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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The Monza GT and SS prove that the second-gen Corvair was revolutionary long before it was real | Hagerty Media

What the passing car enthusiast fails to realize is how revolutionary the Corvair was, even in its production form. In the 1980s and 1990s, all that U.S. manufacturers wanted to do was build an American version of a European sports sedan.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-profiles/twins-corvair-monza-gt-and-monza-ss-concept-cars/
58 REPLIES 58
PhillipinSD
Pit Crew

I had photos of the Corvair GT and SS when I was in the 8th grade which would be 1965. I showed the to my classmates who were interest in sports cars. We thought yes we would get those when we were old enough to drive. Chevy and GM had us sold. But by spring of 1967 they let us all down.

By the 11th grade I had saved up enough money to get my own car. My father was trying to sell me on a 1964 yellow Corvair. But I got a sweet deal on a '64 Malibu SS convertible instead. Well in my opinion Chevy could have made the Corvair SS but I guess it would hurt the sales of the Corvette. I doubt Nader's book had any influence on those who would have loved to have the Corvair GT and SS. Could you imagine what those models would be worth today had they gone ahead and built them instead of '65 Corvair Corsa?
GoFast
Detailer

The Monza GT's engine wasn't 'flipped' rather it was simply repositioned ahead of instead of behind the transaxle. Also, the term 'fully independent' suspension is bogus. Second gen Corvairs had two lateral and one trailing member yielding far less camber change with wheel travel.
61Rampy
Advanced Driver

The Monza GT had upper and lower wishbones both front and rear suspensions. Axle shafts did not absorb any suspension loads. I was able to see it up close and personal in Detroit in 79. I think they had reverse rotation ring& pinions in the diff, so they didnt have to reverse the engine. VERY cool cars, both of them.
CJinSD
Advanced Driver

The Monza SS is the reason that I wanted to be a Shriner when I was a child.
56NomadJohn
Pit Crew

Look at the 1970 Maserati Ghibli, it is almost an exact copy of the Monza, only bigger.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Good reason to buy a Maserati.
awatkins
New Driver

Ghibli an almost exact copy of Monza?  Pull up a picture of each, and take another look.  Or put on your glasses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maserati_Ghibli#/media/File:Maserati_Ghibli_(1970),_Paris_Motor_Show_2...

Oldroad1
Instructor

Those were great looking preliminary concepts but reality means practicality. When reality takes over the dream is over. Practicality sells cars.
Studenorton
Instructor

How soon we forget how bankrupt GM went.
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

These cars were full fifty-plus years before that happened.

 

Tinkerah
Technician

Up to a point. Beauty and emotions play a significant part. How many of us have suffered through ridiculous impracticality for the love a sensuous curve.....
Javman
Pit Crew

Both concepts are still beautiful even by today's standards. I would take the GT over a new Corvette anyday. If GM brought it out with today's technology it would be a gamechanger, imo.
jgwventura
New Driver

The C8 added value to the C7's!
Verneoz
Pit Crew

In 1960, I was an aspiring car designer, and I loved those Corvairs. I agree the Corvair was ahead of its time. Especially for that size of car. The design of the sporty Corsa, and its 6-carb pancake performance engine were a better combination than any other in that class in the US market. I think a modern retro version could have a niche in the car market of today.
Marv48
Pit Crew

Corsa had 4 carbs.
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

One version had 4 carbs and one had a turbo.
warrene
Intermediate Driver

Boss's son had a new Corvair in '61 I think, it didn't last long, by 35K it was wheezing and burning oil, he finally got rid of it, bought a new Ford convert, the Y-block 312 did a lot better.
In '86 a guy gave me a decent Corvair, I gave it to a young guy that needed a car, he fixed the floor, put in all new brake lines and got it running. Some of GM's ideas were not all that great.
warren
plp0079
Pit Crew

Funny, most people who know how to drive them think they're great cars. Robust and relatively well engineered. If the dude's car was shot at 35k it was likely a stick and he probably bogged down the engine too often while driving in town. A lot if standard Corvairs were ruined that way.

Swagmike
New Driver

Good old Ralph Nader put a stop to the Corvair among many other things! Wow just think what could have? Thanks Ralph!
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

No -- Nader did Not stop the Corvair. That's a myth. The decision that was taken to end Corvair production as of the 1966 model year was done in March/April of 1965 at GM corporate headquarters. Nader's book hits the stands on 11/30/65 -- 7-8 months After the decision to cease production was made.
farna
Advanced Driver

Exactly! Nader's book may have hurt some sales, but I really don't think enough people read it to make a huge impact -- definitely not enough to halt production. The fact is that the Corvair used too many unique parts, so costs couldn't be spread over many models. That's why the early Tempest used a modified Corvair transaxle and front suspension (all the compact GMs used the front suspension) -- to spread some of the costs. The "compacts" got bigger and needed a different front suspension by 65-66, the Tempest went to a conventional drivetrain, and the engine was always exclusive to the Corvair. Unless production had stayed over 100K units, it was doomed from the start to a relatively short model run due to costs. Started good with ~250K made in 1960, 186K in 64. ~235K were built in 65 (mainly due to new styling, I think), ~103K in 66, only ~27K in 67. That last may have been due to the fact that GM was phasing them out though and not pushing them. Don't know how many 66 models were in sales lots when the 67s rolled out. GM was pushing their more conventional compacts since they were more economical (more shared parts) to produce.
autowriter
Intermediate Driver

The decision to continue production after the 1966 model year was because GM's lawyers felt that ceasing it on the original schedule would add ammunition to the lawsuits about the 1960- series then being filed. There was never initially supposed to be a 67-69 series. They continued only as a legal/PR gesture. GM's focus post-Corvair in the sporty car niche was going to be the Camaro and Firebird. They didn't really care much about the Corvair.
61Rampy
Advanced Driver

You have the best answer of all!!!
JSievers
Advanced Driver

True. The real “bad guy” in the Corvair story has always been GM bean counters and upper management who, for financial reasons, quit supporting the car and allowed it to die so they could sell more conventional models with better profit margins. Never underestimate the power stockholders, and their desire for dividends, wield in the boardroom.
toy83h2ssj53
Intermediate Driver

Visiting family in 2016 found us in the LA area, and one of the to-do events was to do the Peterson Museum. Coming inside we were greeted by the MASSIVE "round door" Rolls Royce, and then wandering around came across what appeared at first to be a Corvette, but different. Turned out to be the Corvair GT. Beautiful car, but wondered how a person would get inside. Having now seen pix of the access by this article, wonder no more. Seems that it would be somewhat uncomfortable trying to get in with the front half of the car somewhat blocking access. A small point, maybe, but wheels were mentioned as being different, but they appear to my eyes as being exactly the same "turbine style alloy knockoffs" on both cars. Too bad that GM never put these cars into production, but the clamshell over the engine looks like it would have been a
real challenge to do any work on the engine. Guess that would have been the price to pay for the "privilege" of owning an exotic type car.
FloridaMarty
Intermediate Driver

Maybe I'm missing something, but those cars are ugly! Even by 60's standards. Come on, those would have never sold in big numbers. Sure, some people would have bought them, like the people that bought the AMC pacer. The genuine Corvair is a way better looking car, even though Ralph Nader killed it. I still rubber neck when I see a Monza. Just because it's in the Petersen, doesn't mean it's desirable.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Disagree.
plp0079
Pit Crew

Peterson museum is a joke. Rich guy wanted a tax break for his car hobby so he turned a portion of his collection into a museum. I went there and was very disappointed. Tiny public collection but super expensive admission. So glad my overpriced admission and my tax dollars subsidize his hobby. Joke.

jimliberty
Pit Crew

I had 2, a square nose and the later model, both converts.. Loved them both, they were my "Poor Man's" Porsche. Ralph N. should have been hung up by his heals. ......Jim.
LIBERTY MOTORSPORTS
autowriter
Intermediate Driver

I asked Nader personally about his issue with the Corvair. He said the only model year he had an issue with was the 1960. Which was the only one mentioned in the book.
Alikat51
Intermediate Driver

1963 and Mom bought a 63 Corvair 700, Brother had a '63 500 and before the year was out, Dad bought a '63 Monza convertible. I have owned 5 Corsairs and would have one today if I could. Great car and Ralph was a fool, just looking for a chance to make a name for himself.
GeorgeWA
New Driver

My father was a General Manager for a Chevrolet dealership in the early-mid 60’s … when they came out with Corvair he got my mother every version of the Corvair… 2&4 doors , convertible & wagon . She/we loved them all… but it had quirky handling characteristics ALA the Porsche 911… if you weren’t careful you could bring the rear-end around very quickly … it happened one time with my mom and us 4 kids in the car…A 360 just like that… we also had a special Corvair , a 63 turbo Monza convertible / 4 speed… a GREAT little sports car that should have been further developed but I guess Chevy thought it would siphon sales from the Corvette and so when Naders book came out they didn’t do any further development and allowed the Corvair to die due to dwindling sales…
autowriter
Intermediate Driver

Once again, the decision to cease further production and development of the Corvair as of the 1966 model year was taken 7-8 months before Nader's book hit the stands. Had the book not come out, there would have been no 67-69 Corvairs at all.
Maestro1
Instructor

I had a '66 Corvair and I'm sorry I sold it. Craig, well done.
The Silver Car is stunning with the exception of the design around the B Pillar.
The Red car is equally so, and a sort of wonderful Targa concept.
I've never seen these before. Thank you for this.
okfoz
Detailer

I believe the Corvair Monza SS was the design used on some of the Safetyville cars in Flint, MI. That park is literally across the street from my work. I remember being too young to drive them, by the time I was old enough it was shuttered, the roads and structures were still there. Now it is a soccer field.
jsfury
Intermediate Driver

A beautiful design, and damn good looking vehicle. Guess we have to thank Mr. Nader for screwing up that reality.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

See post by dhomuth above.
dhomuth
Intermediate Driver

I was the only one of my group in high school to have both of these cars as my poster cars. I now have a 1966 Corvair Corsa convertible -- the very car I bought the night before I went to Viet Nam the second time. Found it seven years ago and the restoration is 99+ percent done. I still lust after the two dream cars, though.
stevecobb45
Detailer

I remember working the graveyard shift at a Sylvania factory in Seneca Falls, N Y back in the mid 60's & in the winter, while most everyone was scraping their windows off & letting their cars warm up, this guy with a Corvair was pulling out of the parking lot with windows totally defrosted. Come to find out, it had a gasoline powered heater that pumped out hot air instantly. Sure it used gas but so did warming up your engines. They did away with that idea because of exhaust gas leaking into the cabin. Seems like they could have fixed that. Just another American innovation discarded like the Corvair.
GRP_Photo
Instructor

Yeah, they could'a fixed that. Many light aircraft have gasoline heaters.
js100
Intermediate Driver

I remember helping a friend work on his '60 something VW van, in the early 70's. Mounted to the side of the engine was a fairly large system that was apparently a gasoline powered heater. I recall the hot air that it generated could melt your sneakers in the second row (where the vents were located under the seat). I always wondered about the exhaust issue from the heater, but it really worked well.
js100
Intermediate Driver

I should have said "beside the engine".
plp0079
Pit Crew

I thought they dropped it as standard equipment because it killed the fuel economy? That, and dropping it lowered the production cost.

61Rampy
Advanced Driver

For 1960, the gas heater was the only heater available. In real use, they ate up maybe 1-2 mpg. In 61 they designed the fresh air heater that used the engine air for heat. Gas heater was still available til 64. The air heater brought on a host of other issues such as oil, exhaust, fuel, and even battery fumes in the interior. Even with the direct air heater, you still would get hot air out the vents much faster than any waterpumper.
hyperv6
Gearhead

My father had many new cars but he always would go back to his Corvair’s that he had for fun to drive. We had 4 of the, and they were cars he really enjoyed. 

As for who killed the Corvair it was the Mustang. 

Ford came with a sporty car based on a cheap to build Falcon and you add a V8 you have a cheap and very profitable performance car. 

GM did the same with Chevy Nova bits in a new body and created a Camaro. More power and a cheaper engine and transmission replaced the Corvair. 

The truth is Ralph extended the life of the Corvair till 1969 as GM was showing defiance toward Ralph and kept building the car. 

They killed it in 69 do to declining sales but more because the engine was not going to fit the new emissions standards. This too killed the VW. 

These show cars were great examples of the dreams of the era but  not practical. They were more fun as they represented pure mechanical design vs today’s tech and wind tunnel design. 

61Rampy
Advanced Driver

As a devout Corvair Lover since 1970 ( Haven't been without one since), I think hyperv6 has hit the nail on the head. The irony here is that the Mustang was a response to the Corvair Monza of 1960. The Futura Falcon wasn't cutting it. Mustang hit it clear out of the park, much to Chevy's dismay. Chevy's response to the Mustang was, of course, the Camaro.
SJ
Instructor

102-hp Corvair Turbo Air-6
That was the NA version, the Turbo was 150 HP. I had a '62 Monza 110 HP, '63 Spyder 150 HP, '66 Corsa 4 carbs. All great cars but the '66 was best. Nice article.
61Rampy
Advanced Driver

All Corvair engines were called "Turbo-Air" or "Super Turbo Air". The actual turbocharged 150 or 180 hp engines were "TurboCharged".
darlenne
New Driver

Definitely resembles the Corvette Mako Shark.