One of the characteristics plaguing the 1962-1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder's development into more of a sporting (rather than economy) car was go-power.
The 80 bhp engine couldn't compete with an Austin-Healey Sprite, and the 95-102 bhp units, though reasonably lively, were hardly powerhouses.
Conventional hot-rodding techniques used on ordinary in-line or V-8 engines was inappropriate for the flat six, so General Motors ventured down another avenue: turbocharging.
The turbo-supercharger was invented by Sanford Moss in the 1920s, where it was used initially in aviation. The principle is simple: exhaust gasses spin an impeller, whose power is transferred by a shaft running to a compressor, which in turn pressurizes the fuel/air mixture on its way to the carburetors. As the exhaust flow increases and its temperature rises, the turbine spins faster, thus adding positive manifold pressure or "boost."
By the time the Spyder came along, turbochargers were widely used on Diesel trucks, and today, of course, they are commonplace on performance cars. For a car in the 1960s, however, it was a fairly novel idea, but it offered obvious advantages over conventional superchargers as fitted to Corvairs by Judson and Paxton.
The turbo required no mechanical drive, made no noise or vibration, was efficient in the use of space, functioned only on demand, cost little in fuel economy, was cheap to build, and, of course, greatly increased power.
The Spyder's was made by the Thompson Valve Division of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge Inc., and hooked to a fairly ordinary Carter YH sidedraft carburetor (the same one as used on the early Corvettes and Nash-Healeys).
Because of the heat generated by the system, super-strength materials were specified for many internal applications: chrome steel for the crankshaft, for example. The entire induction and exhaust system was tailored to the engine.
By using a special reverse-flow muffler, a tuned air cleaner, and a tailpipe exactly nine inches long, Chevrolet not only successfully kept maximum pressure down to a safe limit, but also obtained a throaty exhaust note.
Impeller speed remained constant after 4,600 rpm, but if the muffler was removed the low restriction and increased output could exceed the engine's strength.
The result of all this work was 150 horsepower at 4,400 rpm or better than one bhp per cubic inch -- nearly 50 percent better than the concurrent 102 bhp "stage two" Corvair engine.
Torque shot up 64 percent to 210 pounds/feet at 3,200-3,400 rpm. "Chevy boosted the size of its air-cooled engine from 145 to 220 cid (the equivalent if naturally aspirated), yet the extra weight involved is only 30 lb!," said Road & Track.
Chevrolet claimed that "usable" power was up 90 percent over the 102 hp version, which was at least partly true around 3,000 rpm; past that point, torque fell off.
Go to the next page to find out more information about the styling and production numbers of the 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder.
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1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder
The 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder was an efficient, high-performance sports car.
Though the Monza Spyder was announced in coupe and convertible form in February 1962, production actually began in April. Despite all that went into it, the Spyder package (RPO 690) cost only $317.45.
Orders soon exceeded capacity -- this was just not a car that could be built quickly. Of some 150,000 1962 Monza coupes, only 6,894 emerged as Spyders, and there were only 2,574 Monza Spyder convertibles out of over 16,000 Corvair ragtops built.
Though there wasn't much about the outside of the Spyder that made it recognizable (script, turbo emblems, a hunky tailpipe were the main points), the engine compartment abounded in chrome-trimmed components.
Inside, there was no mistaking it: in place of Corvair's standard and sparse instrumentation was a round 6,000 rpm tachometer and matching speedometer, with gauges for fuel, boost, and temperature. All were set into a brushed aluminum panel and matched by a similar panel over the glove box on the right. The radio also had a brushed aluminum plate, and a turbo emblem was on the horn button.
In 1963, Spyder production was up by over 100 percent despite a strong decline in total Corvair sales: 19,000 were built, of which about 7,500 were convertibles.
Volume fell in 1964 to 11,000 (4,761 convertibles), but by then Corvair sales in general were well down. However, the technology lived on in the 1965 Corvair Corsa.
The survival rate for Monza Spyders was relatively high because people knew at an early date that these were singular cars, remarkably limited in numbers for a company like Chevrolet.
Though the "standard-size" behemoth was still the quintessential Detroit car in the 1960s, the Spyder proved that one company at least was willing to design an efficient, high-performance sporting machine for the enthusiastic driver. As a contemporary ad read, "the Spyder's thrust is not so much hot air."
For 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder specifications, go to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder Specifications
The 1962, 1963, 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder were produced in limited numbers and proved that Chevrolet was willing to take chances by designing an efficient, high-performance sports car.
Engines: 1962-1963 flat 6,145 cid (3.44 × 2.60), 150 bhp; 1964 164 cid (3.44 × 2.94), 150 bhp
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: 1962-1963 semi-trailing swing axles, coil springs 1964 semi-trailing swing axles, transverse compensating spring
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 108.0
Weight (lbs.): 2,440-2,650
Top speed (mph): NA
0-60 mph (sec): NA