x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

My Car: Love is in the Corvair

Todd Stermer, a long-term UAE resident, was reunited with his high school sweetheart when he bought a 1965 Chevrolet Corvair.

Todd Stermer had his 1965 Corvair shipped from the US. He bought it to compensate for the commuting he does between his home in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
Todd Stermer had his 1965 Corvair shipped from the US. He bought it to compensate for the commuting he does between his home in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

Todd Stermer was born in the same year as his 1965 Chevrolet Corvair. He first fell for this particular model in high school and has recently returned to his first love after importing one into the UAE last year. A globe-trotting American, Stermer has also lived in South Korea, Myanmar and Costa Rica before coming to the UAE in 1996 on an 18-month project and has lived here ever since.

Now working with AECOM in Abu Dhabi, Stermer bought the classy convertible in January 2010 on eBay from a small town near Los Angeles, with the car arriving in the UAE three months later. Used by Todd as a weekend car, the Corvair has an air-cooled, 2.7L flat-six engine, rated at 110hp, with a four-speed transmission and factory air-conditioning, which is rare for a car of its age.

"I drove a Corvair in the US through high school and college," he says. "I've always loved these cars for their styling and unique design, and yearned to own another one day. I've always been interested in rarer cars in general, both for the driving experience as well as the satisfaction of working on them.

"I enjoy being involved with other motor enthusiasts, but had put the car hobby on hold ever since arriving in the UAE. However, a few years ago, I saw a Corvair for sale locally, which got me quite excited, but unfortunately the car had serious rust problems and the owner was asking way too much.

"But my interest had been reignited and, as soon as I'd landed my present job in Abu Dhabi, the idea of getting a classic car as a hobby took hold as something to compensate for commuting more than 15 hours a week. My wonderful wife acquiesced to my insanity and, after a few months of searching, I had bought and taken delivery of a 46-year-old car."

Stermer had the car shipped to the UAE, but didn't get to enjoy it for another 10 days until after he returned from a holiday. He was happy to find a fairly well-cared-for Corvair, but it wasn't in perfect shape.

"Someone had added rub strips along either side of the car, which were attached with screws. The previous owner thankfully removed these, as they must have been ugly, but this had left a row of holes along either side, which I covered with fat black pinstripes. The car would be stunning with a new paint job, but I've agreed with my wife to keep spending on it to a minimum, so I'm not planning anything major yet."

Already, the Corvair has become part of the Stermer family.

"We host an annual Christmas Eve party at our house and have a collection of classic car Christmas tree ornaments with presents inside them. My wife, Lisa, had the great idea of dressing up the Corvair to match and put some big wrapped 'presents' on the luggage rack and a Christmas tree in the back seat. With the maroon paint and white interior it looked liked something Santa might drive. All our party guests posed with the car and we got some great pictures."

Stermer laments that, with a busy lifestyle, he doesn't drive the convertible as much as he'd like. But he couldn't be happier with the Corvair and says the unique car is quite a head-turner all around town.

"Recently I've been involved with Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub, so I've taken it out to a couple of meets and been pleasantly surprised with the reaction and interest it's generated," he says.

"My car club friends think it's cool and my neighbours were probably all a bit surprised that I went through with buying it, but they all know I am a bit eccentric."