As the 1950s rolled into the 1960s, General Motors was at the top of its game, leading the industry in style and engineering excellence. GM was not afraid to be creative and push the boundaries of what an American car company could do. The 1960s were rich with experimentation and creative design - the decade bringing us the four-wheel independent Pontiac Tempest, Buick’s compact light-alloy 215 cubic inch V8, Oldsmobile’s turbocharged F-85 Jetfire and the later front-drive Tornado. But it was the Chevrolet division that led the engineering charge with the introduction of the Corvair in 1959.
Starting with a clean slate, Chevrolet engineers under the leadership of Ed Cole designed a new compact family car with a decidedly European influence. Called the Corvair (a merger of “Corvette” and Bel Air”), this revolutionary new car was quite unlike any mass-market American automobile ever built. With a sheet-steel type semi-unibody platform, the compact Corvair featured a rear-mounted, air cooled flat-six engine, and the chassis featured independent suspension at all four corners. Over 250,000 were sold in the first year, showing that buyers quickly warmed to the idea of this entirely unconventional family car. Despite its economical underpinnings, sports car enthusiasts quickly adopted the Corvair as a “poor man’s Porsche” and GM was happy to accommodate their needs as well. In 1962, Chevrolet added a turbocharger to the Corvair’s engine (becoming the second production turbocharged car after the Olds Jetfire) which upped output to a very respectable 150 horsepower.
For the 1965 model year, the Corvair would be redesigned and refreshed by the great stylist Chuck Jordan, assisted by Paul Gillen. The facelifted design was inspired by a sleek Pininfarina-designed concept on the Corvair platform that was making the rounds on the European show circuit. The stylish new Coke-bottle shape was more grown-up and sporting than the earlier car, and the shape has been much admired by fellow designers and influential journalists. The great David E. Davis considered the 2nd generation Corvair to be the prettiest post-war American car of all time, and we are sure there are plenty of loyal enthusiasts who would agree! Mechanically, the car was upgraded with improved suspension, and more powerful versions of the air-cooled engine, including the turbocharged unit which now put out a very impressive 180 horsepower, putting it square in Porsche 911 territory at a fraction of the cost. Despite being plagued by bad publicity and urban legend, the Corvair stands as a truly revolutionary American car, and serious collectors are finally taking note of its importance.
This 1966 Corvair Corsa Convertible is a truly outstanding example of this unconventional cult-classic. This beautiful 180-hp Corsa has been fully restored to the correct, original specification; finished in Artesian Turquoise with a white power top and a white and black interior, per the trim tag. The body is superbly straight with very good fit and crisp detailing, correctly finished with the silver tail panel and adorned with fully restored chrome trim. The body is clean, with minimal trim - only subtle Corsa fender badges and ultra-rare Style N96 wheel covers exclusive to the turbocharged models hint at its performance. The convertible top is power operated, correctly restored using white pinpoint vinyl and nicely presented in excellent condition.
The quality of the restoration continues inside, where the seats (original buckets in front, a bench in back) are covered in factory correct vinyl material and patterns. The door and quarter panels have also been restored to match the seats, and the black dash and correct black nylon-loop carpets are in fine, restored condition. Other equipment includes a full array of gauges, two-spoke wood-rimmed sports steering wheel, original Delco radio, tinted glass and even an accessory tissue dispenser under the dash. From behind the wheel, the four speed shift lever falls easily to hand, and feels surprisingly well-weighted and precise for a rear engine car, with short and positive throws between the four gears.
Chevrolet’s 2.6 liter (164 cubic inch) flat six is still air cooled, but breaths through a single 1-barrel Rochester carburetor with the help of a turbocharger. With a welcome 40 horsepower boost over the standard car, the turbo transforms the Corvair into a genuine sports car. As part of this car’s full restoration, the engine has been fully detailed with correct finishes and hardware, and it presents in truly impeccable condition. Recently out of a large and eclectic collection, this Corvair has seen limited use in recent years, but remains very fresh and in excellent running order.
We are very pleased to offer such an outstanding example of one of the most advanced and sophisticated American cars of the 1960s. Its combination of beautiful styling, clever engineering and spirited performance give it proper collector credibility. Rarely do we encounter Corvairs restored to this level, and this car benefits from high specification and fabulous original colors. As more and more collectors take notice of the Corvair, this represents a very rare opportunity to acquire one of the best available.