Chevy Corvair 1965-1969

Article by Mark Trotta

Lower and wider, new exterior lines, and significant chassis refinements; the second-generation Corvair was improved inside and out. New options included AM/FM stereo radio, in-dash air conditioning, a better heater system, and a telescopically adjustable steering column. With the B-pillar removed on hardtop models, the 1965 Corvair was offered in three series; the base 500, Monza (mid-range) and top-of-the-line Corsa.

1965 Corvair history

Upgraded Suspension

Needing to address safety issues of the 1960-1964 Corvairs, GM engineers re-designed the rear suspension for 1965. A new independent rear suspension replaced the original swing axle rear. This IRS setup was similar in design to the Corvette, with the Corvair getting coil springs at each wheel instead of the Corvette's single transverse leaf spring unit. The fully-articulated half-axles gave constant camber on the rear tires in all driving situations, and the redesigned suspension reduced the rear roll center to half its previous height.

Corvair Corsa

New for 1965 was the Corvair Corsa, with a distinctive instrument panel featuring a 140 mph speedometer, a 6,000-rpm tachometer, cylinder-head temperature gauge, analog clock with a sweeping second hand, and manifold vacuum/pressure gauge.

Engine Choices

The rear-mounted, air-cooled, aluminum alloy six-cylinder engine was offered in the base 95-horsepower or optional 110-horsepower version. For the driver wanting additional power, a 140-horsepower engine was optional on the 500 and Monza models with either manual or Powerglide transmissions. The previous 150-hp Spyder engine was replaced by the normally aspirated 140-hp engine, featuring larger valves and four one-barrel carburetors. Cars so equipped came with dual-exhaust.

1965 Corvair Corsa engine

Turbo Corvair

The 180-hp turbocharged engine was optional on 1965 and 1966 production Corsa engines, with either the standard three-speed or optional four-speed manual transmission. Cars so equipped required premium gas and used more of it, particularly under boost.

Z-17 Suspension

With a 16:1 quick-ratio steering box and special steering arms, the Z-17 handling package made the Corvair handle remarkably well. Available on all models, special shock absorbers and springs were also part of the package.

Total Corvair production for 1965 was 247,092.

1966 Corvair

The 1966 lineup remained essentially unchanged from 1965. Minor improvements this year included a two-piece steering column with universal joint, lessening the danger of intrusion during a front end collision. A plastic air dam was installed below the front valence panel to decrease cross-wind sensitivity. The four-speed manual transmission was upgraded as well.

1966 Corvair History

Air-conditioned cars received a new condenser that was mounted in front of the engine. This eliminated the bulky old-style condenser which sat atop the engine, requiring removal for most under hood servicing. Production for the model year was down, at 103,743.

Declining Sales

The big news coming from Chevrolet in 1966 was their entry into the new pony-car market, the Camaro. Slated to debut for the 1967 model year, it was to be a direct competitor for the Ford Mustang.

1967 Corvair

With the lower-priced Monza Sport Coupe outselling the Corsa five-to-one, the latter was dropped after just two years. The 1967 Corvair line was trimmed down to two series and five models, the 500 and Monza Hardtop Coupes and Hardtop Sedans, and the Monza Convertible.

Three engines were offered in 1967; the standard 95-horsepower, and optional 110 and 140 engines. Minor improvements included a collapsible steering column, dual circuit master cylinder with warning light, and steel (instead of aluminum) door hinges. Sales fell sharply to 30,000.

1968 Corvair

The four-door hardtop was discontinued, leaving three Corvair models for 1968, the 500, Monza Hardtop Coupe, and Monza Convertible. Additional safety features, including side marker lights, and shoulder belts for closed models, were fitted per the federal government's requirements.

1966 Corvair Monza interior

Because of the increased engine load due to a mandatory Air Injection Reactor (AIR pump), air-conditioning was dropped as an option. The GM multiplex stereo system was also discontinued when new units changed wiring adapters; the Corvair's 9-pin connector would no longer fit into the new units. Production for the 1968 model year was 15,399.

Early in 1968, GM's XP-892 project was shown as a full-size model, slated to be the third-generation Corvair. Although proposed for production in 1970, further development of the Corvair was discontinued.

1969 Corvair

The last-year Corvair was available in only two models with just two engine choices, the 500 and the Monza (coupe or convertible), available with either the standard 95-horsepower, or optional 110-horsepower engine. New, wider bucket seats had head restraints.

In the last few months of production, Corvairs were hand-built on a special off-line area of the GM's Willow Run plant. Including 521 Monza convertibles, a total of 6,000 were produced. After a ten-year model run, the Corvair was discontinued in May 1969.

Yenko Stinger Corvair

After being unsuccessful in racing his Corvettes against Ford-powered Shelbys, race car driver/entrepreneur Don Yenko decided to try his luck with racing sports cars. He had been impressed with the Corvair's handling, but the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) categorized the Corvair as a sedan, not a sports car. Yenko proceeded order 100 Corvair Corsa's, removed the back seats, and modified the engine, brakes and suspension to meet the SCCA's rulings.

Yenko Stinger decal

The 100 Ermine White Corsa's came with heavy duty suspension, four-speed transmissions, quick-steering ratio, and limited-slip differentials. He and his crew were able to coax 200-plus horsepower from the stock Corvair engine. An external oil cooler was mounted on the rear body section above the left wheel. A set of tri-stripes in blue were added, along with Stinger decals.

After Chevrolet dropped the Corsa model from the Corvair line in 1967, Yenko ordered Monzas instead. A total of 185 Yenko Stinger Corvairs are believed to have been built from 1965 through 1968.

Corvairs Today

Ever since Don Yenko and his Stingers, Corvairs have proven to be very competitive in SCCA venues. A wide array of new parts are being manufactured for the Corvair engine, including forged rods and pistons, new cast cylinders, fuel-injection systems, and turbocharging systems.

Corvair Society of America

The Corvair Society of America (CORSA) is a worldwide organization with over 40,000 members and 125 local chapters across the globe. Their monthly magazine is called CORSA Communique. National "Drive Your Corvair To Work Day" is in October.

1966 Corvair Monza

Read: Who Killed The Corvair?