Chevrolet Corvair Monza GT

By 1962 General Motors had refined its notion of a concept car. Far from encouraging designs rooted in whimsy or science fiction, it restricted imaginative research to the realms of practical possibility. Cars could still be bizarre or weird or even fabulous, so long as every gizmo, attachment, style feature or technical surprise had a point.

Chevrolet’s Corvair Monza GT was certainly extraordinary, and as dramatic as it was beautiful. It was also the most advanced Corvair ever made. By 1962, the Corvair was already a successful production model, a compact sports coupe of thrilling power but tricky handling, thanks to its rear-mounted engine.

It provided GM with the perfect raw material with which to persuade Larry Shinoda, the designer revered for creating the Sting Ray Corvette, to demonstrate his lateral thinking and flair for styling.

Shinoda came up with a pocket-sized thunderclap. He shortened the standard Corvair wheelbase, and rotated the Monza GT’s rear engine through 180 degrees to sit just forward of the rear axle. The weight redistribution transformed the handling problems of the standard Corvair — and that in turn enabled Shinoda to take full advantage of the Monza GT’s aerodynamic potential.

The headlights were hidden behind `clam shell’ lids in the sleek, low-slung, bumperless silver bullet; and the effortless billow of the streamlining that integrated the wheel arches and canopy into a single line was undisturbed by conventional interruptions like doors. For access, the entire canopy swept up and forward on front binges, and the engine cover did the same from rear hinges.

The Corvair Monza GT was mean and lean enough to make its debut (at Elkhart Lake) in an actual race. It sprang into life fully-formed, beautiful and successful. The mystery is that it remained just a wonderful concept.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1962

ENGINE:

2.4 l (145 cid) Flat-Six (with ‘two carburettor lay-out’, a unique feature)

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 115 mph (185 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.8 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The Corvair Monza GT appeared at many motor shows during 1963 with its fellow concept cars, the convertibles Monza SS (Sebring Spyder) of 1961, and Monza SS (Super Spyder) of 1962. Neither convertible was anything like so gorgeous or as technically advanced as the Monza GT, which rather lost out by the association.

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