Handsomely restyled for 1965 with exceptionally clean, European-influenced bodylines, the second-generation Chevrolet Corvair remains an unqualified triumph of Bill Mitchell’s legendary GM design studios. A focused lineup of body styles included two- and four-door hardtops and a convertible blessed with impeccable purity of line. In addition to revised styling, the Corvair model lineup was simplified for ’65, ranging from the base Corvair 500 to the upscale Monza, and new top-of-the-line, high-performance Corsa.
Powering the Corsa was a newly uprated air-cooled, naturally-aspirated “Turbo-Air” flat-six engine with 164 cubic inches and 140 factory-rated horsepower standard. Committed driving enthusiasts could also opt for a version with an actual turbocharger, factory-rated at 180 horsepower – or 1.1 horsepower per cubic inch of displacement – a true engineering achievement. Unknown to many, the 180-horsepower engine option was unique and exceedingly well engineered with specific high-strength internal components and carefully tuned intake and exhaust systems. In fact, it remains a tour de force of engineering prowess that only a small slice of automobile buyers could fully appreciate and exploit.
Chevy vastly improved the Corvair’s handling for ’65, with refined front suspension system and the rear swing-axle setup replaced by a truly independent suspension design influenced by the Corvette Sting Ray. Now featuring double-jointed rear axles, coil springs, and control arms, the updated Corvair’s handling was praised by the era’s top magazine road testers for its sophisticated design characteristics and excellent response to driver inputs. The performance-oriented Corsa was dropped from the Corvair lineup after 1966 and sadly, further development of this innovative Chevrolet model halted.
Corvair production continued into 1969, and second-generation models are rare and highly collectible today, especially in Corsa specification. Offered only for 1965 and 1966, the Corsa – in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged tune – fell victim to the onslaught of Ford’s conventionally engineered but wildly successful Mustang and internal competition from GM’s own front engine/rear drive Camaro and Firebird from late 1966. However, noted automotive writer Richard M. Langworth provided the best summary of the Corvair Corsa, declaring it “…perhaps the most sophisticated (certainly one of the most ambitious) cars ever to come from Detroit: gobs of power, world-class handling, and looks that simply couldn’t be better.”
Sold new in Van Nuys, California, and recently kept in a private collection, this 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Turbo Convertible is a wonderfully presented example of these fascinating American performance cars. Very attractively presented in Cypress Green paint complemented by a black convertible top, boot cover, and matching bucket-seat interior, the Corsa is the product of a quality, well-detailed restoration, retaining a pleasingly glossy paint finish and the visual signs of caring ownership and enjoyment. Features include the Corsa’s mandatory 4-speed manual transaxle for a decidedly sporting driving experience, factory AM radio, power top, and heater/defroster. The Corsa also features a comprehensive instrument cluster that includes a 140-mph speedometer, tachometer, cylinder-head temperature gauge, and clock. Steel wheels wear wire-basket covers with decorative knock-offs, and period style whitewall tires finish it off in factory-correct fashion. Extensive documents include the original dealer-issued Protect-O-Plate, owner’s manual and power top guide, plus 20-plus years’ worth of California registrations from the 1970s onward. Showroom and accessory brochures are also included, featuring GM’s captivating graphics and photography.
A truly unique automobile on all counts and certainly a daring leap for GM and Chevrolet, the Corvair was, despite lore, quite successful and provided loyal American buyers with a technically sophisticated, nimble, roomier, and better-equipped alternative to the hordes of Volkswagens and other small European cars imported to North America in the 1960s. Of all Corvair variants produced, the Turbo Corsa remains a rare and interesting favorite among true driving enthusiasts. This very nicely restored and preserved example is ready to enjoy, for many miles of top-down high-performance driving pleasure.
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