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Cars > CorvairJim’s Garage > Blog > Happy Birthday, Corvair!


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M –55
Norristown, Pennsylvania
United States


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Happy Birthday, Corvair!

By CorvairJim

Today, October 2, 2009, is the 50th Anniversary of the Corvair's debut in Chevrolet showrooms across the nation! Back then, it wasn't the misunderstood little car that it came to be, but rather General Motors' long-awaited answer to the Compact cars already on the market from Rambler, Studebaker, and of course Volkswagen. Corvair's rear engine layout wasn't meant to copy Volkswagen, but simply followed the logic Ferdinand Porsche used in the VW's design: A compact drivetrain concentrated at one end of the car allows more room for passengers. Rather than design a 3/4 scale full-size Chevy, they took a "clean sheet of paper" approach and started fresh. As a result, the Corvair has more usable interior room than the comparable compacts from Ford (the Falcon), Chrysler (Valiant) Rambler (American) and Studebaker (Lark - even though the Lark was based on an old Studebaker full-size platform, dating back to 1953!). Today, folks believe that the Corvair never sold well, but the fact is that in it's first model year alone more than a quarter million cars were sold! Keep in mind that, when it was introduced the buyer had his choice of a 4-door sedan in one of two trim levels. That's it - the coupe came at midyear, along with the Top-of-the-line Monza trim level, exclusive to the coupe in 1960.

In 1961, production increased to nearly 300,000 cars with the introduction of a Monza sedan and two levels of station wagon. 1962 saw the introduction of the world's first successful car with a factory Turbocharged engine, the 150 horsepower Corvair Monza Spyder. The station wagon became available with Monza trim for it's shortened model year - it was discontinued mid-year to free up production for the new Corvair convertible, available only as a Monza or Monza Spyder. Production still topped 250,000. 1963 was basically a carryover year, but 1964 saw a marked improvement in handling with the addition of a camber-compensating transverse leaf spring to the rear swing axle independant suspension. That was just a foretaste of what was to come the following year...

1965 saw the introduction of the "Late Model" body, with it's fully independant suspension. The Monza Spyder name was superceeded by the Corsa badge, and the Turbo engine, newly upgraded to 180 horses, became an option with a 4-carb, 140 hp engine standard on the Corsa and available throughout the rest of the Corvair line. '66 saw general refinements to the car with seat belts, a driver's side rear view mirror and back-up lights becoming standard by federal law. '67 was more of the same, including several federally-mandated improvements, a collapsible steering column and a dual circuit master cylinder among them. '67 was also the final year for the 4-door Sport Sedan which, in base 500-series trim, was the least expensive 4-door hardtop available in America (I once owned one of these rare cars - fewer that 3,000 built - made even rarer due to it's having the 4-carb engine and a 4-speed stick!) By 1968, the handwriting was on the wall, and production slumped to only 15,399 units. The final year, 1969, was even worse, with only an even 6,000 cars built, spread among 500-Series coupes and Monza coupes and convertibles.

Then there were the "Corvair 95" trucks (So named for their 95" wheelbase). These unique little vehicles were incredibly practical for their owners. The Rampside pickup got it's name from, well, a ramp in the right side of the pickup bed that lowered to street level to make loading and unloading easier than it ever has been in any other pickup not equipped with a tailgate lift! The pickup was also available without the ramp. Called the "Loadside", it undercut the price of the Rampside but was never anything like as popular due to the increased practicality of it's more expensive stablemate. There were also a pair of vans available: The panel-sided Corvan and the Greenbrier Sport Wagon with windows all around.

There are examples of nearly every year and body style of Corvair owned by fellow members of Motortopia. So on this 50th anniversary of this unique car's introduction, why not take a few minutes and take a look. There are some VERY impressive cars and trucks available for your viewing pleasure just by running a search for "Corvair" under the "Cars" tab at the top of the page.

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Read comments on this blog post 1 – 10 of 16

Nightmare388’s Profile Photo
Nov 5, 2009 at 11:09 pm
Very cool!
GoldenGirl’s Profile Photo
Oct 16, 2009 at 6:42 pm
Great info, thanks much for posting it! That's what makes Motortopia so awesome...bunch of car lovers sharing their passion. I love checking out the Corvairs at car shows. Now I'll really enjoy it. smile image
RangeMan’s Profile Photo
Oct 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm
You sound like a man in love with his subject. With that sort of empathy for your car, it's too bad you had to sell your Corvair. You'll have another one some day - Liking them the way this blog shows that you do, I'm certain of it!
1962ChevyGuy’s Profile Photo
Oct 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm
great blog, jim! i may like the big 60s chevys better, but corvair are really cool little cars, too.
happy birthday, little guy!
classictrendman’s Profile Photo
Oct 6, 2009 at 5:28 am
Keep up the good SEARCH smile image about good Stuff sir, looking forward for your next one, thanks a lot
chevy66babe’s Profile Photo
Oct 5, 2009 at 4:06 pm
great job on research, Jim. I can tell how much you love the Corvairs from reading this. I never knew anybody who had one, but it did sound like a cool car.
Smurphette’s Profile Photo
Oct 4, 2009 at 9:41 pm
Great Blog, Jim! Very interesting stuff - I learned a lot.
RangeMan’s Profile Photo
Oct 4, 2009 at 8:32 pm
That's incredible. I never knew Corvairs were so popular once upon a time, but I still sem to see a lot of them at shows. Nader definitely had his head in a very dark place that he shouldn't have been able to put it, anatomically speaking....... biggrin image
pops64’s Profile Photo
Oct 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm
awsome blog jim!! i took mine for a spin and gave it an oil change to celebrate.
ZanySmurph’s Profile Photo
Oct 3, 2009 at 9:22 pm
Very cool blog, Jim! You know your stuff!

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