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Chevrolet Corvair Monza Convertible - Porsche double from the USA

Hardy Mutschler
Chevrolet Corvair in the driving report
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M an is meanwhile quite used to dealing with classic cars - but a two-speed automatic in a stately four-seater convertible that is a few centimeters longer than an Opel Rekord A?

Chevrolet Corvair with six-cylinder boxer in the rear

Here comes a little melancholy comes into play, even if the engine of this red Chevrolet Corvair Convertible from 1963 after all strong 85 SAE-PS. To top it all off, the open-top Chevrolet Corvair still bears the promising additional designation 'Monza'. Nevertheless, the Chevrolet Corvair is considered a milestone in automotive history. Like a technology obelisk, it protruded from the monotony of the huge US road cruisers, preferably equipped with small truck technology, and caused a sensation in Europe at the time. The Chevrolet Corvair embodied the consistent further development of the VW Beetle idea with the air-cooled six-cylinder aluminum boxer engine housed in the rear.

Chevrolet Corvair larger and more comfortable than VW Bus

It was significantly larger and more comfortable than the model from Wolfsburg, and after a short time there was a complete model family: from 1960 the four-door Sedan and the coupe. A year later, the five-door station wagon Lakewood, the Corvan in the VW Transporter style (VW Type 2 since 1950) and its nine-seat bus offshoot Greenbriar Sports Wagon as well as the original forward control pick-up Rampside followed. Its drop sides, which could be folded down between the axles, also served as loading ramps. The cabriolet came in 1962.

Finally, we shouldn't forget that the typical design feature of the 1959 presented Chevrolet Corvair, the body fold running all around below the belt line, was adopted from many later models - for example the Fiat 1300/1500, NSU Prinz IV and 1000, VW Karmann -Ghia Type 34 and even from the second generation Corvette that came out in 1963.

Chevrolet Corvair Monza almost no cooling air noise

With so much automotive historical reputation, we also accept a two-speed automatic and start the six-cylinder in the rear of the Chevrolet Corvair full of optimism. It grumbles with little vibration behind the driver's neckand in contrast to a VW Beetle, it makes almost no cooling air noise. The cooling fan of the Chevrolet Corvair lies flat over it the engine, sucks the air in through the hood, which is perforated with two rows of ventilation slots, and blows it past the ribbed cylinders down into the open air. There is also a lush chrome-plated ventilation grille below the bumper.

Chevrolet Corvair alternatively also with three- or four-speed gearshift

The tiny selector lever of the two-speed automatic, which can be moved from top to bottom, peeps out crookedly under the instrument panel, as if it were ashamed of the blatant lack of speed steps. After all, there was also a three-speed and even four-speed manual transmission for the Chevrolet Corvair.

We go to 'D' and step on the gas. Immediately and even with the punch so much loved by the Americans, the convertible starts moving. Respect, a V8 can't do that much better. So off the gas, and whoosh, the second and thus the last gear is in - at just 30 km /h. But even now the car accelerates easily up to 100 km /h with gentle, clearly noticeable pressure and remains pleasantly quiet.

Chevrolet Corvair Monza Convertible weighs only 1,180 kilograms

A look at the technical data of the Chevrolet Corvair Monza explains the little acceleration miracle: Thanks to a displacement of 2.4 liters, that already stands at 2,300 rpm maximum torque of 174 Newton meters; in addition, the 4.57 meter long Chevrolet Corvair convertible only weighs 1,180 kilograms. At that time, a 5.4 meter long Chevrolet Impala convertible weighed a good half a ton more and was dependent on powerful engines and a three-speed automatic. Compared to this two-meter-wide full-size classic, it also becomes clear why the Chevrolet Corvair was considered a compact car in the USA: it was almost a meter shorter and 30 centimeters narrower than the established road cruisers.

Chevrolet Corvair looks handy

Nevertheless, the Chevrolet Corvair drives like the big ones: casual and easy with a lot of comfort and smooth steering. Admittedly, the Chevrolet Corvair lacks interior space in a direct comparison; especially the footwells for the front passenger and the rear passengers are not particularly lush. The driver's seating position is pleasantly high and makes the Chevrolet Corvair look very handy in combination with the clear body.

Only a Chevrolet Corvair Monza feeling doesn't really want to set in. The symmetrically arranged cockpit, which can easily be converted into a right-hand drive, does not have a trace of sportiness, but at least individual seats as a prerequisite for the manual transmission with center shift lever. If you wanted it sporty, you could treat yourself to the Chevrolet Corvair MonzaSpyder option and now really got everything a hobby racing driver could desire: Several round instruments including a rev counter and an exhaust gas turbocharger for the boxer in the rear, which increased the output to 152 SAE PS.

Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder package for convertible and coupé

The Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder package was only for convertible and coupe and only with manual transmission (three or four-speed) available. It enabled a top speed of 170 km /h and an acceleration from zero to 100 km /h in eleven seconds. The second, optically smoothed-out Chevrolet Corvair generation with a slight swing of the hips, introduced in 1965, offered even more power, the turbo versions of which were now called the Corsa and the top version even had 180 SAE horsepower. Chevrolet removed the good station wagon and van models from the sales program.

Chevrolet Corvair with life-threatening driving behavior

Perhaps it was precisely the turbo drivers who caused some fatal accidents because they were surprised by the typical rear-engine oversteer. That brought the smart consumer lawyer Ralph Nader into the Bütt. In 1965 Nader started a campaign against the Chevrolet Corvair, which he accused of dangerous driving behavior. The sales figures therefore plummeted despite a rear axle that was improved with Corvette components: from 247,100 units (1965) to 109,880 (1966) and finally 15,400 (1968). A year later, Chevrolet withdrew the Corvair.


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