I’ve always had a fascination with old cars. My dad had a 1958 Chevy, purchased for the year he and Mom married. It was a boat! We rode in it on Sunday afternoons and in car parades. Now Dad and the car are gone. But I’m reliving those memories by interviewing classic car owners for Indiana Autos and RV’s Magazine. This owner is a friend.
An Unusual Family Heirloom
The 2-door Monza 1968 Chevy Coupe Corvair came off the assembly line with its trunk in front and engine situated in the back. This, of course, was different from most cars manufactured in this country with the engine ahead of the driver and trunk in the rear.
Despite its differences, the Corvair appealed to some farmers from southern Indiana.
On December 5, 1968, Jessie and Luther Pruitt from near Mooresville, Indiana, traded their 1961 Rambler for a new red 1968 Chevy Corvair.
According to the vehicle’s original bill of sale, the cost of the car was $2,507.25. But the Pruitts wanted some “extras”:
Turbo air 110 H.P. engine ($26.35); whitewall tires ($28.20); windshield ($21.10); radio ($61.10), floor mats ($10.55); power glide transmission ($153.15); spare wheel lock ($5.30).
The total cost of car with extras, as well as a transportation charge of $45.00, amounted to $2,858.00. The Pruitts, who bought the vehicle from the Vestal Motor Company in Mooresville, Indiana, received $908 for a trade on their 1961 Rambler. Subtracting that from the Corvair’s price meant the Pruitts had to pay approximately $1,950.00.
Throughout the car’s 40 years of ownership, it has stayed in the family. Jim Miller of Uniondale, Indiana, is the Corvair’s current owner. His wife, Becky, is Luther’s granddaughter. He is unsure why the Pruitts purchased the smaller, sporty-looking car. “The Rambler was seven years old,” he says. “Their children, Wendell and Mary Lou were grown. Maybe they wanted to drive something different.” Mary Lou is Becky’s mother.
Around 1972.Luther Pruitt sold the car to his son, Wendell.
“Wendell already had a Caddy,” says Miller, “so he parked the Corvair in the family’s pole barn.” There it stayed for several years seeing little road action.
In the early 1990s Wendell asked Jim Miller, who was by then married to Becky, to fix up the Corvair. “It had not been driven for many years at that time,” recalls Miller. Hauling the car on a trailer to his home outside of Bluffton, Indiana, Miller repaired it to running condition. He then returned it to Wendell who, other than driving the vehicle in a few local parades, again parked the car inside a building.
After Wendell passed away in 1995, Mary Lou inherited the car. She kept it for a few years, still not driving it. Then, in 2002, she gave the keys and title for the car to Jim Miller. “Its yours,” she told him.
After 36 years of ownership, the speedometer showed 16,000 miles. Each of the car’s components were original. The car still had the original factory tires, owners manual, warranty, and bill of sale. While much of the car was immaculate, Miller had the exterior repainted the original color and a new floor carpet and headliner installed. He also had new tires put on for safety.
Today, 40-plus years into its existence, the Corvair has seen just over 17,000 miles of action.
Miller admits he is careful with the car’s care Other than driving it to church and around the countryside — no stone roads– the Corvair stays inside a building with dry heat. “I check the weather on the days I consider driving it,” he says. “If the pollen count is high,” he says, “there is too much dust. If it is wet weather, it stays inside.”
As the Corvair is by now practically a family heirloom, such care is understandable. “The car is in such great condition and has been in the family so long, I would hate for something to happen to it,” says Miller.