Jan 19, 2006 update to the Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder project car

Eat It, Nader

At 7/10ths, the Corvair is quite composed.
Things get a little wonkier as speeds and cornering forces increase. We’ll be working on that.

It’s almost identical to the one of my memories, except that this Monza Spyder has half again as much horsepower thanks to its turbocharger.

Sometimes it becomes obvious that we live our lives according to emotion, not logic. No wonder we drove poor old Mr. Spock so crazy.

Our own proof of this tendency is sitting in the garage. It’s a 1963 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder, one of the best examples of emotion beating logic that God ever put on this green earth. There’s no other way to explain a car that represented so many innovative “firsts” by its manufacturer, GM—including fully independent front and rear suspension, unibody design, and a rear-mounted, aircooled engine (Chevy’s only attempt at that breed) available with the manufacturer’s first production turbocharger—that it debuted to great accolades, yet came to be so reviled by an automotive-buying public thanks to Ralph Nader’s sensationalist 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” that its failure is still remembered today.

Our very own Margie Suddard said, “Not that I was aware of any of this the first time I ever set eyes on a ‘Vair, since I was only 7 years old. It was 1968, and my big sister Terri had just gotten her first set of wheels, a maroon 1963 Corvair Spyder that was already so rusty, and had been repaired so badly, that my dad and she plastered big vinyl “flower power” stickers all over the sides to hide the cracked body filler. I thought it was wonderful.”

She adds, “I have many great memories of being trundled about in this first car by my sister and her girlfriends, who now that I think about it treated me like a sort of pet. Terri could replace a thrown fan belt in just a minute or two, and she still has stories of burly men who stopped to help her on the side of the road, only to be astonished when she calmly walked around to the OPPOSITE end of the car from where they were standing, quickly popped the deck lid and tucked the belt back into place. It’s the sort of story that appeals to us Young women on several levels.”

Which brings me to MY Corvair. I’ve been campaigning for one for awhile,” Margie continued, “and although I am happy to acknowledge the superior mechanicals (and, okay, styling) of the second-gen cars (post-1965), I wanted an Early just like the one in my memories. And eBay made my dreams come true when this all-original, rust-free example (really!) came up for auction just before Christmas. It’s almost identical to the one of my memories, except that this Monza Spyder has half again as much horsepower thanks to its turbocharger.”

The car is crusty but ready to roll now that we’ve put new 195/60R14 Hankook tires on Panasport-style wheels and a set of Koni shocks underneath it (turns out off-the-shelf C3 Corvette front shocks fit just fine front and rear). The engine was rebuilt sometime in the early ‘70s but ran very little afterward, and the top is new. As soon as we get a front bar on there to tune out some of the oversteer (not that Nader knew what he was talking about or anything), we’ll be styling.

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