Corvair Wagon Is Now A Two-Door For The Dragstrip

Rick and Clay Tyler are father and son racers who share a piece of drag racing machinery that makes any Chevy person that knows the details of the Corvair wagon do a double-take.

Rick Tyler originally constructed the wagon in the early 1990s from a four-door 1961 Corvair because Chevrolet only manufactured four-door wagons, never a two-door.

Clay, Rick’s son, was there as a young buck when they began fabricating a pair of two-door coupe doors onto the wagon shell. Matching these doors is a relocated coupe latch post, moved just a few inches back. “Surprisingly, we only needed to modify the excess steel from that wagon’s rear doors and then to section the roof line,” says Clay.

Following years of Rick competing in NHRA Super Gas competition and bracket events within his St. Louis region, Clay took the reins of the Corvair and started going after hardcore bracket events.

The Tyler’s completely constructed the tube chassis with a tubular A-arm front end and four-link rear suspension. Aldan American shocks control all suspension points. Along with the highly modified steel shell, the front hood and doghouse are fiberglass.

The wagon rolls on a combination of Hoosier racing tires and Monocoque wheels and is stopped by Wilwood brakes, front and rear.

A 496 cubic-inch big-block Chevy is set up by Mike Tyler. It was built with Dart Machinery aluminum heads and Dart single-plane intake, and an Erson cam and valvetrain. An MSD Performance 7AL ignition box, crankshaft trigger, and distributor control the big-block’s Optima Batteries-powered ignition. The remaining drivetrain consists of an FTI Performance Powerglide and torque converter, a self-fabricated driveshaft, and a braced 9-inch Ford rearend.

Tyler's engine combination is topped off with a reworked Holley Dominator for pro-tree racing by Ken Jones Carburetors. The carb uses alcohol fuel fed by a Jones belt drive mechanical fuel pump.

Rick began campaigning the wagon in 1993, where he won many best-appearing awards and did well in bracket racing.

“A true NHRA Wally always eluded my dad,” said Clay. “The very first bracket race we attended, he won. I thought, ‘Wow, this is cool,’ but as I grew up helping dad over the years, I soon learned it is more challenging than I first thought. Dad got his share of wins, including some NHRA National Dragster Challenge ‘little’ Wallys, but never the big one.”

The doors and door latch posts from a coupe were used to convert the Corvair to a two-door wagon. The square body and roofline provided a reasonable effort for sectioning and shortening the wheelbase from there.

“I’m 48 now, and I have been racing pretty much every Saturday since I was 16 years old,” says Clay. “One day recently, a friend and I tried to figure out how many race cars I’ve driven through the years. I have been in probably 60-70 different cars through the years. Meanwhile, Dad has the same Corvair wagon.”

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He chuckles, “There was some overlap where Dad and I raced together, he in Super Gas and me with a Super Street Malibu. That was a great experience between us.”

The Tyler family in drag racing is not exclusive to the father and son. Clay’s grandfather raced in the St. Louis region for years and ultimately took over managing the historic Mid America Raceways, once in Wentzville, Missouri for many years.

Over time, Rick had stopped the regimen of racing around 2001, and the wagon sat dormant. Clay wanted to take over the car that Dad had so diligently built and ran like a workhorse over the years. A restoration project began, and he has been competing with the familiar Tyler Corvair since 2011.

On the other side of the generations, Clay’s daughter, Kennedie, is now working toward attending the Doug Foley drag racing school. The Tyler family is well into a multi-generational life around drag racing, and the unique Corvair wagon will be its cornerstone for years to come.

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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