Ron Cherry: A Santa Claus Corvair |

Ron Cherry: A Santa Claus Corvair

Finding a 1963 car with only 5,600 miles on the odometer is very rare. Finding one with the original interior and paint in great condition is even rarer. This is just such a car.
Photo by Ron Cherry |


WHO: The Roamin Angels Car Club

WHERE: K-Mart Parking lot on McKnight Way, Grass Valley

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

WHAT: The Roamin Angels Annual Toy Drive

WHY: To get toys and funds for needy families at Christmas time

HOW: By collecting unwrapped, new toys as well as monetary donations

When I met with Santa Claus and Corvair afficionado Christie Barden at a local coffee shop, the little old driver was already on his second hot cocoa with extra marshmallows. Santa, that is.

I gave him a cautionary look. “Aren’t you a little over your sugar limit?”

His eyes twinkled, his dimples red as roses. “Don’t worry. Christie gave me a ride here in his ’63 Corvair Monza,” he said. “I like it. It’s the kind of car that’s perfect for the Roamin Angels’ Annual Toy Drive at the K-Mart parking lot today from 9 a.m. ‘til 2 p.m. I’ll be there, arriving in a ’48 Van Pelt fire truck, but that Corvair is cool.”

I mulled that over. “I never knew you were a Corvair fan like Christie. I mean, he’s got five Corvairs and a Corvair-powered Ultravan motor home. Why do you like it?”

Santa laid a finger aside his nose as he considered this. “It’s red, you know. My favorite color. And it’s all original, like me.” He laughed so hard that his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly.

I turned to Christie. “It’s an all-original ’63 Corvair? What’s the story?”

“It’s only got 5,600 miles on it,” he said. “I’m only the sixth owner. One of the others was the Sloan Museum in Flint, Michigan, and another was the Nickey Registry in Chicago, so they didn’t put many miles on it.”

I was intrigued. “But the Nickey Registry is famous for souping up Chevrolets. They left the Corvair stock?”

Christie nodded. “When the owner before me bought it, it was bone stock. It only had 4,500 miles on it but had been sitting for years, so he went through the brakes and did a complete tune up. He got it into top shape.

“However, he made a few changes, like putting in quick steering and custom wheels, 22 inches in back and 20 inches in front. There is only one other set like them on a Corvair in the United States, so they are unique. But he kept all the original parts, so it can be made totally original at any time. The car even had all the paperwork on it since it was new.”

A Roamin Angel tale

I leaned back in my chair. “That’s quite a car. How did you ever find it?”

“It’s sort of a Roamin Angel tale,” Christie said. “A Roamin Angel was buying a car from this guy in Minnesota who also had the Corvair for sale. He emailed another Roamin Angel who lives in Arizona about it. That guy told him I was the Corvair fanatic and the first Roamin Angel emailed me the contact info for the owner of the Corvair.

“So I contacted him and he sent me the description and photos. I was blown away and bought it sight unseen. It was a great bit of luck.”

Santa sipped his cocoa and brushed some ashes and soot from his sleeve. “I wish people would clean their chimneys more often,” he said. “And it wasn’t luck. I’m the one who put the idea of contacting you in the two Roamin Angels’ minds. It’s how I work, you know.”

Too much cocoa could make Santa a little testy, so I just turned back to Christie. “How did you get it out here?”

Christie chuckled. “Well, I was going to buy a trailer here and pick it up. Then I thought, ‘Why tow it from here to bring the car back?’ So I found a 26 foot enclosed car trailer on Craigslist in Minnesota and bought it, sight unseen. I drove back, picked up the trailer and then the car. They were both great.”

Santa gave a wink of his eye and a nod of his head. “That was an early Christmas gift from me. That’s how I do things. I let people think it was their idea, but it was me. Just like I’m the one who inspired the Roamin Angels to collect unwrapped toys and donations to help the kiddies and needy families this Christmas.

“I’m the one who inspired the All Veterans Honor Guard to do the flag raising and the Lyman Gilmore Bombers to sing Christmas carols for the toy drive.”

I smiled. “But you know, nothing would happen if people ignored you or didn’t get into the Christmas spirit.”

His eyes twinkled and his droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow. “How true. It’s the Roamin Angels and the Salvation Army that put it together and it’s members of this community that make it work. The Salvation Army will be providing free coffee and donuts in the morning and the Roamin Angels will be serving free BBQ hot dogs, popcorn, sodas and water after that.

“There’ll even be a clown making balloon toys for the kiddies. A lot of people are working hard to make this a fun event for everyone, while helping those who wouldn’t have a very merry Christmas otherwise.”

He turned to Christie. “And, in the spirit of Christmas, can I take the Corvair for a spin?”

“I suppose,” Christie said as he slowly handed the keys to Santa. “Just be careful with it.”

Santa sprang to the car and gave a low whistle. Then away he flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and come to the Roamin Angel Toy Drive!”

As his Corvair sped away to the sound of squealing tires and the smell of burning rubber, Christie softly muttered, “I didn’t know that little 145 cubic inch engine with an auto trans could do that.”

Ron Cherry’s books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, “The St. Nicholas Murders,” is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at

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