The Chevrolet Corvair is a compact car manufactured by Chevrolet for model years 1960–1969 in two generations. A response to the Volkswagen Beetle, it remains the only American-designed, mass-produced passenger car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. The Corvair was manufactured and marketed in 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe, convertible, 4-door station wagon, passenger van, commercial van, and pickup truck body styles in its first generation (1960–1964) and as a 2-door coupe, convertible or 4-door hardtop in its second (1965–1969) – with a total production of approximately 1.8 million from 1960 until 1969.
The name “Corvair” originated as a portmanteau of Corvette and Bel Air, a name first applied in 1954 to a Corvette-based concept with a hardtop fastback-styled roof, part of the Motorama traveling exhibition. When applied to the production models, the “air” part referenced the engine’s cooling system.
A prominent aspect of the Corvair’s legacy derives from controversy surrounding its handling, brought to light by Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed and tempered by a 1972 Texas A&M University safety commission report for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which found that the 1960–1963 Corvair possessed no greater potential for loss of control in extreme situations than its contemporaries.
Chevrolet would more directly compete with imports the size of the Volkswagen Beetle with the subcompact Chevrolet Vega a year after Corvair production ended from 1970 to 1977. Today the Corvair has a devoted following among owners and collectors as average prices for Corvairs from any year have reached an all-time high.
First generation (1960–1964)
In 1961, Chevrolet introduced the Monza upscale trim to the four-door sedans and the club coupe body styles. With its newly introduced four-speed floor-mounted transmission, DeLuxe vinyl bucket seats, and upscale trim, the Monza Club Coupe gained in sales, as nearly 110,000 were produced along with 33,745 Monza four-door sedans. The four-speed Monza caught the attention of the younger market and was sometimes referred to as “the poor man’s Porsche” in various car magazines. The Monza series contributed to about half of the Corvair sales in 1961.
Max. speed: 130 km/h (2900 cc)