1966 Chevy Corvair Monza 2017-06-08T10:08:04+00:00

Project Description

OVERVIEW

When you think of cars powered by a rear-engine, air-cooled, flat 6-cylinder, most people immediately think of the Porsche 911. The engineers in Stuttgart weren’t the only ones tinkering with a rear-engine design and Chevrolet put the Corvair into production in 1960, 5 years ahead of the Porsche 911. And unlike the 911, you could get your Corvair in numerous flavors including a coupe, convertible and even a wagon!

The Corvair was Chevy’s attempt at a small, lightweight compact car similar to what many Europeans were used to driving. It was never intended to be someone’s sole vehicle, instead offering a more fun and fuel-efficient package than most of the huge barges on the road at the time. The low-slung bodywork, big wheels, and aerodynamic profile were unmistakable on the road.

With the top down, this is the perfect “wind in your hair” vehicle. The flat-6 offers a throaty purr and makes it a pleasure to wind the Corvair up through its gears. The delicate 4-speed manual shifter not only looks good but works like a charm, engaging you as the driver with relatively short, precise throws. These later cars had a better suspension system that not only soaks up bumps better but also makes the Corvair feel more nimble and easy to drive.

OVERVIEW

When you think of cars powered by a rear-engine, air-cooled, flat 6-cylinder, most people immediately think of the Porsche 911. The engineers in Stuttgart weren’t the only ones tinkering with a rear-engine design and Chevrolet put the Corvair into production in 1960, 5 years ahead of the Porsche 911. And unlike the 911, you could get your Corvair in numerous flavors including a coupe, convertible and even a wagon!

The Corvair was Chevy’s attempt at a small, lightweight compact car similar to what many Europeans were used to driving. It was never intended to be someone’s sole vehicle, instead offering a more fun and fuel-efficient package than most of the huge barges on the road at the time. The low-slung bodywork, big wheels, and aerodynamic profile were unmistakable on the road.

With the top down, this is the perfect “wind in your hair” vehicle. The flat-6 offers a throaty purr and makes it a pleasure to wind the Corvair up through its gears. The delicate 4-speed manual shifter not only looks good but works like a charm, engaging you as the driver with relatively short, precise throws. These later cars had a better suspension system that not only soaks up bumps better but also makes the Corvair feel more nimble and easy to drive.

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A LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW

As an economy compact, Chevrolet’s rear-engine Corvair was too radical to sell well against Ford’s conservatively designed Falcon. What saved Corvair’s hide was the mid-1960 Monza coupe, which uncovered a vast new market for affordable cars with bucket seats, floor-mounted shifter, and other sporty features.

Though Ralph Nader branded early Corvairs “unsafe at any speed,” the odd handling of the tail-heavy swing-axle design was largely banished by 1964. The following year brought an even more effective independent rear suspension, plus gorgeous new styling. Coupes and sedans became pillarless hardtops, and the Monza convertible (new for ’62) looked better than ever.

The ’65s sold quite well, but the Corvair was now under attack by Ford’s wildly popular new Mustang as well as Mr. Nader. Worse, Chevy decided to halt Corvair development to concentrate on a true Mustang-fighter, the eventual 1967 Camaro. With all this, the Corvair was doomed, and it departed after 1969. At least the jaunty Monza convertible hung on to the end, though in fast-diminishing numbers: 10,345 for ’66, 2109 for ’67, 1386 for ’68, and a mere 521 for ’69.

A LOOK IN THE REAR VIEW

As an economy compact, Chevrolet’s rear-engine Corvair was too radical to sell well against Ford’s conservatively designed Falcon. What saved Corvair’s hide was the mid-1960 Monza coupe, which uncovered a vast new market for affordable cars with bucket seats, floor-mounted shifter, and other sporty features.

Though Ralph Nader branded early Corvairs “unsafe at any speed,” the odd handling of the tail-heavy swing-axle design was largely banished by 1964. The following year brought an even more effective independent rear suspension, plus gorgeous new styling. Coupes and sedans became pillarless hardtops, and the Monza convertible (new for ’62) looked better than ever.

The ’65s sold quite well, but the Corvair was now under attack by Ford’s wildly popular new Mustang as well as Mr. Nader. Worse, Chevy decided to halt Corvair development to concentrate on a true Mustang-fighter, the eventual 1967 Camaro. With all this, the Corvair was doomed, and it departed after 1969. At least the jaunty Monza convertible hung on to the end, though in fast-diminishing numbers: 10,345 for ’66, 2109 for ’67, 1386 for ’68, and a mere 521 for ’69.

WORD ON THE STREET

“Nothing GM did that standout year approached the 1965 Corvair for chic simplicity. Among American cars, only Bob Bourke’s brilliant 1953 Studebaker Starliner hardtop comes close to matching the compact Chevy’s irresistible sophistication and refinement of design, a beautifully cohesive look that’s (mostly) only possible if designed by a single hand. The 1965 Corvair was Ron Hill’s masterpiece.”

Peter Robinson, Motor Trend

“You’ll want a drip tray to catch all the charm leaking from this car. Not only is it handsome in a very Mad Men-era 60s sort of way, it also has that little bit of bad-boy cachet since you’re driving something unsafe, at any speed. Even the leisurely neighborhood jaunt at 32 MPH becomes a daredevil’s run, at least in the eyes of people who just know the car from Wikipedia reports about recent third-party presidential candidates. For those in the know, however, they’ll realize what a prize this old red lady is, and treat her with the respect she deserves.”

Jason Torchinsky, Jalopnik

“The Chevrolet Corvair was a space efficient, low-slung compact with a six-cylinder air-cooled engine. The rear engine promised a low center of gravity, light unassisted steering, superb traction and balanced braking– all the same qualities that Porsche had been cultivating successfully for years. Budget-minded American driving enthusiasts were thrilled.

The timelessly elegant, superb handling 1965 Chevrolet Corvair was built past the Camaro’s 1967 intro– just so General Motors would not be seen to be buckling-in to Nader and other detractors. But tightening emission and safety standards had sealed its fate; the Corvair died a quiet death in 1969.”

Paul Niedermeyer, The Truth About Cars

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