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Corvair Original Batteries

By Kent Sullivan

Thanks to Dave Newell for many key pieces of information!

(updated August, 2007, April, 2014, and November, 2014) This article was published in the August, 2006 CORSA Communique.

Note: Research on this topic is still very much ongoing. It would be great if CORSA members could provide pictures of NOS or used examples of:

Introduction

Let's begin with an overview of the standard and optional batteries that Corvair purchasers had available from the factory, as described in the two tables below:

AABM/BCI

Delco/SAE

Delco Wet #

Delco Dry #

# Plates/cell

Usage

53

14M2

456

457

7

1960-61 cars and FCs through 5/7/61

53

14M2

556

557

9

1961-64 cars and 1961-65 FCs beginning 5/8/61

22F

17M1

554

555

9

1965 cars

22FC

17MJ1

554

555

9

1966 cars

22FC

17MJ1

---

Y55

9

1967-69 cars

Table 1: Corvair standard batteries (OEM)

AABM/BCI

Delco/SAE

Delco Wet #

Delco Dry #

# Plates/cell

Usage

53

14M2

556

557

9

1960-61 cars and FCs through 5/7/61

24T

2ST

568

569

11

1965 cars

24TC

9TJ3

568

569

11

1966 cars

24TC

9TJ3

---

R69

11

1967-69 cars

Table 2: Corvair optional batteries (OEM)

Column Meanings

AABM Group Number Code Letters

C: "Clamp". Beginning in 1966, an indentation or trough was molded into the case along the length of both long sides of the battery, at the bottom. This coincided with the switch from an over-the-top battery hold-down to a clamp at the base. See Photo 6.

F: Originally "Ford" and used to indicate a reversed post arrangement. Over time, morphed into "Flange hold down". The group 22F and 22FC batteries used in Corvairs did indeed have a flange protruding from both short sides of the battery. It was unused in the Corvair but in other cars, like the Chevy II, it provided a clamping surface for securing the battery. See Photo 6.

T: "Tall". The group 24T battery was indeed 3/4" taller than the group 24 battery. The extra height provided room for bigger plates and thus more cranking power. See Photo 10.

Optional Batteries

The optional battery was offered as a heavy-duty upgrade. In 1960, the optional battery was RPO 655. In 1961, it was RPO 345 through May 7. Beginning May 8, the 556/557 battery became standard equipment. No optional battery was offered from that point through 1964. From 1965-69 the optional battery was RPO T60. See Photo 5 and Photo 9.

The choice of a group 24T/24TC battery for RPO T60 may seem odd at first glance since it was much less common than the plain group 24 used on many other high-volume Chevy car lines as the standard battery. Research has shown that the 24T/24TC was offered across all of the Chevy lines as RPO T60 so this decision was also applied to Corvair. It's doubtful that the Corvair really needed the extra oomph of the 24T/24TC; the more common group 24 battery would have provided more than enough cranking power for the compression of the Corvair engine.

Battery Construction

Until 1967, the battery construction was a hard rubber case with a tar top. All other Delco batteries available during this same period were also tar tops. In mid-1966, Delco came out with a completely new product line called the Energizer. This battery had a molded plastic case and is often referred to as a "hard top" battery.

At the time of the Energizer's introduction, the early Corvair was the only GM product using the group 53 Delco battery (556/557) so it was not offered in the Energizer line. The same tar top battery continued to be sold as a replacement well into the 1970s.

The 456/457 battery had raised lettering on the post side of the battery and it was painted yellow. See Photo 1. The 556/557 battery did too, through 1964. See Photo 2. Sometime later, the paint was dropped from service replacement batteries. We have one example from 1971 without the paint. See Photo 3. The yellow paint was visible in 1960 Corvairs due to the mounting orientation but faced the fender well from 1961-64. For some reason, the order was never given to paint the other side of the battery!

Battery Product Lines

Delco marketed batteries in various product lines or series. The group 53 Corvair batteries (456/457 and 556/557) were part of the DC-12 series while the 1965-6 group 22F/FC Corvair batteries (554/555) and 1965-6 group 24T/TC Corvair batteries (568/569) were part of the DC-12 High Capacity series.

In the Energizer line, the group 22FC Corvair battery (Y55) was part of the E-3000 series, denoted with yellow caps (when purchased as a replacement). See Photo 6. The group 24TC Corvair battery (R69) was part of the E-5000 series, denoted with red caps. See Photo 9. The E-5000 was considered top of the line, with up to 16% more cranking power. See Photo 10 and Photo 11 for a comparison of the Y55 and R69. The R69 was clearly much larger, to accommodate larger plates.

Battery Part Numbers

For group 53 batteries, the Delco wet part number (456 or 556) was stamped in the top center of the long side of the case.

The assembly manuals do not use the Delco part numbers but rather a typical Chevy 7-digit part number. In some years, the last three digits correspond to the Delco wet number for the battery. This confirms that the cars received batteries with acid on the assembly line. The acid was not added as a separate step before being driven off the line.

When the Energizer line was introduced, no wet part numbers were specified in the Delco literature, only dry. Wet and dry numbers continued to be specified for the previous battery series. Therefore, it appears that only dry Energizers were sold.

The Energizer part numbers were generally derived from dry part numbers from prior battery series. Examples: Y55 superseded 555 while R69 superseded 569.

Battery Caps

All of the Corvair batteries except the 568/569 and R69 have cell tops designed for push-in battery caps. The 568/569 and R69 have screw-in caps.

From 1960 until sometime in the spring of 1964, the caps were individual (one per cell). From that point on, the standard batteries switched to a vented three-gang cap with hose. Even though the battery type changed between 1964 and 1965, the same cap fit—the between-cell spacing was the same for the group 53 and group 22F batteries. See Photo 6 and Photo 7.

Because the cells were oriented differently on these two batteries, the caps for 1964 may have been assembled with the vent hose on the right with respect to the lettering. This would have allowed the DELCO lettering right side up when viewed from the rear of the car. The same cap was also used with the 1967-69 hard-top Energizer battery even though the Delco branding had changed. In contrast, 1968 and later Corvettes used a three-gang cap with the "modern" Energizer branding.

All RPO T60 heavy-duty batteries came with 2 two-piece vented cap covers and hoses. This provided the same functionality as the vented-three gang caps used on the standard batteries. These cap covers were used rather than modifying the 568/569 and R69 batteries to use push-in caps. See Photo 8.

It is unclear what caps were sold with at least some of the service replacement batteries. As Photo 4 shows, they may have been sold with individual caps after the three-gang caps became standard at the factory. Since only the last few months of early Corvair production used the three-gang caps, this is reasonably likely.

Reproduction Battery Availability

At this time, no exact reproduction batteries, caps, or hoses are available. The three items that are close to correct are:

  1. Axion Battery Products, Inc. (formerly New Castle Battery) does sell a group 53 battery for 1960-64 Corvairs that is licensed from GM, complete with the original-type Delco raised side lettering painted yellow, but it has a hard plastic top, not a tar top like the original.

  2. Antique Auto Battery does sell a group 22FC tar top battery similar to what the Corvair used in 1966 but it has screw-in caps. Antique Auto Battery also sells a group 24 reproduction but not a 24T.

  3. Several Corvette parts houses sell vent hoses that are of the same material but slightly different length than Corvair. The Corvette hoses also have a 45 degree angle cut in the lower end.

Battery Pictures and Notes

Unfortunately, we don't yet have any pictures of the 1965 or 1966 group 22F/22FC batteries. We also don't have pictures of the 1965 or 1966 group 24T/24TC batteries.

Photo 1: NOS tar top battery. Delco P/N 456.

Note yellow paint on post side. This service replacement came in a box labeled "Corvair '60" so we know it was manufactured before the 1961 model year. Since the battery was sold dry, it is technically P/N 457.

Photo 2: NOS tar top battery. Delco P/N 556.

Note yellow paint on post side. This service replacement came in a box labeled "1960-61 Corvair" so we know it was manufactured before the 1962 model year. We have pictures of an identical battery (including yellow paint) with a box that says 1960-63. Since the battery was sold dry, it is technically P/N 557.

Photo 3: NOS tar top battery. Delco P/N 556.

Note no yellow paint on post side—indicates a later service replacement. Exact year is unknown.

Photo 4: Used tar top battery from 1971. Delco P/N 556.

Note: This battery was sold in 1971 or later given the copyright date on the warranty tag. Note the single push-in caps instead of three-gang caps. Also note the special Delco eye cap, first available in 1967.

Photo 5 NOS tar top battery. Delco P/N 569 (RPO T60).

Note: This battery was sold on eBay in early 2014. The NOS cardboard box lists model applications up through the 1963 model year, so it was produced sometime during that timeframe. The part number on the top of this battery appears to be 568 while the number on the side appears to be 569. The number on the cardboard box is 569. The box also mentions that it is not for the Corvair application, which was true in 1963, since the Group 24T battery was not offered as RPO T60 until 1965.

Photo 6: Energizer E-3000 series hard top battery from 1968 Corvair. Delco P/N Y-55.

Both groups of cells had vented battery caps. We removed one set to show the cell openings. Thanks to Jim Brossard for letting me photograph this battery!

Photo 7: Three-gang vented battery caps and hoses as used on 1965-69 Corvair with standard battery.

Photo 8: Two-piece vented battery cap cover as used with screw-in caps on 1965-69 Corvair with heavy-duty battery (RPO T60).

Photo 9: Energizer E-5000 series hard top battery from 1969 Corvair. Delco P/N R69 (RPO T60).

Note: This battery was removed from a 1969 Corvair Monza coupe (#3625). Thanks to Mike McKeel for letting me photograph this battery!

Photo 10: Comparison of Y55 and R69, side view.

Mike also had a Y55 so we were able to do a side-by-side comparison. Notice how much longer and taller the R69 is!

Photo 11: Comparison of Y55 and R69, top view.

Same two batteries from the top—the R69 was also wider than the Y55. Note the tag on top of the R69. It reads: "Recommend replacement with Energizer R69". I assume that means this was an original factory-installed battery! The Y55 was a replacement battery from 1972 or later due to the year range provided on the warranty tag.

 

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