Low Miles, High Price: 1961 Chevrolet Corvair Monza

I love it when a bunch of low-mileage original cars all come out of the woodwork at the same time—and of course I love it even more when they’re Corvairs! Last week, Scotty found a sweet, rust-free ’61 Corvair 500 sedan; now, courtesy of reader Michael, comes this 42,000-mile ’61 Monza club coupe. The sedan sold at a relative bargain price of $4,850; this fancier Monza is commanding a much fancier $10,500 asking price here on craigslist, where it’s being offered out of Palm Springs, California (archived ad). Is it worth that much more? Let’s take a look and see!

Honestly, one of the things I love about Corvairs is how affordable they generally are, so I’m a little taken aback by the price on this one, but there’s no denying how sharp it looks. Factor in the pro-coupe bias in the collector car market, the low mileage, the appealing color combo…maybe it’s not out of line. I appreciate that the seller was upfront enough to include a photo of an exterior blemish, just to prove that this car’s not too perfect to be believed.

Still, I’m also not sure this car is quite as untouched as it’s made out to be. The seller avers that the engine has been “powder coated and resealed only,” but the dual exhausts pointing ostentatiously out of the rear in the photo I led off with are a bit suspect. While dual pipes were available later, and a fairly popular modification, I don’t believe that they were an option in ’61—and if they were, they certainly wouldn’t have looked like these. Otherwise, engine compartment originality is a draw between this and the sedan we saw last week; this one retains its original generator, as opposed to the alternator retrofitted to the sedan, but where the sedan retained its bias-ply spare tire, this coupe sports a modern radial.

The interior shows off its swanky Monza trim nicely, the gold badging on the glovebox door accentuating the brown and tan tones of the rest of the cabin. Full carpeting, a deluxe two-tone steering wheel, and all-vinyl bucket seats further distinguish the upmarket trim. In my experience, Corvair interiors tend to be pretty durable and based on my experience with my own Corvair, which is in the same mileage range as this one, this looks about right for an unrestored car—and they say beauty fades!

There’s a lot to like about this Monza coupe. I’ll admit that I’m biased toward the more sophisticated engineering of the later models, but this ’61 is in such nice shape and will make an attractive, comfortable, somewhat sporting cruiser to take to local show ‘n shines, so I’m finding it hard to quibble too hard with the asking price. Certainly compared to a lot of comparable contemporary cars, even at $10,500 this Corvair, in this condition, rates as something of a bargain!


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  1. Spoon

    I wish it were closer

  2. DWB

    Really nice condition Corvairs can be had for less than $10k (speaking as an owner of 2 currently; having owned 7 total over the past 38 years). This is not an optimal model. And I suspect that while a solid looking car, the condition shown in the photos seems more a result of seller prep than vigilant maintenance.

    Like 1
  3. jw454

    Is it worth that much more? Well, from where I’m sitting I’d have to say yes. There’s nothing really to do to this one. Fix the little ding on the fender then get in and go. Considering what it would cost to get a rusty, worn one into this kind of shape, yes, it would be worth it. If you’ve restored a car you know, it’s not like the T.V. shows would have you believe it is. So many “additional costs” for just about everything.
    Besides that, you’ll never get the low miles on a project car to match this one. They’re only original once and, every mile is one you’ll never get back. So, Yes!

  4. Maestro1

    jw454 has said it all. somebody buy this.

  5. Miguel

    Does the fact that it is an automatic still make it worth the money?

    • duaney Member

      4 speed prefered, but yes, worth the money

  6. rob

    What a beautiful car. Far better in my opinion to buy this one than a old rusted one and try and restore it. A fair deal on a honest looking car.

  7. JD Jones

    Just sold my 1961 Monza with 18,000 miles for that. Offered it 10 years ago for 7K and couldn’t find any takers.

  8. hank

    Entering my 31st year of Corvair ownership, there is only one reason why a 500 (Plain Jane) Corvair would be worth more than a Monza 900 like this one.
    NOBODY SAVED 500 and 700 Model Corvairs. A bit uncommon when I began in the 80’s, nowadays, besides not having options folks wanted, the rusting out of the floorpans from the rubber mats they had instead of Carpet, there’s just not many of them out there, it’s like hen’s teeth to see one these days.
    Cal Clark was saying this in 1987. Some folks listened, some didn’t.

  9. Chuck Cobb

    IMHO, Vair”s with automatics are an oxymoron. Air cooled engines NEED rpm up to help keep the engine cool; automatics do just the opposite. Very nice car otherwise.

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      Eh, you might want to recalibrate your thinking about air-cooled cars, at least Corvairs. What you say applies more to motorcycles with air-cooled engines, but it is not RPM that matters there, it is moving air across the cylinder fins.

      I learned how to drive in the family’s Corvair Corsa over 50 years ago. I still have the car. My experience is that they will say very cool at idle, and low RPM, at least at low to moderate throttle openings. High RPM and power output levels produce more heat than can be dissipated or transferred to the air flowing over the heads and cylinders. That basic fact is why no one builds air cooled engines in cars today. The engine temperatures under varying loads cannot be held in check and relatively constant without liquid to metal heat transfer.

      Nope. As long as the cooling system operates as designed, no problem keeping this car’s engine at a reasonable operating temperature. The reason I don’t like the Powerglide in the Corvair: Not nearly as much fun as the 4-speed!

  10. Rick Rothermel

    Looks cool, and Palm Springs is as dry as it gets for cars.
    The dual exhausts were a popular aftermarket addition to Gen 1 Corvairs, offered widely in catalogs and magazines.
    A ‘young’ uncle of mine had one of the first ’60 coupes, and bringing me home from a visit to my grandparents we stopped at HONEST CHARLEY’S speed shop in Chattanooga where he bought his dual set-up. he installed it in my folks driveway the same afternoon.
    Just be glad this one doesn’t have the godawful fender shirts he put on his…

  11. Buick Fan

    Nice car, but I would challenge the “appealing color combo…”

    • Little_Cars Alexander Member

      For 1961, it seems all I ever saw as a young man were the medium blue, pea soup green and white. My father owned the blue and a white 1961, and I later owned a white 61 Lakewood repainted red. So yes, this is an appealing original color combo in my opinion!

  12. Brad

    Very, very nice !

  13. Beaver

    To bad it Is A Auto!! Just me!

  14. Slick51

    Very nice Corvair. I like the early Corvair over the 2nd generation. I prefer a 1964 because of suspension improvements, but one can’t be choosy.

  15. Jay Morgan

    I had a ’65 Corvair CORSA with the 140 HP engine and it had dual exhausts and 4 single barrel carbs on it. This year was the one they changed the body style on it making it less boxy. A rocket for its time.

    • Kevin A Russell

      My dad had one of those also. When the carbs were properly synched, the thing really moved, but they were continuously needing attention to that issue. There was a conversion kit available that changed that setup to a single 4 barrel.

  16. Kevin A Russell

    Every early Monza I ever saw, including those on showroom floors, had dual exhaust. I remember that because when the Spyder came out in ’62 I was kinda thrown for a loss, seeing the single exhaust, not realizing it was because of the turbo.

  17. George Meyer

    I’ve been trying to justify adding a Corvair to my garage for years. I truly believe that they deserve more love than they get. This one looks pretty nice, but the pictures are grainy and the landscape is a little green for Palm Springs, but I could be wrong…you have to be careful these days, they could be old pictures from a previous owner’s ad. I think for a guy who is looking for a really nice Corvair to keep, it would be worth investigating, but $10,500 is all the money in today’s market. I live in Phoenix and would consider running out with a trailer if the seller sounded legit and had all the right answers. As far as the automatic goes, I like them because my wife would drive it and I already own a car with a stick. Happy wife happy life right? Nice looking car, but I tend to move through my cars and probably would have a hard time getting out from under it unless I could negotiate hard, or kept it for a long time. Hope it’s as nice as it looks and some deserving enthusiast gets to be the next caretaker.

    • Beaver Prince

      After doing a lot of research I find that is ALL the$$ it could be worth if it had the 4 speed it might bring that but not with the auto!

  18. Bobsmyuncle

    That is Big money in the Corvairverse.

  19. xrotaryguy

    $10k is absolutely too high. Props to the seller for doing a good bit of prep but honestly, Corvairs aren’t that easy to drive up the value. Not yet anyway.

    It’s a Corvair. When the seller says all original, it means everything has been replaced twice and there’s three different types of pistons in the engine and the heads don’t match. Especially considering that the miles aren’t THAT low.

    It’s certainly worth better than $6k, but not 10.

  20. rustylink

    beautiful car – but like many have stated – not really reflective of the ‘Vair pricing in the market. I have seen many great quality low mileage survivors for sub $5K.

    • On and On On and On Member

      Maybe time has come today, these are nice iconic machines deserving of higher prices. Maybe time to grab one now.

  21. Buick Fan

    I hear u guys on pricing, but sub 5k really doesn’t buy anything special anymore…do I hear 7k?

  22. Beaver Prince

    I just found a 1963 900 Drop Top with a newly(rebuilt engine) that look every bit as nice for $8500 OBO the phone# is 608 445 8106 I know nothing else about the car BUT it is there! And I would think a much better deal IF the car is as offered!

    • xrotaryguy

      That’s probably more in the ball park. Seller starts at $8500, buyer talks him down to 7 and change. Now the price is reasonable. The value should climb in coming years if the economy keeps on like it is.

  23. On and On On and On Member

    Hey Leiniedude, it’s close to us. If anybody wants we could take a look. Four eyes are better than two.

  24. Bob Des Forges

    I would love more information on this 61 if you still have it, can you give me a phone number to call you? thanks…… Bob D.

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