(first posted 10/7/2015) A couple of years ago, the historic Capitol Theatre located in the heart of downtown Flint, Michigan was offering free tours of this grand, old dame that was under renovation at the time. And what a fine edifice and architectural treasure she is. Upon entering the main part of the theater, and to my complete surprise, sitting up on stage was this ’64 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder. She was basking in the hazy half-lights washing upon the stage, looking a little like a middle-aged vixen, sitting on a stool up there with a sultry smirk. “Well, Boy…what are you waiting for? Come have a look-see, huh?”
Ignoring my present company (pretty much leaving them in my dust), I heeded this siren’s call. Boom-chicka-boom. Like an enduringly beautiful, mature lady who knows she’s still fine, this Corvair had me under her spell. Her lustrous black paint and scarlet interior were proving to be irresistible. And then there was her intoxicating scent once I allowed myself to move in a little closer. Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson. Wait…what’s that you’re showing me? Your “for sale” sign? I am so turned on right now.
(Okay…I’m back after a cold shower.) This is precisely just my type of Curbside Classic: sexy, quirky, imperfect, a little exotic, and oh-so-very alluring. Yowsah! This Corvair was not at all like some of the other temptresses I had experienced back when I had a car of my own – some of them being newer, further upscale, more efficient or sophisticated – and most of them faster. No, this Corvair was different, exuding confidence in a way that comes only with life experience. She was making me work for it – to play the game and try to understand this attraction which felt so wrong, but oh, so right.
The asking price was something like $5,500 OBO for what was one of just under 6,500 turbocharged Monza Spyder Club Coupes produced for the model year. This car and configuration was originally base-priced at $2,589 USD, which is just under $20,000/even, adjusted for 2015. Surely I could think of one regular or semi-regular habit I could live without that would enable me to save money with which to pay myself back for buying this car. There’d be no need to drive it back to Chicago. I’m back in Flint often enough that I could just pay for car storage somewhere in Genesee County for the cold weather months and just drive it around town when I’m back once it gets warm again. There’s probably also a whole lot more automotive and mechanical know-how concentrated in that part of Michigan than in some other states as a whole. And I’d probably get a better price on labor in this area, if past experience is any indicator.
Owning a black Corvair coupe like this one would also be a way to connect with a piece of Flint history. None other than the Charles Stewart Mott, wealthy benefactor of not just this community but the entire United States, owned several Corvairs, one of which was a black coupe which I imagine to look something like this one. I was unable to verify the model year of any of Mr. Mott’s Corvairs, but having read about his penchant for frugality (despite his massive wealth), I doubt any of his examples was a turbo Spyder. He passed in ’73.
Enough about Charles Stewart Mott…let’s have another look at this car. A real dish, isn’t she? Much like with the AMC Javelin, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time deliberating as to whether I like the first or second generation better. I like both Corvairs for completely different reasons – the first-generation for a style which combines a certain, understated continental flair with daring engineering, and the second-gen for pulling off a sleek, Italian-esque makeover and remaining both decidedly American and recognizable as nothing else. This particular Corvair has never heard of anything called an “identity crisis” – she knows exactly who she is and what she’s about.
Let’s talk about those round quad-taillamp pods. Has there ever been a car that didn’t look sporty wearing them? (This includes the 1974- ’78 AMC Matador coupe – another car I had once fawned over.) She has just the right amount of chrome jewelry in all the right places (rocker panels, headlamp bezels, window surrounds, and bumpers front and rear), calling attention to all her best features. She really knows how to dazzle a photographer, especially in a setting like this.
Now she’s really getting to me…or is it just this cinematic backdrop in which we met? I start seriously asking myself if this May-December thing could actually work out. The last thing I would want to happen is for her to make me her plaything – draining my wallet, needing my constant reassurance, and consuming all my time and resources. I am my own man, and in some ways, this could potentially go very badly. But it could also go the other way. She could end up teaching me a lot about life, car-love, and patience (though a nine-second 0-60 time is hardly slow). She also might expire a lot sooner than me, but I can’t really think about that right now. I’m still blinded by her allure.
The internet is a beautiful thing in this decade, and smartphones make it possible to obtain information on pretty much anything, within a matter of seconds. What smart person wouldn’t do a quick check on a potential? …Uh-oh. As it turns out, many Corvairs like her were wont to smoke, and smoking’s a deal-breaker for me. She’s in great outward condition, but not pristine. And there’s no way I can start her up now. She’s such a tease. She sees the indecision in my eyes fading into a more definite answer and seems to sense me pulling away. I gaze at her fondly and smile. “It’s okay. I understand,” she purrs, with a shrug of her shoulders and that cute, crooked pout of hers. “It would probably never work. But it was a nice idea, wasn’t it?“
Sure it was. Thanks for the memories, Sweetheart.
Downtown Flint, Michigan.
- From Tom Klockau: Curbside Classic: 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder – Activate The Turbocharged Scat;
- From Paul Niedermeyer: Curbside Classic: 1963 Corvair Monza Spyder – The Turbo Revolution Started Here;
- and: Curbside Classic: 1963 Corvair Monza Coupe – A Coup For Chevrolet And A Sedan For Me; and
- From Robert Kim: CC Capsule: 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Convertible — Winter Is Coming, Plan Ahead.