory cars and experience as a performance driver – to know that this Corvair is something extraordinary. Typically (and wrongfully), the Corvair is thought of as a small, awkwardly-engineered car that just doesn’t quite fit into the GM line-up of bigger bodied sports cars. And with all the controversy surrounding it and the relatively small, niche-like fan base, too few gearheads have an interest in realizing just what the Corvair is all about.
In essence, it was a heavily European-influenced scrambler of a car, with a hugely unique layout for the time period it was introduced. The rear-mounted and air-cooled flat-six boxer engine stuck out like a sore thumb in the midst of the always water-cooled inlines or V8s that the General was so fond of.
But even Yenko, who was notorious for taking the all-American machines of his day and amplifying their brutishness with big-blocks, expounded on the unique spirit of the Corvair rather than ditching it altogether. He held on to the flat-six motor, managing to draw up to 220 horsepower from the factory-rated 140-horsepower setup without forced-induction. This, in a rear-engined package weighing just over 2,000 pounds, proved to create an unparalleled driving experience.
As Leno points out when examining his own Stinger, the car is very different from anything else Yenko or even Chevy produced in the ’60s – hell, it’s the only rear-engined production car Chevy’s ever made. Leno consistently compares the Stinger to an early-model Porsche in terms of behavior; and even if you’re not a fan of sports cars from across the pond, Porsches are unquestionably one of the universal benchmarks for performance and handling.
It’s no wonder then that the Stinger was such a huge success in competitive racing. It’s a bittersweet thing that only 100 were made (with only around 60 to 70 still surviving, as stated in the video). The exclusivity adds to the greatness of the car, but also highly limits the number of people who get to truly appreciate it first hand. Negative opinions of the Corvair would be quickly cleared away after some one-on-one time with Yenko’s version of the incredible car.