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Turbo Barn Find: 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder Convertible

The average motorist is content to slip behind the wheel of a car that offers neutral handling or tends to transition gracefully into understeer. Chevrolet’s Monza was a groundbreaking design for the company that also possessed lively handling due to its swing-axle rear suspension design. Following adverse publicity and pre-dating Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at any Speed, the company updated the suspension for the 1964 model year that moved its handling towards a more neutral setup that was less likely to “bite” those who placed their ambitions ahead of their abilities. The cream of the crop for the 1964 model year was the Corvair Monza Spyder with the turbocharged six. Our feature car is one of those vehicles that is a genuine and solid barn find. Examining the supplied photos suggests it should represent a straightforward and satisfying restoration project. The owner has listed it here on eBay in Saint Louis, Missouri. They have set a BIN of $8,500, and twenty-three people are watching the listing.

While full-sized cars continued to dominate the American market during the 1960s, manufacturers recognized a ready need for smaller and more efficient options that could serve as primary transport or a second car in some households. Chevrolet examined the trends and saw the rise of the Volkswagen Beetle. Rather than downsizing an existing platform, they commenced the development of the Corvair with a blank sheet of paper. It adopted the Beetle design philosophy but slightly enlarged every aspect to improve practicality. Surprisingly for a car from this era, it also elected to keep ornamentation and chrome to a minimum, creating a minimalist vehicle that struck a chord with the buying public. Initial acceptance exceeded expectations, with 253,268 buyers parking a Corvair in their garage during the first model year. Sales climbed during the following two years before tapering. By 1964, the final production year for the First Generation model, the figure fell to 215,300. The numbers rallied the next year with the introduction of the more svelte and modern Second Generation Corvair, but from there, it was all downhill until production ended in 1969. The seller located this Corvair Monza Spyder Convertible in a barn and was amazed by its solid nature. When it was new, it must have made a striking statement in its white-on-white-on-white paint and trim combination. They indicate it received a previous repaint in its original Ermine White but is due for a repeat performance. The panels are straight, but the ace this Corvair holds is its rust-free status. These classics developed a reputation for problems, but our feature car wears little beyond surface corrosion. The trunk pan is rock-solid, although the floors have some heavy surface corrosion. Addressing this would be wise before it can transition to penetrating rust, but doing so should be relatively easy. The White soft-top looks remarkably good for its age, as does the trim. With glass that is free from cracks or major flaws, a competent new owner could spend more time than money whipping the panels and paint into shape in a home workshop.

The 1964 model year marked some of the most radical mechanical updates in the First Generation Corvair’s short history. Concerned about adverse publicity due to the car’s lively handling, 1964 Corvairs received a transverse leaf spring on the rear suspension that reduced the tendency for rear wheel “tuck-under” in hard cornering. Allied with softer springs and a standard front anti-roll bar, it made the handling more predictable near the limits. The company also increased the engine capacity, and while this generally resulted in a power increase across the board, that wasn’t the case with the turbocharged 164ci air-cooled six in this classic’s engine bay. This engine was the most desirable in the badge’s armory, producing 150hp. The original owner decided that the power should feed to the road via a four-speed manual transmission, allowing the Corvair to cover the ¼ mile in a respectable 16.7 seconds. The seller states that the car is mechanically complete, although the starter or solenoid may be faulty. They dropped a battery into the car, but turning the key produced nothing but a click. They haven’t pursued this further, which I find encouraging. That leaves the next owner free to pursue this classic’s revival their way without the fear that someone may have damaged something in a misguided attempt to breathe new life into the Spyder.

The original owner ordered this Corvair with an interior trimmed in White vinyl. The choice of a contrasting red dash and carpet adds a touch of class and would have turned heads in 1964. The interior is complete, and the upholstered surfaces are surprisingly free from wear and physical damage, although some pieces exhibit the common “yellowing” issue. Before I spent a dime inside this classic, I would treat everything to a deep clean. The carpet may not respond well, meaning the new owner may need to spend $220 on a new carpet set. If the yellowing remains an issue, some processes can reduce the impact. YouTube is full of videos that would assist, and a bit of time and effort may have the interior presenting nicely for a minimal outlay.

History shows that certain sectors of the media treated the First Generation Corvair unfairly. It was undoubtedly a lively car that could bite the unwary, but it shared much of its design with the iconic Volkswagen Beetle. The “Herbie” possessed the same handling characteristics, but it slipped under the radar at the expense of the Corvair. While these cars are developing a following in the classic community, values are only rising modestly. That means they remain reasonably affordable, especially for an enthusiast considering a first purchase. Recent history shows that if restored to a high standard, it should be valued at around $25,000. When you consider its rock-solid nature and the fact it possesses the most desirable drivetrain combination, it should be a financially viable project for someone willing to undertake some of the less complicated tasks. Unless you beat them to the punch, I won’t be surprised if one of those people watching the listing hits the BIN button.

Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    I will have to ask my Corvair guru friend but I didn’t think you could order white interior with red carpet. I have been wrong however more times than I can remember. The 64 is the one to have and not much would be needed to install a later turbo and carburetor to boost power. If inspection in person doesn’t reveal any nasty rust the price is right. I would be inclined if it were mine to do the ignition upgrades and install a hybrid turbo. Maybe even a fuel injection set-up to really wake up the car’s potential. In stock form to me they are lackluster and a good modified 110 engine is much more enjoyable to drive.

    Like 6
    • bobhess bobhess Member

      Certainly a good candidate for your ideas alphasud. Nice to see one of the special cars in decent condition with a reasonable price. Had the two carb engine in our ’65 Monza and after installing a turbo exhaust and some ignition upgrades it had good street power.

      Like 4
    • alphasud Member

      My send sent me a RPO code list for 64 and I was in fact wrong. On the Monza and Monza Spyder models with white interiors you could have red carpet dash and steering wheel. Not too common and hopefully someone keeps it in its original configuration.

      Like 15
    • Harcourt Mudd

      No to all those changes above. The 1964 spyder conv is the unicorn and it should be left exactly as the factory built it. These are not stop light racers, they are decent handling, fun cars to drive around town with the top down and the AM radio blaring Honky Tonk Woman. The 64 has the improved IRS, larger sway bar, better wheels, etc. Just clean up and drive it. Corvair engines are built to last, and the turbo engines are further improved with hyperutectic pistons, forged rods, and sodium filled exh valves. Clean it, tune it, and drive it.

  2. Vance

    One thing about getting older, you learn to appreciate things that never garnered your attention in your youth. I liked the second generation much more than this one, but this is a very nice example due to it’s simplicity. My Father was a Blue Oval man, so buying a Chevy was forbidden, and he had a friend who lost a daughter in one. She was going too fast on a slick road and it went into a fatal spin. This is a nice car at a good price.

    Like 8
  3. Kevin M Fear

    I have probably forgotten more about Corvairs than most know. First give away are the gutters aroubg the engine compartment and filled in with bondo! First of all all teh water runs into the engine compartment second its a glue bag! Parts car!

    Like 1
    • Joe

      Correct. Clearly seen in the Ebay engine area pic. The only reason anyone would Bondo those side rain channels up would be rust through. Actually, I’ve never seen those areas rust out, so something is up.
      I have a ’64 convertible, and they rust at the bottoms of the wheel arches.

      Like 1
  4. Troy

    Nice write up, at that price point I’m surprised it’s not sold I’m not familiar with this car other than car shows

    Like 1
  5. RMac

    I believe Kevin may be correct close look at the drivers rear above the tail lights looks like rust bubbling through Bondo and the engine cover lip. Filled with Bondo. Be best to check this one in person with a magnet
    Unfortunate because it is a great looking car with a great drive combo

    Like 1
  6. George Birth

    I had a 65 Monza with twin carbs. The car had a hole in one cyl. but the twin carbs were tough to synchronize. Took it to local Chevy dealer for tune up lazy mechanic took plugs out cleaned them put them back in cracked one plug. Charged me for a muffler bracket, upon inspection he used a clothes hanger. My dad went back with me to dealer himself put car on a lift and the fun began. Got new plugs wires points and condenser. Car ran pretty good. Did have a problem with oil leaks that were a pain to stop.

    Like 2
  7. Lowell Peterson

    Deal!

    Like 3
  8. Lowell Peterson

    Deal!

  9. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Apparently, NOT a deal, as the auction ended without any takers at the BIN price. That doesn’t surprise me, as the labor required to return this car to it’s glory is a really big factor.
    I looked at the photos before reading the description, or the comments here…. And I was struck by the appearance of the body surrounding the engine compartment opening. Why on earth would anyone do that? There’s plenty of rust underneath, and overall the car needs pretty much everything. Dreams of $25K are only realized after investing more than that in parts, cleaning, repairs, and paint.
    The seller *might* have gotten 6K…

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