“The Corvair was an entry-level car and the only vehicle my folks would allow me to have”
Malibu and its surrounding communities attract some very unique people. Creative powerhouses who churn out their own unique brand of awesome. And as a result of giving to the world that special kind of creative prowess, sometimes things make their way into this town that could not stay away.
Enter, my good friend Tony Dow. Now, if you’re not sure who Tony is, let me introduce you: Tony’s background as a former actor, writer, producer and director placed him in a business that virtually never retires. His love now is as a sculptor created at his unique house in Topanga Canyon. But his claim to fame began back in the day as Wally from the “Leave it to Beaver” television series.
“My original first car was a 1962 Chevy Corvair,” began Dow. “And it was just recently returned to me after 50 years. I’m not a real car guy, as my daily is a Prius. Not too exciting … but the Corvair is pretty cool.”
The the guy Tony sold it to in High School was Al Dadisman, who did a ground-up restoration in 1987. In addition to cosmetic work he replaced the 104 HP original engine with a 180 HP turbocharged Spyder engine. The cylinders were bored to increase displacement to 2.7L with a Sig Erson 286-degree racing cam, Iskederian retainers and racing springs. He also installed forged aluminum TRW pistons fully balanced along with a 2”SU HD-8 Jaguar XK-E carburetor.” So, although Tony’s not a car guy, he’s got a classic car in beast mode.
“The alcohol/water injection system bumps the HP up to 235+ and it also has a 3.89:1 limited slip rear axle and front and rear sway bars and HD shocks. What all this means, I’ve got no idea, but it sounds good,” says Tony.
Dow originally bought the Corvair in 1961 and sold it to Al in 1965 some 52 years ago. But last year he got an email from Al’s best friend, Marty Tryon, who said he had his original car and did he want it back? “I thought he was nuts,” explains Tony.
Finally, after a few days, he called him back and heard the whole story about these two best friends loving the car all through high school, working together on the car in his garage, rallies, dates, etc. It was part of their happy teenage years. But as Al became more ill, they both decided when he passed that Marty would try to find Dow and return it to its original owner. Pretty cool.
“The Corvair was an entry-level car and the only vehicle my folks would allow me to have,” he said. A hard thing to believe as when you look at Tony’s license plate, which reads; Unsafe at Any Speed. “But you know how fearful parents of 16-year old novice drivers are,” he continues. Now it’s a relic of his youth parked in the carport of Dow’s incredible home.
Tony’s favorite part of the car? How the style has held up. According to Dow and his wife, Lauren, it still looks groovy. And that “Unsafe Speed” is awesome as we took it for a spin on my show Fireball Malibu Vlog on Youtube.
“I’ve had three Porsches,” Dow said, “and this thing handles better than any of them. I drive it occasionally for fun and show up at the monthly car show in Malibu.”
And finally, the best story? “In 1961, I had gotten everything together. Midnight blue with black interior from the factory. A custom Tonneau over the back seat, new sound system, etc. One day, after playing volleyball at Santa Monica City College, I came out to find the car on blocks and my bitchin’ chrome wheels nowhere in sight. Damn!” Little did they know from whom they were stealing. Saying that on ebay would have jacked up the value tenfold.
As we finished lunch and this photoshoot, Tony expressed his love of our little town this way. “The canyons in and around Malibu are so beautiful and fun to drive. And of course, driving out of the foothills to see the beautiful blue of the Pacific. Life is good.”
Yes, this we know. And driving cool cars only makes it better.
Check out more at fireballtim.com
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the September 2017 print issue of the Drive Magazine.