The Chevrolet Corvair: A Revolutionary & Timeless Vehicle Line


The Chevrolet Motor Car Company has successfully designed dozens upon dozens of different automobile lines that have caused great sensation around the globe for their grand innovation, features and exquisite finish, such as the Malibu, Camaro, Impala, Silverado, Tahoe, Corvette, and etc., but, there is one automobile line that was mass-produced by Chevrolet in the 1960s that still stands-out to this day for being the first American ground-breaking vehicle design that featured a rear-mounted air cooled engine: Corvair.


This is a one-of-a-kind compact vehicle line, which is now a collectible, was manufactured in great numbers from 1960-1969 by Chevrolet. This line had different body styles, such as the 2-door convertible, 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, 4-door station wagon, 6-door van, 8-door van, and 2-door pickup truck, as well as the commercial van, passenger van, and pick-up truck.


During the late 1950s, the company Chevrolet (a division of General Motors) noticed that there was a huge demand for compact cars in the United States, which resulted in consumers purchasing imported vehicles from Europe that were compact, such as the Renault, Fiat, and the Volkswagen. For this matter, the chief engineer of Chevrolet, Edward N. Cole, was the moving force behind the production and development of the air-cooled Corvair. This man wanted to make an impact in the automobile field and he surely did, as it was definitely a revolutionary car that had many economic advantages; it was powered by a six-cylinder boxer engine that was made almost entirely out of aluminum. The engine was mounted right at the rear of the car, driving the rear wheels through a compact programmed transaxle. There was no conventional frame, tires were of a low-profile design, and suspension was independent at all four wheels.


On January of 1960, Chevrolet produced 253,268 Corvairs that were priced at $1,984-2,238 USD in the market. There were only two models available when this line was first introduced to the public: 500 and the 700 4-door sedan. The Monza Club Coupe was introduced in the spring of 1960 with great success. It was the first Chevrolet model with a narrow 1 inch stripe whitewall tire. It had 4-speed transmission, spare tire mounted in luggage compartment, gas heater option, central automatic choke, and high performance engine option. The Corvair line was such a hit among consumers that there was a shortage in the market of the Corvairs on that year.


The engineering of this line earned numerous patents, was placed on the cover of Time magazine, and was named ‘Car of the Year’ by Motor Trend magazine in 1960. Corvair (along with one other GM vehicle) was the first production vehicle to have a turbo.


In 1961 about 337,371 Corvairs were manufactured and were priced at $1,920-2,331 USD. The Lakewood station wagon, Corvan, Greenbrier, Loadside, and Rampside pickups were added to the line. The Monza model of the Corvair was highly promoted via different media sources and was often referred to as “the poor man’s Porsche” in many automobile magazines. There was also the station wagon which joined the lineup in 1961 and was designed with the engine under the cargo floor, while offering a large cargo room, a grand main passenger compartment, and a grand front trunk. It was definitely a revolutionary model that numerous of families purchased for its low cost and great space.


In 1962, there were 226,005 Corvairs produced and were listed at the price of $1992-2,846 USD. In mid-1962, Chevrolet began brainstorming to bring consumers a sporty Corvair vehicle and discontinued the station wagons in favor of the new Convertible and also discontinued the Loadside pickup to provide capacity for other models. Also, the Monza wagon became available sometime that year. If consumers desired, there were optional equipment options that could be integrated to models, such as Metallic brake lining, rear axle limit straps, heavy duty suspension consisting of a front anti-roll bar, recalibrated shock absorbers, and revised spring rates. Out of the total Corvair passenger car production models in 1962, the Monza Coupe was the most popular one with 151,738 produced out of all the models.


Out of all the Corvair models sold in 1963, 80% of them were Monzas (the convertible model counted for 20% of all the Monzas sold in that particular year). Also, in that year, only 288,419 Corvairs were produced at the base price of $1982-2,798 USD. There were some improvements in the self-adjusting brakes, belt guides, and oil cooler. The Loadside pickup was discontinued, while the new Monza rocker moldings were introduced.


The year of 1964 was a year where significant engineering changes occurred in the Corvair line. The styling and lineup model remained unchanged and 214,483 Corvairs were produced and were up for grabs for those who could pay $2000-2,811 USD. The engine displacement, base engine power, and the high performance engine were greatly increased, while the Spyder engine rating remained the same at 150 hp—despite the displacement increased of the engine. The remaining pick-up model, the Rampside, was discontinued at the end of the year.


In 1965, the Corvair took a very dramatic redesign. Only 247,092 vehicles were manufactured in that year and were priced at $2,066-2,665 USD. The new body reflected somewhat similarities of that of the Corvette Stingray and the 1963 Buick Riviera style. This type of styling was rated timeless by countless of media sources. Before it was released to the market, it caused great headlines in the media, such as in the 1964 October issue Car and Diver magazine were David E. Davis Jr. Showed enthusiasm for the 1965 Corvair:


"And it is here too, that we have to go on record and say that the Corvair is — in our opinion — the most important new car of the entire crop of '65 models, and the most beautiful car to appear in this country since before World War II." "When the pictures of the '65 Corvair arrived in our offices, the man who opened the envelope actually let out a great shout of delight and amazement on first seeing the car, and in thirty seconds the whole staff was charging around, each wanting to be the first to show somebody else, each wanting the vicarious kick of hearing that characteristic war-whoop from the first-time viewer." "Our ardor had cooled a little by the time we got to drive the cars — then we went nuts all over again. The new rear suspension, the new softer spring rates in front, the bigger brakes, the addition of some more power, all these factors had us driving around like idiots — zooming around the handling loop dragging with each other, standing on the brakes — until we had to reluctantly turn the car over to some other impatient journalist ... The '65 Corvair is an outstanding car. It doesn't go fast enough, but we love it."


In this particular year, the Greenbrier window van and the 700 series were discontinued. The Greenbrier van was a model that was rained for fleet order (with 1,528 being built). There were only small refinements in the engines and chassis in that year. In late 1965, there was a modification to the steering shaft, floor reinforcement was added and a U-joint was added to reduce the risks of column interference in collisions.


The lineup went essentially unchanged in 1966 (production for the Corvair model that year was of 109,880 units that were listed in the market at $2,083-2,682 USD). The Corsas and Monzas featured a black crinkle finish on their instrument panel. Padded instrument panel, larger taillight lenses, four lap belts (2 fronts, 2 rear), and day/night rear view mirror was a standard on all models in 1966.


The year of 1967 became the first year where all models had a collapsible steering column. The Corvair line was shorten, as it now only had the 500, Hardtop Sedan, Monza Hardtop Coupe, and the Monza Convertible models. Chevrolet manufactured 27,253 Corvairs that year and priced them at $2,128-2,540 USD. It was the last year of the four-door hardtop sedan, while dual circuit brake system, GM Energy Absorbing steering column, and strong door hinges were first introduced. A dual circuit master cylinder with a warning light, strong steel door hinges, nylon reinforced brake hoses, vinyl-edged day/night mirror, and instrument panel knobs were all made standard equipment on all Covairs models. Also in that year, all the Corvair line included a 50,000 mile engine warranty, which caused a great commotion in consumers, as that was unheard of in that era.


In 1968, only three models were available: the 500, Monza Hardtop Coupe, and the Monza Convertible. It became the year where Chevrolet began to think of ways of implanting extreme security features to protect the health of its consumers. They accomplished this by dropping all weather air conditioning options, due to the high concerns of thermal loaded added by the now-standard ‘smog pump’ (Air Injection Reactor). Additional safety features included shoulder belts and side market lights. The fuel vapour return line and the Ignition Key Warning Buzzer were new standard features on all the models. Demand for the Nova model was high in 1968 and was produced in great numbers. Only 15,399 units were produced in that particular year and could be attained at the price of $2,243-2,626 USD.


In 1969, which was the final model-year of the Corvair line, a total of 6,000 vehicles were manufactured in the facility where the first Corvairs were built in 1960: Nova in Willow Run, Michigan. Production ended in the month of May of that year. There were only a few minor changes in the line, which included wider interior mirrors, refined front brake house design, wider bucket seats with new head restraints, front side markers featured clear bulbs, amber lenses, clear-colored knobs, and improved clutch cable design on manual transmission cars. New style ignition, trunk, and door keys were also introduced. The Covairs were sold at $2,528-2,641 USD.


In 1966, Chevrolet decided to have fun and decided to innovate more with the Corvair line and produced a futuristic Monza r-door hardtop with an electric motor that replaced the gasoline engine and was named as the Electrovair II--following a 1964 version called Electrovair I. This Corvair design was way ahead of its time, as nowadays, most automobile companies are focusing on this type of design to help the greatly damaged ozone layer.


A few months after production ended, further Corvair designs were proposed by Chevrolet to General Motors but nothing occurred, but there was a close resemblance to the 1965-1969 Corvair models on the 1973 GM A body and the 1973 Pontiac Grand Am (both retained Corvair proportions).


During the 1960s, the Corvair line was one of the most affordable vehicles in the market in the United States, as one of Chevrolet’s priorities was to manufacture vehicles that were for the budget concerned consumer and they hit the nail on the head. Chevrolet sold 26,000 of Corvairs within the first two days after being presented to the market. The company didn’t expect for the Corvair to be such as a success, as they had in mind of only producing the line for only a couple of years. Of course, other automobile companies produced models that had strong similarities to that of the Corvair line to compete against it, but they all fell short.


As you can tell, the Corvair line revolutionized the automobile field. If it wasn’t for Chevrolet who introduced the air conditioner in the Corvair models, maybe right now we would still be suffering from the hot weather when driving. Since the Corvair stopped being produced, this line has become highly collectable. Many famous celebrities and race car drivers have often been photographed by the paparrazi driving one of the models of this line, as it is considered to be a timeless vehicle that can last a lifetime.


Every model of the Corvair line is truly a piece of history that every vehicle lover should appreciate. Most of the times websites such as and tend to have a grand number of Corvair models in their listings. So, if you are thinking about purchasing a Corvair, how about you opt for the automobile that left a strong print in a groundbreaking era: Corvair. If you need any Corvair Performance Parts please lookup Monza Motion, LLC out of Hamilton, Ohio.

Anthony Johnson Nascar   

About the author:

Anthony Johnson is the owner and President of Monza Motion, LLC which owns and operates two companies out of Hamilton, Ohio. Monza Auto Parts which is the retail side of the business and Monza Energy is the powerplant research and development division. Anthony is an avid motorsports fan and classic car collector. He has a passion for the Chevrolet Corvair, which is a car that has forever changed America. He has a degree in Computer Forensics and Network Security from SWFC and is considered an Information Security expert. Anthony has worked with the DoD and major financial institutions across the United States.


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