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Resurrection in Red: 1961 Chevy Corvair Monza

1961 Chevy Corvair

Being able to see the transformation of a car that you bought in neglected or poor condition is one of the most gratifying aspects of owning a barn find. Whether it’s the satisfaction that comes from getting a car running or simply bringing some shine back to the paint, those gradual improvements deliver feelings of satisfaction like no new car ever could. That’s why this Craigslist listing for a 1961 Chevy Corvair Monza coupe caught my eye, the seller bought this car out of the previous owner’s shed and has performed quite a transformation. Check it out here in North Carolina for $4,000 or best reasonable offer.

1961 Chevy Corvair Monza

Called the “Poor man’s Porsche” by the automotive pundits of the day, the Corvair is oftentimes remembered as a key target in Ralph Nader’s efforts to change the course of automotive safety. This is a bit unfair, as the Corvair was a competent handler that offered solid performance and was later found to put passengers at no greater risk of an accident than other compact cars of the day. Although it wasn’t a hot seller at first, the arrival of the Monza with standard bucket seats and an optional 95-bhp motor helped turn consumers on to the idea of an affordable sports car that offered decent handling in an attractive package.

1961 Chevy Corvair Motor

As someone who was born after the introduction of the Corvair, I’m fascinated by the level of technology integrated into what was by and large an economy car. An all-aluminum, air-cooled engine, mounted in the rear, a fully-independent suspension, and the inclusion of features that today are must-haves, like the folding rear seat. For a family just starting out, the Corvair made it possible to choose from a wagon, convertible, sedan or coupe configurations, with the option of stepping up to the turbocharged Corsa models if performance was your endgame. Imagine having that many options in an economy car lineup today, all with the baked-in handling benefits like only a rear-engine car can deliver.

1961 Chevy Corvair Interior

The seller of this Monza notes that when he pulled it out of the previous owner’s shed, it had been parked since 1973 with only 48,000 miles. The transformation that has taken place since then, most notably with the resurgence of the original Roman Red paint, is incredible. He claims the car is largely as-delivered, down to the body panels and upholstery, which look to be in very serviceable condition in the photos. Whatever his formula was for bringing this car back from the brink, the before and after photos are amazing and should give us all hope when starting a new project. Is this Corvair right for you, or would you hold out for another model? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. RickyM

    This looks brilliant – very nicely done. I have never seen these cars in real life as they never came to England but always liked the look of them in photos. Glad that it has been rescued.

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  2. Vince Habel

    I like the late models better but this looks like it could be a good deal.

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  3. Rick

    That is a pretty car,he did a nice job on it, and glad it’s a 4 speed and not the powerslide slushamatic. Back in ’76 I had a ’63 Corvair van that was super clean with some light damage that I bought as a total through an insurance adjuster friend of mine for $125 with 60K miles that had belonged to a church all its life (added it to the other three Corvair vans in my “fleet” at the time , but I digress) anyhow this particular van was red with the waistband in white, had widows and seats all the way back, but had the automatic with dash lever shift, think it too was a 95 hp, but not sure, anyhow was a fun party rig that I drove for a couple of years, only complaint is it was hard pressed to go 70 on the Interstate, anyhow eventually sold it to a collector that already owned a cherry restored identical van (except w/ 4 speed) so it went to a good home. Always liked Corvairs, most of the first series had pretty much disppeared from the road after 6-7 years because they were pretty much misunderstood mechanically by everybody except the guys at the Chevy Garage. My fave is any 65-69 coupe or convertible, the styling doesn’t look dated even now IMHO.

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  4. guggie

    Nice job , I always thought that the Corvair was understaded , would love one !

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  5. John b

    I had a roman red 61 i bought not far from my house in pa back in 2001. Before i got it, it sat in a chicken coupe for years. $675 later i towed it home, pulled the engine, fixed the head and drove it. Fun car. Went to a car show about 5 years later and put a sign in the window for sale $1675….and she sold in 15 minutes.

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  6. gill

    Love to have it, had a 62.

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  7. Dolphin Member

    It’s amazing what some fine grit paper, a bucket of water, and lots of elbow grease can do to an old car.

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  8. A.J. Matton

    Thanks for the positive feedback, folks. This car is actually the work of myself (current owner) and best friend, Billy McColl of Chair City Corvairs. The primary objective of this particular model was to preserve as much of the originality as possible. The end result was an eye catcher and great conversation piece. Personally, I believe the car should be painted, but my wife convinced me of differently. She suggested I try wet sanding the paint as opposed to completing the body work and respraying, and quite frankly Im glad she did.

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  9. paul

    Well AJ I too have a barn find 63 Corvair Spyder & virtually no rust. These cars are fun to drive, mine a turbo is quite quick, rated 150 HP & quite the bargain both in costs for the car & parts. What else can you find for 4G’s?

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  10. Wayne

    That’s no 61. A 63 maybe .

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    • A.J.

      @ Paul- We have a 164-110hp we were going to boost to essentially make a 180hp turbo and install in this car, just to have some fun with it. However, being an all matching numbers car, I didn’t want to lose any originality. Agreed, Spyders are a blast to drive!

      @ Wayne- LOL

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      • paul

        Yes keep it all matching.

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  11. tom999p

    I have a yenko corvair in my barn

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  12. Vince Habel

    it is a 61. look at the grille bar.

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  13. Alan (Michigan)

    I have to say “Nice Job” to A.J., for the work he and friend Billy did to get the car to its’ current condition. From the looks of the photos taken before the feat was accomplished, there were missing parts, like the rear grille.

    I also am happy to see that the car is a 4-speed, they are so much more fun than the powerglide version. The ad clearly states an eventual need for a clutch job. Frankly, the Corvair is one of the easiest vehicles around to do that service. Over the years, I’ve done several, by dropping the entire drivetrain. Piece of cake!

    My parents first bought a used ’64 Monza, then later the MSO ’66 Corsa that I still own. Both 4-speeds, and both great cars. Anyone buying this one will have a blast.

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  14. Charlie Member

    Inflate the tires properly (12 lb in the front and 32 in the rear or some such configuration) and install the anti sway bar in the rear that GM value engineered out of the early ones, and you won’t have the Ralph Nadar problem (the rear end would hike up and wheels tuck under and you would do a 360 on a perfectly dry straight road). Renault Dauphines had the same issue. Otherwise, esp with the more powerful engine, just a wonderful car.

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    • Tom

      Sorry Charlie (I really liked typing that). There was never an anti sway bar offered by GM on ANY Corvair. There was, however, a rear transverse spring in ’64 only (partnered with significantly softer rear coil springs and an anti sway bar in the FRONT). Also, for, I believe, ’62 and ’63 a Corvair buyer could have ordered theirs with the optional FRONT anti sway bar.

      Adding a front antisway bar to a pre-’64 not originally equipped necessitates a ’64 front cross-member and lower control arms also be swapped onto the car. Adding the rear transverse spring necessitates a ’64-only differential and rear lower control arms, along with the aforementioned softer coil springs.

      Finally, in rebuttal to the “Ralph Nadar problem”, here’s my basically stock ’63 being driven “in anger” at Summit Point raceway.

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  15. John

    I would love to have my 66 Corvair 110 back. It was a fun little car. The 140s were even more fun. The 180 turbo always looked like even more fun, but I never got to drive one. Koni shocks, 42 lbs in the front tires and 32 in the rear eliminated the push, shortened steering arms got the steering down to 3 turns lock to lock. Clutch cables were a pain, but the little car just kept on running. Great car.

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  16. A.J.

    A few more before pictures.

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  17. A.J.

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  20. A.J.

    Now a few afters…

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    • Jeff Lavery Staff

      AJ, great job bringing this Corvair back and thanks for sharing all of the photos. Do I spy an E28 BMW in this picture? I actually just picked one of these up to join my E30 and E36 M3…

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      • A.J.

        Actually yes, you do, Jeff. It’s my 1988 e28 M5. Pretty much my dream car. Believe it or not, it was sort of a barn find, too!!

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  23. A.J.

    Hwy 276 in the foothills… Just after ‘Vairs in the Valley’ 2013

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    • paul

      I missed the Vairs in the valley but was at Helen this year , quite fun with about 125 Corvairs I was surprised to see so many that looked as good or better then the day they left the factory.
      At the auto cross I saw some serious driving.

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  24. Chris

    Never were the words “that will buff out” more apt. Well, rub out anyway.

    Well done!

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  25. Alan (Michigan)


    I’d have never guessed that paint could be brought back like that.

    Must have been fun doing the louvers on the deck lid!

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  26. Steve

    Looks like a great job!!! Nice work on the paint and interior. These are fun cars to drive and restore despite Nader’s comments. My son and I recently did a 1964 Convertible but it was in worse condition to start I think. Anyway, it is a fun ride with the top down in the sun and so what if it isn’t a Porsche! Again, GOOD work.

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  27. Brian

    While most people seem to prefer the Gen 2 Corvairs, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ’61-62 ‘Vairs (never could get past the “pressed in” look of the ’60 front nose) even though the Gen 2 cars are probably superior to the early cars in ever mechanical way. Even the lowly 4 door with their, by then, dated wrap around back glass have a way of holding my attention in a way that would surely piss off Ralph Nader!

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  28. Joe Howell

    Sweet car, had a 63 Spyder 40+ years ago. Local guy has a couple that I always enjoy seeing around. You haven’t lived till you spun a Corvair around in a ring.

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  29. gunningbar

    I learned to drive in one of these about 1963. Beautiful job saving original paint!

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  30. John Humason

    My dad had a ’61 Monza coupe when I was a little kid which was the same as that one except for exterior color (black). I was disappointed because it (not nearly) replaced his Jaguar XK140, but he loved it. His best friend had a red ’62 Monza convertible at the time. I later helped a friend build a customized/autocross ’66 Corsa (with the turbo and Webers and “hidden” pearl flames) that would look right at home in some of today’s televised car events.

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  31. Jeff Lavery Staff

    AJ – a barn find M5??! We have to hear about that!!

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  32. John

    I have a wrecked (rear ended)65 convertible for sale.

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