Of all the playthings from John Skowron's childhood, one funky shaped truck stood out.
"I played with a Japanese tin toy of the Corvair Rampside," the Arlington Heights resident said. "The flat front was so distinctive.
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"I drove the wheels off it I treasured it so much," he recalls.
That memory never left him as his love for the uniquely styled Corvair brand blossomed. As a teenager, the enthusiast wanted to purchase a worn-out Corvair convertible for $75.
"My dad refused to let me buy what he deemed a 'hunk of junk.' I ended up with a '63 Impala."
However, Skowron's desire to acquire a Corvair wasn't squashed -- just shelved until 1990. It was then that Skowron, a teacher, laid eyes on his principal's vintage ride.
"He would drive his MGB to school and we'd talk cars. When I told him I liked Corvairs, he immediately offered to help me go find one," he said.
That boost of encouragement opened the Corvair floodgates. Soon after that conversation, Skowron purchased a red 1965 convertible in Berwyn. In 1993, he acquired a second 1965 convertible. In 1995 came a 1962 Corvair van and a 1966 sedan was added in 2001.
"I used the '66 as a daily driver for many years. It served faithfully getting me to school," the teacher said.
The final addition to Skowron's Corvair fleet arrived in 2010 and was directly related to that fond childhood playtime memory. Skowron located his 1963 Corvair 95 Rampside near Indianapolis.
"The truck was original and had faded paint, rust and a couple of nicks. Everyone suggested I keep it original and retain that broken-in character," he said. However, the Corvair enthusiasts could only follow their advice for about a year. Once those twelve months passed, Skowron decided to take the special truck to another level.
He took the Rampside to Larry Claypool at the Vair Shop in Frankfort. There a burned-out piston was replaced in the 145-cubic-inch, air-cooled engine. While the engine was apart, all of the piston rings were replaced allowing the vehicle to run on the more readily available 88-octane fuel.
A local body shop assisted in giving the body's battered sheet metal some TLC. Rust was cut out and several patches were added, along with a new coat of Glenwood Green paint and a Cameo White stripe.
"The color is close to the original but I had a darker shade applied. With the hours parked at shows and cruises in the hot sun, it'll take longer for it to fade," Skowron said.
Wire rims were installed along with a special addition in the bed: a bench seat from a 1963 Greenbrier. "The Rampsides have the same mounting points as the passenger-oriented van. The seat bolted right in and is a fantastic and comfy place to sit at cruise nights."
Skowron does use his vintage hauler often and has found the cargo bed with its convenient side ramp a big help in transportation. "My wife and I will move large furniture and other big, bulky objects."
Every time Skowron lowers and raises that side door, he's reminded of the truck's heavy workload past. "I can hear gravel rattling around inside (the door hatch.)"
To keep his fleet of Corvairs organized, Skowron looked to his favorite vacation destination for inspiration. He and his wife love Hawaii and spending time in the tropical paradise.
"To remind us of all the trips there, we put different islands on the license plates," Skowron said.
Whether he's cruising the 50th state or one of the suburbs in his vintage Corvairs, Skowron is sure to be in driving paradise.