Parked In ’03: 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Convertible

The 1965 model year brought with it a major restyle for the Corvair, and the changes were more than just skin-deep. Further mechanical refinements and new rear suspension meant that the vehicle now drove as well as it looked, and 247,000 people decided that it would be a good thing to park in their driveway. This particular example has been parked in a shed, a spot that it has occupied since 2003. It is in need of a new home, and an enthusiastic owner who is willing to return it to its former glory. It is located in Hixson, Tennessee, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The listing has been set to open at $3,150 in a No Reserve auction. There have been no bids up to this point, but there are currently 51 people who are watching the listing.

When it was introduced, the Corvair represented a radical departure for American automotive engineers. The initial aim was to compete with budget imports from the likes of Volkswagen, so why not follow their philosophy from an engineering standpoint? That meant an air-cooled horizontally-opposed engine mounted in the rear. This also led to interesting styling cues, and while the 1st generation cars were seen as quite boxy and frugal in design, the 2nd generation brought with it some flair and a svelte appearance. This is one of the cars from that initial year of 2nd generation sales, and I still think that it is an attractive car after 55-years. It was parked in 2003 and has only recently seen the light of day once again. It wears Regal Red paint, but originally rolled off the production line finished in a color called Evening Orchid. That was a color that was available in the Corvair range for a single year, and it isn’t clear why the color change occurred. From a personal perspective, I would be sorely tempted to return the car to its original color if I was restoring it because it would certainly make it a standout wherever it went. The panels look to be very straight, but the Black convertible top has certainly seen better days. Apart from surface corrosion, rust is surprisingly minimal. The floors wear heavy corrosion, but only a couple of minor rust holes on the passenger side which could potentially be addressed with patches. There is also some rust at the base of the windshield, and treating and repairing this could be a bit more complex. Still, it doesn’t look like it has advanced too far, so it might be a case of catching it early. There are also some spots around the front wheel well on the driver’s side, but that appears to be about it because the rockers and rear quarter panels look very solid. The trim and chrome is all present and in a restorable state, while the tinted windshield is free from any obvious damage.

When a convertible has been sitting in a shed for the best part of two decades with the top down, it is only fitting to expect some notable deterioration of the interior trim. That is the case with this Corvair because it will require a reasonable amount of restoration work. The seats will need new covers, the floors will need new carpets, and what remains will need some fairly thorough cleaning. The center is missing out of the wheel, the radio is gone, and the next owner will need to source new armrests for the doors. The dash and pad look like they are in good condition, but when I look at the wheel, I do notice something interesting. With the Corvair originally wearing Evening Orchid paint, the black interior trim comes as no surprise. What does seem odd is the fact that the wheel appears to be red, which is an appropriate match for the current paint color. That’s not the color that I would have expected with the original paint, and it makes me wonder whether the wheel has been changed at some point. It isn’t anything significant but it is just a point to ponder. Hopefully we have a reader who is an expert on the Corvair, and can enlighten me on that one.

Where the Corvair broke new ground when compared to its competition was in its drivetrain. The American motoring public had become used to their cars featuring a front-engine/rear-drive configuration. Chevrolet turned things on their heads, and the Corvair found itself powered by a rear-mounted flat-six engine that was also air-cooled. This then fed its power to the rear wheels via a transaxle. When the updated edition was introduced in 1965, it wasn’t just the styling that had changed. There were some mechanical changes that Chevrolet introduced with the 2nd generation, and these addressed the most often criticized weakness of the Corvair up until that point. The original cars had featured a swing-axle rear suspension, and while this system was also being used by VW, it did have the potential to become a bit lively in the wrong circumstances. Incorrect tire pressures or an inattentive driving style could result in the car breaking into oversteer. Any driver who didn’t know how to tackle this situation could soon find themselves taking a long look back at where they had just come from. For the 2nd generation, the swing-axle had been replaced by fully independent rear suspension, making for a much more poised car overall. This also allowed Chevrolet to utilize softer springs, which made for a more comfortable ride when compared to its predecessor. This Corvair Monza is fitted with the 164ci engine, which produced 110hp at its peak. Bolted to this is a 4-speed manual transaxle, and when you couple those factors with a vehicle weight of a mere 2,754lbs, that would have made this a nimble and enjoyable car to drive. The Corvair was parked in 2003 because the engine had become smoky, but it appears that no-one has investigated in a bid to determine why this was so. The current owner has attempted to coax the car back to life, and while it will turn freely, the engine won’t fire. He does suggest that this could simply be because the Chevy still wears old plugs and plug wires, but giving the entire fuel system a good clean would probably help matters. With those items attended to there might be some chance that it will fire-up once again.

It is said that timing is everything, and it was everything that the 2nd generation Corvair simply didn’t have. There is no doubt that from a styling perspective, the new model ran rings around its predecessor. The new rear suspension meant that it was capable of running those rings with relative ease. The 1965 Corvair faced a perfect storm, and there was no single reason why the car eventually faded into obscurity. Certainly, the release of Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe At Any Speed” did the Corvair’s reputation some very real harm. This was a shame because the very character trait that the illustrious Mr. Nader had placed firmly in his crosshairs was but a distant memory in 1965. The death knell was almost certainly sounded by Ford when they pulled the covers off the Mustang. That was a car that was a game-changer for the industry as a whole, and while the Corvair was proving to be relatively expensive to develop, build, and update, The Mustang represented style and presence that had cost its creator peanuts. It was no real surprise that Chevrolet chose to follow the pony car route, and that drove the final nail into the Corvair’s coffin. They still remain an attractive car, and this one has the potential to be an absolute beauty once it is restored. I hope that someone undertakes a faithful restoration of this 1965 Corvair Monza Convertible because there is no doubt that it would attract plenty of attention once the work has been completed. What do you say? Are you up for the challenge?

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Comments

  1. Steve Bush Member

    Again, can someone please explain the seller’s mentality here. The car looks to have some potential but the seller is unwilling to clean it up and invest maybe $200 or so to get it running yet he wants $3150 to start the auction. Saw a 1966 model, nice driver, green with back interior (top was down), here in Cleveland, driven by a woman with her two young kids.

    Like 10
    • Big_Fun Member

      Steve,
      I think it is the aura of ‘the find’. I think one or two pictures of the before are fine…then clean it up, if you can.
      A seller should remember that if they ‘pay’ themselves $20/hour (an arbitrary number), for time spent cleaning, detailing and taking GREAT photos (location and as many as possible), they should get that number (that ‘hourly’ wage) back 5 fold.

      Like 8
      • Big_Fun Member

        Steve,
        I think it is the aura of ‘the find’. I think one or two pictures of the before are fine…then clean it up, if you can.
        A seller should remember that if they ‘pay’ themselves $20/hour (an arbitrary number), for time spent cleaning, detailing and taking GREAT photos (location and as many as possible), they should get that number (that ‘hourly’ wage) back 5 fold – $100/hour. Again, this depends on the vehicle. And you can use any number you want.
        There should be a rule that if any ‘find’ has a picture on a rollback or trailer, automatically deduct $200.00 from the price!
        No flipper hate here… just lazy flipper angst, I guess.

        Like 5
  2. DayDreamBeliever Member

    I would certainly have concerns about rust on this car, with the unibody construction at risk of being weakened. Hard to believe how clean the trunk is inside, though!

    This car has a couple of unusual features, one I have seen before, and one I haven’t: The car has a “Dusty Climate” pre-filter, in addition to the center mounted air filter on top of the air tubing for the two carburetors.

    Underneath the center air filter, and hovering over the cooling fan, is something that I will be researching!

    Like 3
    • ACZ

      That desert air cleaner is rare. I’ve never seen that device to pull cold cooling air from beneath the rear window. It almost has to be aftermarket. Anyone else ever seen one?

      Like 4
      • Dogbert

        That desert air cleaner is extremely rare. I’m only aware of one in existence besides this (but certainly there may be others). If the price was more reasonable I would buy it just for that. A real pity – as someone pointed out earlier – that this was not kept in its original color.

        Like 1
      • DayDreamBeliever Member

        I started a discussion about the cold-air duct on a Corvair list. Pretty darn unusual, apparently. I’ve been around Corvairs for over 50 years, and have never seen one like that before.

        The super-duper air filter, I have seen in person exactly once, but have viewed photos. Very uncommon, for sure.

        IF this were a higher-end car to begin with, the auction might have gained some traction. But with the only real draw being odd stuff in the engine compartment, I am kind of surprised that it managed to find that person who would pay the $3,150. Looks like it happened, though.

        Like 3
  3. junkman Member

    Is it too much to ask for a picture of the WHOLE car? Stand back a bit, then take your camera, and when you can see the entire vehicle in the viewfinder, then click. Walk around the car repeating this process until all sides have been taken. Next get your shopvac and clean the inside, then wash it and repeat the photo process. Thank You

    Like 17
  4. Claudio

    So there is a $3150 reserve on this !

    The nicest combination for a corvair , second generation and topless…

    Like 3
  5. Dogbert

    As a current Corvair owner and a former 1966 Corvair convertible owner, I would think that the rust issue should be the #1 concern of any potential buyer. The design flaws are most evident at the door hinges and if those do not shut freely (almost always a problem) when rust has weakened the unibody these things literally can break apart.

    Like 4
  6. Doone

    Beginning with the 1964 model year, which is the vintage to get if you’re into the 1st gen body style, the swing axle was changed to the same one as in the 2nd gen.

    Like 2
    • PairsNPaint

      Nope. ’64 model got a “camber compensater” (transverse leaf spring) bolted to the transmission and outer swing axles, as well as softer rear springs. Helped control oversteer until the ’65 got IRS.

      Like 8
  7. Fred W

    If the engine had become “smokey” (as in the exhaust), it probably needed a rebuild like any other engine. However, if you went on a drive on a hot day and when you stopped it was smoking (as in off the block), then the pushrod tubes were probably leaking and that can be fixed in a few hours with Viton seals. This problem occurred on every Corvair with original seals.

    Like 10
  8. redwagon

    this would have been a very sharp looking car when it rolled off the Willow Run assembly line in early 1965. Something like this……http://www.wittelaw.com/personal/colors/Evening%20Orchid%2065.JPG

    Like 10
  9. C P Murray

    Suspension is not the same as gen 2. 64 only had a transverse spring added.

    Like 1
    • Jonathan

      That spring helped. The ’64 was less likely to swap ends and less sensitive to tire pressure. But handling was nothing like the gen 2. I had a ’65 Corsa 140 that owned twisty roads. Gen 2 also had big brakes for the weight of the car.

      Like 3
  10. bull

    “Evening Orchid” what a beautiful original color on this car.

    MUCH BETTER than ole resale red!

    Like 8
  11. Vince H

    Evening Orchid was only available in 65. Should have been left that color.

    Like 7
    • DayDreamBeliever Member
      • Little_Cars

        California pricing always makes me giggle. Don’t get me wrong, that is an outstanding example. But c’mon…close to $19k for a non-Corsa 1965 Corvair. Sure, we can all pull up examples from the Mecums and B-J’s of the world but those are the exception. Hopefully for a little while longer at least.

        Like 1
      • On and On On and On Member

        Little_Cars…..It’s a dealer. They can ask pie in the sky prices and hope for a goof with dough. Generally they hold for a time, put nothing into the deal but advertisement. The longer it sits the lower the offer should be. If it’s consignment, all the better cause the owner obviously wants out. NEVER let high dealer prices keep you from looking and offering. Sometimes you can get a great car at a fair price. I recently was attracted to a Packard convertible in Canada I really liked, a nice car. It was way over it’s realistic value and I contacted the dealer and low-low balled a verbal price and they bit hard. I decided I wasn’t ready for another car now, but it taught me a lesson. For dealers selling specialty autos a bird in the hand applies and making a few bucks and moving on is better than making nothing while outlaying dough for ads……………I may still buy that Packard BTW…………………..As for this Corvair here on BF for sale, a parts car. Rusted in all the wrong spots. Even the cool rare equipment looks awful tired to me……..Was a great write up though Adam, very accurate and informative.

        Like 3
  12. 19sixty5 Member

    Does this car have one of those old JC Whitney knife handle dipstick handles on it? Regarding Evening Orchid, yes it is a great color… but you have to think back 20-40 plus years ago, many were repainted as the color was less than popular.

    Like 1
  13. Little_Cars

    My 1974 MG was painted Aconite at the factory (purple). By the time I rescued it in 2014, it had been repainted candy apple red AND Earl Schieb blue. I brought it back to purple in my modest restoration. Being a long time Corvair owner and follower I have NEVER seen the desert options installed and functioning. I wonder if it was the additional hoses and filters that made this particular car begin to “smoke?” Even a slight oil leak may have been made worse with the addition of these traps for fumes and particulate matter.

    Like 2
    • ACZ

      Of the 137 I’ve owned over the last 50 years (I still have three), I have had only two with the desert air cleaner. It’s just an old fashioned oil bath pre-cleaner. They never hampered operation in any way.

      Like 2
  14. bull

    Hey ON And ON.

    You say you made an offer and the way you describe it they accepted your offer.

    MAN UP and do the right thing and BUY THE CAR!

    Like 1
    • On and On On and On Member

      Hey bull, Wasn’t quite to that point, I threw out a low number and the dealer wanted to negotiate a sale. I would have had to ship the car from Canada. My point was not to let dealer high prices scare you away from nice cars. MAN UP? I did and became a member of Barn Finds last year!

      Like 2

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