It’s forgotten quite often that the original plan for the Chevrolet Corvair was to be an economical rival to the proliferation of modest European Sedans that found support on the shores of the United States throughout the 2nd half of the 1950’s. Not only was the Volkswagen Beetle a target. Sedans from Renault, Fiat and Volvo alongside more mundane rivals from the domestic market were part of The Corvair’s world domination plans.
Of course, the vast majority of Americans wanted their basic transportation, well, basic. Where did that leave the Corvair Sedans in the wake of the runaway niche success of the Corvair Coupes and new for ’62 Convertibles?
It’s interesting that Chevrolet bothered at all with the Sedan version of the Corvair at all after 1961. Once the Coupe was given a full production year, the swoopy club coupe roof made many a friend with the husky sounding Flat 6.
Even more surprising, a healthy, nearly 50% take rate of manual transmissions doubled down on the sporting pretenses of both the Corvair and its typical customer.
Still there were plenty of people that were enthralled with the unique, playful and frisky character of the Corvair but still preferred the room and convenience of a 4 door body style.
People moving out of those Renaults and Volkswagens not all that well suited to long distance, higher speed interstate highway driving appreciated the ability to choose a set it and forget it and tough as nails Powerglide Automatic, or the extra oomph of the 6 cylinder drivetrain. Air Conditioning, also, was surprisingly available on the Corvair as well. Indeed, the Corvair offered in sedan guise some of the best virtues of a European compact and an American sedan as well.
Granted, for 1962, Chevrolet offered its own boring as Wonderbread Chevy II Nova to go after the segment of the domestic market the Ford Falcon won. This saw the death kneel for the Corvair Wagons halfway through the model year, but the Corvair Sedan would trudge along through the 1965 restyle, last being marketed for the 1967 model year. In a number of ways, due to the way you could customize a Corvair from the factory, nevermind the robust aftermarket lead by Fitch conversions, that the Corvair 4 doors could be considered the first domestic sports sedan.
However, the majority of Corvairs were those with sporting pretensions. So it would be more likely that performance upgrades would be applied to a Monza Sedan over the 700 trim level like our subject car. Most likely a 700 Sedan went out the door with a Powerglide Automatic to open up nearly flat floor to exploit the standard bench seat.
With that, a slightly stronger 84 horsepower 145 cube Flat Six was paired with the automatic for 1962, up from the 80 horses on offer from 1960-61. Optional however was the 102 horse version of that engine. The base powerglide cars could be considered adequate for the times, with 0-60 times in the 17 second range, reaching just over 85 mph before running out of breath. Their more docile nature was happy to chug along at 60-65 mph while returning 20-22 mpg in suburban commuting.
The customization spectrum from sedate to sporty was a formula General Motors struggled to get right after the Corvair went out of production. It took until the Pontiac 6000 STE for another critical darling of the sporting family hauler type came from the largest manufacturer of motor vehicles in the country.
General Motors couldn’t have really fathomed they had a hint of the future, if not in drivetrain layout, but in spirit, with Corvairs of all stripes. When you’re as large as GM, sometimes you miss the small little details that lay in plain sight.