The Value Of Scrap Metal: John Ludwick Jr.’s Chevy Corvair

“If it doesn’t sell today, it’s going to the scrap yard tomorrow.”

Depending on your viewpoint, hearing these words while trying to negotiate a deal for a car is either a very good thing or a very bad thing. Glass half full, the price is probably cheap; glass half empty, the car might be more trouble than it’s worth.

But what is life without risk? Boring, that’s what. John Ludwick Jr. is many things, but boring is not one of them.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1681

In my conversations with John, about both this car and his Zhiguli, I got to know the man behind the wheel just a little bit. The first thing I observed is that he’s an incredibly busy person – he returned my calls, emails and texts from at least three different time zones over a 10-day period.

John’s so busy, simply because he’s always creating. Bikes to cars, cars to laser engraving – Mr. Ludwick takes great pride in making things his own.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1793

An internal desire to modify and refine influences nearly all of his life choices, car selection not withstanding. The need to create was instilled by his father, someone who, like son, has a hard time leaving things as the factory intended.

Today, John and his father draw inspiration from each other. If one has an idea, no matter how far-fetched, the other is grabbing the tools to make it happen.

Don’t, can’t, and shouldn’t are words that hold no real value in the Ludwick family garage.

Nobody’s Perfect
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1295

The Chevrolet Corvair is a very imperfect car, but not one without charm. Built to compete with various German air-cooled cars of the era, the Corvair was the first GM car with a motor housed behind the front windshield.

Despite being the subject of a rather unflattering book titled Unsafe at Any Speed, the Corvair wasn’t a complete failure. These cars have a cult following today, and the turbocharged variants are rumored to be quite fun to drive. Or at least as fun as a domestic car with a blow draw-through turbo setup can be.

For John, his love for the platform came from a neighbor that lived up the way. Neighbor Ted had a Corvair of his own, but it was no ordinary model. Ted dug the lines of the Corvair, but not the lackluster power-plant it came with. However, that problem was soon solved with eight cylinders of American small block power.

Ted later went on to pair the V8 swap with a proper suspension package before mass-producing the entire package under the brand Crown Manufacturing.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1523

When Crown eventually shut its doors roughly 1,500 swap kits later, Ted retired back to New Hampshire with his original test vehicle. Ted loved that car and made sure the entire town knew it as he drove up and down the local drag at a decent clip. On one such instance, a young John saw the car and an interest was born.

John admits that as he got older, and more into German cars, the idea of an air-cooled domestic car intrigued him more than a V8-powered one, but he acknowledges Ted’s car as an inspiration nonetheless.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1414

Looking on and off for a Corvair ever since, the perfect car was discovered one night while cruising Craigslist. Original blue paint fighting its way back to the surface through a hastily done brown respray, this car had character unlike any other he’d seen listed for sale. A few days later when the owner offered up the quote that started this article off, the Corvair’s return to the street was set in motion.

Off With His Head
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1310

In the world of Corvairs you’d be hard pressed to find many lower than this (somewhat ironically, any close have already been featured here). The ride height contributes to its stature, sure, but the roof chop is what really sets this car apart.

John and his father always thought a Corvair would look great with a little chopped off the top, and despite neither having performed one before, both were willing to give it a proper go.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1331

I asked how much the roof had been chopped and John hesitated only slightly before responding with “enough”. I’m not quite sure if that’s a metric or imperial measure, but “enough” certainly makes a drastic difference to the car’s overall profile.

When a roof of this design is chopped, its overall dimensions change. In short, they get longer. To complete the chop, John and his father had to cut up a second Corvair for the sheetmetal required to fill the gap. The added material can been seen grafted on behind the metal strip that runs from drip rail to drip rail in the photos above.

With the roof dimensions changed, the stock glass had no hope of fitting. The rear screen is acrylic and was shaped in a home-built wood oven. Once warmed to a workable temperature, the acrylic was laid over the stock rear glass then cut to fit the new roof.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1412

Acrylic works for the rear, but wasn’t a suitable option for the windshield. So, with mere days before starting on a drive from New Hampshire to Georgia, John and his father set forth to cut the original glass.

Typically when cutting a windshield to size new glass is used, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Cutting the weather-worn glass mostly went to plan, save for two cracks that unfortunately appeared right in the driver’s line of sight. Swapping the windshield for a new one has been on the post-completion to-do list ever since, however, it’s not a simple remove and reinstall, so it’s easy to see why it still remains unaddressed. Pick your battles and all that.

Selective Preservation
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1238

Inside, what’s left of the stock interior is original to the car. This is impressive considering the Corvair was last registered in 1973, and remained completely neglected until the moment John dragged it from the ground it had sunk into.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1505

The seats, however, couldn’t stay stock as they no longer fit from an aesthetic or ergonomic standpoint. Those in the car today are pressed aluminum pieces made by Rotten Leonard, and feature ornate side plates, authentic rivets, and minimalist upholstery. More importantly, they can be mounted in the car as low as possible negating any head clearance issues caused by the roof chop.

Having put miles upon miles on the car, John says they’re actually pretty comfortable as well, making them a very functional aesthetic modification.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1428

The rest of the interior has been modified in a fashion that puts everything you may need exactly where you’d need it. Where a dome light is more typically found, John has mounted a fuse panel. Slots closest to the windshield are in use, while those in the rear hold spares. Right above the driver’s line of sight, switches have been added to control interior lighting, a pair of compressors, and 12V auxiliary power sources.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1430

As a shout-out to his long-time project collaborators Air Lift Performance, John stuck the 3H management control module where a radio would have previously been housed. Replacing the tape-driven soundtrack is the tinny echo of 1965 sheetmetal battling the ground as it whizzes by underfoot.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1464

If you were expecting some sort of complex motor swap under the engine cover, I’m sorry to disappoint. This Corvair’s engine is factory stock. Running like a top after a slight tune up, John has seen no need to change it. Instead, the lion’s share of this car’s mechanical work lays in the suspension.

Getting the car as low as it is required custom control arms, upper and lower bag brackets, and even notching the uni-body a significant amount.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1347
Impeccable Taste

If there’s a constant among John’s builds – other than a low ride height – it’s impeccable wheel choices. At one point this car wore more traditional – Chevy traditional - five-spoke Cragars, but he’s since replaced them with five-spoke Southern Way Epsilon wheels.

Shockingly, in the 1980s it was possible to order Epsilon wheels specced for a C4 Corvette straight from General Motors. These wheels came from such a Corvette, and were run for a few years before the owner replaced them with something else.

After not seeing the light of day for 20 years, John managed to scoop them up, give them a light polish, and toss them under the Corvair.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1521
Talking Point

Since resurrecting the Corvair, John has driven the car a lot - much more than you’d expect a car of this custom nature to be driven. Being such a simple car has its advantages too, and thus far it’s needed little more than fluid changes to be completely content.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1793

Its simplicity and character also makes it one of ‘those’ cars that draws gear-heads out of the woodwork wherever it goes. This isn’t a car that people just drive by; it’s one people make u-turns for in hopes of a second glance and a conversation with the owner.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1480

John welcomes these conversations with a smile, as they’re the ones he values most among the car community.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1722

Like-minded individuals chatting about what drives them and what lays on the horizon – we’ve all had conversations like this that leave us motivated to tackle the next, even larger project.

Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1691

I’m not sure if it’s proper form to cheers with a coffee – especially a Dunkin’ coffee – but I’d like to offer up John a cheers of my own for building cars that are as enjoyable to look at as they are to write about.

Hey Keiron, can you go shoot his Beetle-panned 700 now?

Dave Thomas
Instagram: stanceiseverythingcom

Photography by Keiron Berndt
Instagram: keiron_berndt

Cutting Room Floor
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1472
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Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1604
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1625
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1618
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1328
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Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1245
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1492
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1523
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Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1782
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Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1369
Keiron Berndt - John Ludwick - Corvair - 2019-1350


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The chop is perfect. Not too much and it totally compliment the sleek lines from the factory.


Really does look great - I wouldn't have even noticed, it works so well!


"Or at least as fun as a domestic car with a blow-through turbo setup can be."

Yeah the Japanese and German turbo cars in 1965 were way better to drive.


WHAT "Japanese and German turbo cars in 1965"? The Corvair Corsa was the only game in town - no other turbo cars were in production at that time.


As fun as "non-existant" can be!


hey, there's no edit button...that was referring to the absence of JDM or Euro Turbo cars at the time.


Fair point. That line was somewhat in jest. :P


What a moron.

Jordan Butters

Don't be so hard on yourself.


Care to elaborate?


On first look I thought it was John Wick

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Damn Dave! If you did not mention about the roof chop, I wouldn't have known about it. It looks factory!

Michael Rinaldi

Love this thing! Plus, it happens to wear my holy grail of wheels...some day my E28 will wear some. Any further specs on them?


If I recall correctly they are came in 16 or 17 x 9.5" at an et of somewhere in the 50s. I can ask John for you if you'd like?

Michael Rinaldi

That'd be awesome if you could. These are super hard to find and being 5-bolt aren't too difficult to mount up; always good to have notes on similar fitments. 17x9.5" is about ideal (I run 17x10's right now). Cheers!


Love the '39 Ford that showed up randomly. That's in impeccable shape.


Nice feature. I only wish we could have seen some images of the suspension mods.

David Humphrey

Don't care for the rat rod rust patina, but it would be a shame to scrap out a straight late model with suspension mods. Where is the car located? What would you be asking? Scrap value would be only be about $200 plus price of the wheels and tires based upon condition.

I owned 3 Corvairs long ago. A 1965 parts car, a stock 1966 4spd Monza, and a 1969 500 with Corsa Dash and a 327 Chevy V8 using the Kelmark kit. Lots of hours in that car.

Don't need another project, wife would nix much investment, but I'm intrigued. Where is the car? I'm near York , Pa.
Does it have a clean transferable title?


Lol, I don’t think he is selling it, i believe that was the value that he paid for it

Barbara Presnell

What an abomination! To do something that ugly to my favorite car in the whole world is indeed heresy. I had a 1967 white Corvair convertible with a French blue top that was my pride and joy. It was the first NEW car that my husband and I bought, and still holds a special place in my heart. A real restoration would have been so much better. Shame!


Always wonder how this kind of patinas are maintained...


a classic visual design, beautiful shape.
hope the rust is contained & attended to.
no mention of how the car handles with the wheel camber & lowering