1966 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Convertible

Riding high on a wave of success in the 1950s, General Motors found itself at the top of its game in the early 1960s, leading the industry in style and engineering excellence. The GM of those days 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 innovative design - the decade bringing us the four-wheel independent-suspension Pontiac Tempest, Buick’s compact light-alloy 215 cubic inch V8, Oldsmobile’s turbocharged F-85 Jetfire and the front-drive Tornado. Harley Earl’s protégé Bill Mitchell led the styling department to create such icons as the C2 Corvette and Buick Riviera. Much of that creative energy can be credited to the Chevrolet division when they introduced their radically different small car in 1959: The Corvair.

Under the leadership of Ed Cole, Chevrolet engineers 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 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 fresh and unique family car. Despite its economy-car underpinnings, sports car enthusiasts quickly adopted the Corvair as a “poor man’s Porsche” and GM was happy to accommodate their desire for a sporty version. In 1962, Chevrolet added a turbocharger to the Corvair’s engine (becoming the second production turbocharged car after the Olds Jetfire) upping the output to a very respectable 150 horsepower.

For the 1965 model year, the Corvair got a fresh new look courtesy of Chuck Jordan, assisted by Paul Gillen. Inspiration came from a sleek Pininfarina-designed concept on the Corvair platform. The new Coke-bottle shape had a more grown-up and sporting feel than the earlier car, and the design 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 plenty of loyal enthusiasts would agree. Mechanically, the new Corvair received an improved chassis and bumps in displacement and power. The turbocharged Corsa engine now put out a very impressive 180 horsepower, putting it squarely in Porsche 911 territory at a fraction of the cost. Despite being plagued by bad publicity and urban legend, the Corvair stands as a genuinely revolutionary American car, and serious collectors are finally taking note of its importance as one of America’s most innovative and distinct automobiles.

This 1966 Corvair Corsa Convertible is a truly outstanding example of Chevy’s unconventional cult-classic. It is one of the finest restored and meticulously documented Corvairs we have encountered, maintained in excellent condition since its complete restoration in 2005. Up until the end of the 1966 model year, GM built Canadian-market Corvairs in Oshawa, Ontario until new trade regulations allowed American-built cars to enter free of duty. In the final year of Canadian production, 6,500 Corvairs left the Ontario factory. Of those, just 211 were Corsa Convertibles, and 92 equipped with the turbo. The CORSA club estimates that approximately ten running examples are known to exist. This car, one of the rare Ontario-built Turbo Corsa Convertibles, was discovered in the late 1990s by Mr. Kent Sullivan, an avid Corvair enthusiast from Kirkland, Washington. A remarkably complete and original car when found, it still required a full restoration. Mr. Sullivan recognized this car as a rare and desirable Canadian-built Corsa Turbo, and he set about performing a complete, nut-and-bolt, rotisserie restoration to return it to factory-new standards.

While the restoration progressed, Mr. Sullivan set about documenting the car’s history. He obtained build records from General Motors Canada, as well as ownership history back to the original purchaser – Mr. Horst Kobs of Vancouver. The extensive history file includes copies of original registration, selling dealer information, and the names of every subsequent owner through Mr. Sullivan’s time with the car.  Upon completion of the restoration in 2005, the car debuted at a CORSA club concours event, scoring a remarkable 98.10 points. The accuracy of the restoration is reflected in specific details such as the “Made in Canada” tags, and the body-color engine bay – sprayed black on US market cars. No detail was overlooked, including the Canadian-only battery polarity sticker, suspension assembly paint marks, and correct finishes on every component. Later, the Corvair featured in Hemmings Muscle Machines (January 2009) as well as on the cover of the CORSA Communique.

Today, this marvelous Corvair remains in exceptional condition, finished to a very high standard in factory-correct colors of Marina Blue Metallic over Ivory trim and a white top, all per the GM build records. Factory options include tinted glass, deluxe seatbelts, simulated wire wheel covers, whitewall tires, pushbutton AM radio, and of course the 180-hp engine and wide-ratio 4-speed gearbox. The body and paintwork are finished to better-than-factory levels, and the detailing reflects the car’s multiple high-90 point scores in Corvair concours. Correct white vinyl trim covers the seats and door cards, with black floor liners and dash providing a pleasing contrast. The white top is correct pinpoint vinyl, and a matching top boot is included.

This Corvair is one of the best examples of its kind, with the added exclusivity of being built north of the border. Accompanying the sale is a comprehensive history file with restoration photos, extensive receipts, ownership documents, magazine articles, and a hand-written note from Ralph Nader… dryly suggesting he’d rather look at it than drive it! Enthusiasts know better, and appreciate the Corvair Corsa not only for its beautiful looks and practical nature but also for the exciting driving experience on par with many European classics of the same period. This is an outstanding opportunity to acquire one of the best Corvair Corsa Turbos available.

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