Memorial Day Classic: 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Monza – Unofficial Start To Convertible Season


(first posted 5/26/2014)     This white Corvair Monza convertible is a great way to inaugurate the start of convertible season, and as a bigger, better, all-American take on the rear-engined economy car, it’s also a perfect way to celebrate Memorial Day.


The dashboard–which I unfortunately don’t have pictures of–flags this as a Monza, so Laurence suspects this is a repaint, as the taillight panel is body colored and not the expected silver.  And that means a standard non-turbo, twin-carb flat-six.  This particular car, however, is equipped the optional 140 horsepower, four-carb version, as the badge above the decklid denotes.


Ideally when posting a 65 Corvair, I’d want it to be a hardtop coupe or sedan.  With a greenhouse that delicate, it’s almost a shame to cut a car’s roof off.  I, however, love convertibles, and our featured white on white Monza fairly screams vacation, so I can’t think of a more holiday-appropriate choice.  You don’t wear white shoes after labor day, after all.


It’s the sort of car with which to cruise to a body of water for a weekend of margarita drinking and speed boating (insert obligatory “enjoy responsibly” message here).


Chevy’s marketers must’ve had the same idea when printing this brochure.  Sure, this beach is a family friendly setting, but you know Ma and Pa are going to get soused once the boys are put to bed.  They might as well enjoy the opportunity to do so before their growing brood pushes them into a Kingswood Estate and vacations at Disneyland.  With the Corvair, enjoy responsibly wasn’t part of Chevy’s plans; the goal was a sporty economy car and the product of that thinking was a unique, casual take on entry level motoring.  The Mustang and Falcon convertibles, in comparison, seemed to take themselves more seriously.


Here’s another ad, clearly stating Chevy’s intentions.  It’s hard to think of any other car which so accessibly captured the care-free spirit of motoring at the time.  And the Corvair with a four-carb engine was no slouch; while turbocharged models came into their own at freeway speeds, the instant response of a naturally aspirated engine would be more welcome when driving up a twisty coastal road to a long weekend getaway.


The low weight of the now 164 CID six, named Turbo-Air (with or without a turbocharger), aided the balanced handling needed to fully enjoy the talents of its 140 horsepower.  With about 2400 pounds to propel, it gave good performance across all engine speeds and the newly redesigned rear suspension made winding it out even better.  Unsafe At Any Speed, it wasn’t; just very entertaining.


Memorial Day, along with the Fourth of July, is all about entertainment.  While this air-cooled creature doesn’t make the most sense for some other holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas (which carry the weight of familial obligation), for warm weather occasions, it’s hard to beat a lightweight, sprightly convertible.  The best part is the large trunk which will hold plenty of beer, swimsuits and fireworks.  On this blue example, also photographed by Laurence, a luggage rack aids and abets overpacking.


Of course, summer is convertible season and car show season.  We’ll see many other topless beauties trotted out over the next couple days and months.  And while the Corvair Monza Spyder is an excellent way to inaugurate this magical time of year, many of you have your own all-American convertible favorites.  Which most say Memorial Day to you?