Here at last was a Corvair that would sell, and sales would continue to be successful for the 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.
There was nothing wrong with the coupe's styling: it looked European, not too unlike the little German NSU, but longer, more balanced. It lacked a conventional grille (stylists gave it a fake one in 1962), but it was pleasant enough otherwise.
Sales took off fast, and though there was only time to build about 12,000 Monzas for 1960, Chevrolet soared into volume production with the 1961s. When the dust settled, that model year had accounted for 110,000 Monza coupes plus another 34,000 of the new Monza four-door sedans -- more than all the cheaper Corvair models put together.
In 1962 they added a handsome convertible, and Monza sales went to over 200,000, which was the best ever. By the end of the first Corvair design generation in 1964, there were only two non-Monzas in the lineup, and the Monza was still racking up six-figure sales totals -- which was something, considering all the competition that had developed by then.
Largely the work of longtime Chevrolet engineer and later GM president Edward N. Cole, the Corvair was an enthusiast's car, radical and innovative. Its flat-six engine developed 80 or 95 bhp and was complicated: two cylinder heads, six separate cylinder barrels, and a divided crankcase.
Unfortunately, it weighed nearly 400 pounds, which was 100 pounds more than Cole had hoped. The initial suspension comprised wishbones and coil springs up front, semi-trailing swing axles at the back.
Enter the lawsuits, filed by people who wrecked their Corvairs mainly because they disregarded the manual's instructions and inflated the tires equally -- a potentially expensive mistake on Corvairs.
In 1962, an option of stiffer springs, shorter rear axle limit straps, and a front sway bar was made available; the 1964s were improved again when a transverse camber compensating spring was adopted.
Meanwhile, horsepower edged up to 110 and a decent four-speed gearbox was brought out as an option. There was even a Monza station wagon in 1962, but it wasn't in keeping with the sporty car's image, and only 2,362 were built before it was dropped.
Today it is the most desirable Monza next to the convertibles, which are far more numerous but offer unlimited head room. People who think Ralph Nader was right about the Corvair ought to try a 110 bhp four-speed 1964. Few cars of the era handle better, and fewer still offer more fun for the money.
For 1960-1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza specifications, go to the next page.