As I read more of these old Car Life and Motor Trend magazines, my appreciation for Roger Huntington increases steadily, especially since I just found out that he was paralyzed from the chest down. He wrote for some 15 magazines, including road tests for Motor Trend and others. Apparently he didn’t do the actual driving, but the very detailed testing, which was an important element back then, not just oohing over the latest entertainment software.
This review was something of an eye-opener for me, as Roger’s methodical testing brought to light the limitations of the rather primitive turbocharging that was employed in the new Monza Spyder. As to the specific problem he called out—and is quoted in the title—it all boils down to one word:
Lag, as in turbo lag. It was severe, and it substantially impacted the ability to take advantage of the 50% boost in power as promised by its 150 hp rating. Just how bead? Read on.
That’s not to say the Spyder didn’t also bring a number of positives to the equation; quite a few actually. In addition to the turbo engine, mandatory options included a badly-needed heavy-duty suspension sintered-metallic brake linings, a lovely instrument panel with nice round gauges, the four-speed manual and a 3.55:1 axle ratio. Plus a few badges, of course.
The combination of all these turned the Spyder a genuine sports car, in a liberal definition of the term, and cemented its growing image as being a “poor man’s Porsche”.
The Corvair engine was beefed up to withstand the additional power, had a lower 8.0:1 compression ratio to help minimize detonation, a plastic cooling fan to reduce belt loads at higher rpm, and heavy duty clutch.
As to how it performed, Roger preferred to put the numbers out here first and then do the explaining and the qualifiers. 0-30 in 4.0 sec., 0-60 in 12.1 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 18.5 @ 77 mph was deemed “certainly ‘adequate’. It is by no means quick in this day and age. You may consider it acceptable for a compact sports coupe in this price range. Or you may not. I don’t”
He didn’t pull any punches there. But it’s true; by 1962, 10 seconds for the 0-60 was becoming the dividing line between slow and quick, although in case of imported sports/sport cars, that number was still often somewhat higher.
As a point of comparison, the results of Car Life’s test of a 1961 Monza four-speed with the 98 hp engine were: 0-30: 4.0 sec, 0-60: 15.5 sec., 1/4 mile 20.3 @68 mph. The same to 30 mph, slower to the higher speeds, but not all that much slower. The gap between the Spyder’s 50% power boost and its acceleration numbers were significant.
Here comes the bad news: very serious turbo lag. The large 3″ turbo took way too long to spool up and provide proper boost. This drastically impacted its utilization except in high speed cruising, where the turbo was already spinning pretty well. But in acceleration from a stop or at lower speeds, it might as well not have been there. In fact, it never was able to provide any boost in first gear, and only a bit of boost at the very last moment of having to shift from 2nd to 3rd. In third gear full boost finally arrived just when it’s time to shift into 4th. That explains the acceleration numbers.
Even while driving along in third gear at a pretty high 56 mph (4000 rpm), it took 4.5 to 5.0(!) seconds for the turbo to spool up and provide full boost. Of course, one could put the brakes on while doing that, and the boost would then be right there, but that’s not exactly practical.
Huntington took accelerometer readings to calculate the amount of hp generated at 4000 rpm in each of the gears during full acceleration. 1st gear: 91 hp. 2nd gear: 96 hp; 3rd gear: 103 hp. 4th gear: 112 hp, but probably not yet at full boost due to the track not being long enough. That 112 hp probably corresponds closely with a gross rating of 150 hp.
“How might Chevrolet have licked this turbo response problem? It’s not easy.” The Olds Jetfire turbo didn’t have this serious lag, because they used a by-pass system (waste gate), which also allowed them to keep a high 10.0:1 compression ratio. But that also necessitated an alcohol injection system to prevent detonation. Olds also used a smaller 2.5″ turbo, unlike the 3″ turbo on the Spyder, which increased the Spyder’s turbo rotating inertia by 2½ times. Of course the Jetfire’s system turned out to be a nightmare, and many had to be “de-turboed” by dealers for unhappy customers. Meanwhile, the Corvair’s crude system, which just relied on exhaust back-pressure to limit boost to about 10 psi, ended up being quite reliable and was used for a number of years, through 1966.
Huntington does point out some positives: fuel economy is essentially unchanged, if the boost is not utilized much. It’s silent, and the tone from the low-restriction muffler was fine.
There were situations where the boost could be utilized and savored, as in shifting down into 3rd and running it out to 70 at full throttle. Or in 4th gear, when it’s floored at about 50 or 60; it takes a few seconds, but when the boost comes on, “it surges in and pins you right back. It’s great great between 70 and 90 in high”. Which makes it a fun car, on the highway especially, but it might as well be a non-blown version around town.
Other reviews of the turbo Corvair do mention the lag, but not nearly as succinctly as does Huntington, with his accelerometer reading to confirm just how bad it was.
It seems to me that most of the turbo lag issue could have been resolved by teaming the engine with the Powerglide automatic. In fact, it seems like it would have been a terrific solution: one could spool up the turbo from a standing start by applying the brakes, as was so commonly done with automatics on the drag strip. And once spooled up, it would be one continuous surge of boosted power. So why not?
Ate Up With Motor wrote that such a combination was tried, but that during the moment the automatic shifted from Low to High, there was substantial overboost due to the lack of a wastegate, which then caused “catastrophic engine damage”. Too bad; the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Automatics were widely seen as a way to significantly to reduce the turbo lag issue in the early turbo cars of the eighties.
Huntington found no fault in the Corvair’s new heavy duty suspension and brakes. “They have a beautiful compromise between ride and handling…We noticed especially a reduction in oversteer tendency. Much of this is due to the front anti-roll bar, rather than the stiff springs” (this is the “$4 unit” Chevrolet decided to leave off at the last minute). The Corvair now understeered more at lower speed, transitioning to neutral, and eventually to oversteer near the limits of adhesion. “If you spin out it will undoubtedly be the rear end that goes first!”
This heavy duty suspension also included a lower ride height to increase negative camber on the rear wheels as well as “limiter straps” to prevent severe tuck-under. My ’63 Monza had this suspension, and I never once experienced a truly scary moment, despite a lot of high speed driving on curvy mountain roads.
All of this goes a long way to explaining why Chevrolet developed the 140 hp 4-carb version for 1965. It did need plenty of revs to make that additional power, but it certainly didn’t need 5 seconds for the boost to come on.
Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic: 1963 Corvair Monza Spyder Convertible – The Turbo Revolution Started Here
Curbside Clairvoyant: 1962-63 Olds Jetfire — With Turbo Rocket Fluid! — GM’s Deadly Sin #36
Rogers writing style was very British and far removed from the almost jokey, flippant style of Car and Driver. A great write up.
I know of two Corsair sedans for restoration priced at 1000 Euro the pair . Are they considered a classic like the Mona?.
Because Huntington wrote for multiple different publications, his editorial voice varied quite a bit, presumably in an effort to try to suit the different house styles. His Motor Trend articles were weirdly varied, some with almost English sobriety and some tending to the more exclamation-point-heavy declamatory Hot Rod style.
The Corvair Spyders contributed the low back pressure ‘turbo muffler’ beloved by hot rodders and sports car tuners alike. They were still popular at least well into the 1980s.
My current working definition of severe turbo lag is the Cummins turbodiesel used in the #28 Cummins Diesel Special for the 1952 Indy 500, which took fifteen seconds with the accelerator on the floor to go from idle to full boost.
Up until this article, my idea of turbo lag was my Mom’s 1985 Audi 5000S turbo, which would amble away from a stoplight, then finally rocket off once you were about three quarters of the way through the intersection. This brings into focus how “not bad” 1980’s turbos were, and I actually kinda miss that feeling of waiting, “4-3-2-1-hold on here we go!” as you were pressed back into your seat.
A year or two ago, I bought Huntington’s book titled “American Supercar,” and he spent a lot of time talking about deriving actual net horsepower ratings for the cars he tested; most were somewhat disappointing. Mopars and solid-lifter Chevy big blocks were, as a rule, the closest to their gross ratings.
This car has always been a head-scratcher for me. In all respects but one, it seems to be the Corvair perfected, with meaningful suspension upgrades. But why the turbo instead of a supercharger? My first reaction has always been because Chevrolet (and all of GM) in the early 60s was ruled by a “Hey, lookee what we can do!” ethic, which made for some real highs, and also some real lows. The engineers must have had the mindset that supercharging was old-tech, and that turbocharging that made so much sense in aircraft engines would make sense in car engines too.
This test sort of confirms what I have always thought about these – neat idea, lots of potential, but it essentially failed in its mission of making a too-small engine put impressive doses of power to the road. It took all of the bad parts about supercharging (complexity) and added a bunch of new ones related to heat. You note that the Corvair system was quite reliable, but a little internet checking showed one site (https://ssl.corvair.com/user-cgi/catalog.cgi?show_page=397) that says if your Corvair Turbo has over 60k miles on it, it will likely need an engine rebuild, even with meticulous care due to the effects of heat on the oil.
A company called Judson sold superchargers for some of the small, imported cars and Corvairs. The issue would probably be that a supercharger uses the engine’s own power to turn it, and that’s not something that the Corvair had an excess of in the first place. The Oldsmobile 215 did, on the other hand, so you’re probably onto something in saying that GM just wanted to give turbocharging a go. Additionally, the turbocharger probably did add more boost to the engine than a small supercharger would have; it just took forever to get there.
Turbo Corvairs had a head temperature gauge and a larger “12-fin” oil cooler than standard models, but I would imagine that oil temperature got frightening pretty quickly under full boost. Even on my no-power 95-horsepower car with a “folded fin” air cooler (used for a couple years), my oil temp at the oil filter can easily be 230 or more degrees after a long highway drive (checked with an infrared temp gun), but under normal circumstances, it stays around 200 or so. Sealing the engine compartment is a big deal on any air cooled engine, and I often see cars with missing tin, so engine shroud seal, etc., and they are probably close to cooking the oil at all times. Mine ran really hot when I bought it, and it took me a while to sort out all the sealing issues it had.
As one indicator of how much more heat the Spyder engine had to deal with, Chevrolet acknowledged that its exhaust valve temperature was 200 degrees (Fahrenheit) higher than the regular Corvair engine. That’s why they used expensive Nimonic exhaust valves, but even if the valves could stand it, that heat had to go somewhere.
Have you ever wondered just why that brief momentary shift on a PG-equipped Spyder would have caused “catastrophic engine damage”. I’m struggling a bit with just how and why that would have happened.
I have read some references to folks teaming up a turbo Corvair engine to the PG, but not with any significant details. It seems like it would have potential.
Aaron might have more details on this subject, but revving a PG Corvair up in first gear would take you to roughly 50 or 60 mph, which would give the turbo time to spool up to maximum boost. I guess theoretically, even a half-second shift would give the engine time to imperceptibly “flair,” thereby sending boost above design parameters given the lack of a wastegate. I don’t know, it sounds unlikely, but at least with the manual, most drivers take their foot off the gas when shifting.
Either way, I doubt they would have sold many PG Spyders. What was the take rate for PG Corvettes? Well under 10 percent, I’d imagine. Image was everything with this car, and I can’t imagine that a typical Spyder buyer would be caught dead with an automatic. I’m sure Chevy took that into account and decided not to deal with any problems they might have had with the installation.
I just spent some time at a couple of Corvair forums on this subject; yes, boost would be dangerously high at the moment of the shift. But several have made it work, with various means, like aftermarket knock sensor, water injection and waste gate. It takes some doing, but it can work.
One guy has a very satisfactory system where he added the turbo system to his 80 hp engine, and kept the boost low (4 psi or so) and although it’s not a hot rod, it makes an appreciable difference.
As to the image thing, I largely agree. I tend to get a bit caught up in scenarios that are out of the mainstream but work well. And I’ve come to appreciate the PG a lot more recently. 🙂
Boost was limited by the 1953 Corvette single throat YH carb.
It’s not that it would have necessarily caused catastrophic engine damage, but there were concerns about the possibility of overspeeding the turbine on a high-rpm full-throttle upshift, which would also bring increased risk of detonation because the engine’s principal means of knock prevention, more spark advance, was maxed out at about 4,500 rpm. Missing a shift with the stick shift carried the same danger (as well as the risk of floating the valves), but that was more directly in the driver’s control, and the stick gave more opportunities to get the engine back on the boost at different speeds.
(It’s pretty clear the engineers wanted the four-speed to be the standard and only transmission on the turbocharged cars, but somebody balked at the cost.)
I think some of the issues re: using the PG derive from how the system was engineered.
From my understanding, Chevrolet designed the turbo system as a draw-through turbo (with the specific muffler and tailpipe length) as a means of controlling total boost. This had the benefit of being cheaper than adding a wastegate. But without a wastegate, it would be impossible to control the boost pressure during the PG shift moment.
Adding a wastegate would require re-engineering the draw-through setup because in an overboost situation, the wastegate would dump an atomized air/gas mixture. If dumped into the hot exhaust pipe downstream of the turbo, you’d almost certainly have a backfire out the tailpipe, possibly ruining the muffler. Dumping into the air in the engine compartment just seems like it would be creating an unnecessarily explosive situation. And dumping onto the ground has its own risks, fire and environmental.
Chevrolet could have engineered a blow-through system, which would have probably allowed for even better throttle response and boost control, but it likely would have ended up being more expensive and less reliable.
The main enemy of making power in a Corvair engine is heat management. More power means more heat. And even as efficient as the fan was at moving air across the engine, it was still difficult for the engine to shed all the heat. Most turbo Corvair owners will tell you that keeping the engine under prolonged load, such as climbing a long grade, can make the temperature gauge climb surprisingly quickly. I think this is why Chevrolet opted against a supercharger, which would have run the engine under boost more frequently. Using a turbo allowed them to engineer an engine that basically wouldn’t be under boost most of the time.
All that said, having been in the Corvair community, there are a lot of very talented engineers there who love the Corvair for its uniqueness and clever engineering, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that some of them have gotten the turbo to play well with the PG.
Good summary, Tito. Aaron brings up a good point about detonation, and one bad thing about a Corvair is that the driver can’t readily hear spark knock because of the engine location. Incorrect timing or low octane fuel can cause some real problems without the driver’s being aware of it, and add in the extra heat of combustion and you have a recipe for some breakage.
BTW, sorry for misspelling “flare” in my earlier post. 🙂
It is also entirely conceivable that the designers of the turbocharger package may have at least slightly exaggerated the dangers of blowing the engine with a full-throttle automatic shift as part of an effort to “sell” the idea of standardizing the four-speed. However, I think I recall reading that they did actually blow up a Powerglide engine during testing. (Please note that I may be misremembering, as this was something I read 15 years ago, but I was left with that impression.)
I think it’s worth noting that with the turbo Corvair engine, there were risks of both overboosting and causing detonation and overspeeding the turbine — distinct problems, both bad.
Both the Corvair and the Olds had draw-through carburetors; Chevrolet didn’t have a wastegate, the Olds did, as did the carbureted Buick V-6 turbo. The exhaust gas passing through the bypass with the wastegate open IS hotter than the exhaust gas that’s passed the turbine, but it would be if the engine weren’t turbocharged too, because in a normally aspirated engine, the exhaust stream isn’t being put to work to turn a turbine.
Ah, good point, Ate Up.
I guess there are two types of wastegate: ones operating on the intake side and others on the exhaust side. In the case of a draw-through system, the exhaust side makes a lot of sense. Hadn’t really thought that deeply about it.
Automotive wastegates, especially for carbureted engines, don’t dump pressurized mixture, which would be a problem for the various reasons you describe. The wastegate is a turbine bypass valve in the exhaust that starts opening to keep boost from exceeding a certain threshold. It can be signaled by intake manifold pressure, but it doesn’t directly alter that pressure.
You note that the Corvair system was quite reliable, but a little internet checking showed one site (https://ssl.corvair.com/user-cgi/catalog.cgi?show_page=397) that says if your Corvair Turbo has over 60k miles on it, it will likely need an engine rebuild,
You misunderstood. I was referring to the actual turbocharged induction system, in direct comparison to the one in the Jetfire, which was more complicated but had severe issues from day one (the system, not the engine). Good luck finding an original turbo Jetfire; there’s lots of turbo Corvairs still out there.
As to that site you linked to, I’ve long learned that companies that are in the business of selling rebuilds, parts, or other related work on old cars are “likely” to say something like that.
A better source might have been some owner forums or such. But nevertheless, there’s no doubt that the stresses on the engine were substantially greater. Of course the same would apply if a supercharger had been used, right? And that was a common reality for folks who put on aftermarket superchargers: excessive engine wear. At least the Corvair turbo engine had a number of heavy duty parts to help cope with the additional stress.
Chevrolet was aware that there were aftermarket supercharger kits being sold and installed on early Corvairs, but they decided that a turbo was going to be more efficient and allow better packaging. Those are good reasons. And of course this was the first turbo production car in the world, so it rather stands to reason it didn’t come out perfectly. Someone has to take the first plunge.
The result wasn’t all negative: acceleration at lower speeds wasn’t any worse than a non-turbo car, and there were very real improvements at higher speeds. Passing times were vastly improved. The Corvair was never going to be a drag strip terror; it was a sporty car, and the turbo did provide meaningful boost to the sportiness of the Corvair once under way.
Porsche’s later 930 had tons of lag as well but when it came on, it really came on…As did other relatively if not quite as “early” systems such as from Saab, Volvo, BMW etc. If the Corvair were a modern design it would have two very small turbos, one for each bank, and would be at least oil-cooled and with a proper wastegate, likely adding plenty of reliable low-end power. Of course it would have probably been water-cooled by the late 90s as well.
Anyone who just slaps a turbo on a (any) normally aspirated engine is in for a quick lesson in financial (mis)management. If appropriately engineered at the time of manufacture, even an early system can be fairly robust. HOWEVER it can’t be treated just like a normally aspirated engine which is where the problems generally occurred. Before things like water and oil cooled bearings were introduced along with after-run pumps (all of it pretty basic and reliable “tech”, all things considered), using quality oils and fuels, strict adherence to oil change intervals, and proper warm-up as well as cool-down procedures were critical to fostering longevity, all of the above things that in general haven’t exactly been hallmarks of the (at least stateside) motoring public. And none of those things is a bad idea in naturally aspirated engines either, for that matter. So it’s no wonder that some of the pioneers saw issues or gained negative publicity. Nowadays that’s all engineered in from the get-go, to the point that the turbo part of the equation is quite bulletproof as far as the user experience goes and manufacturers are (still/again) fighting other basic engine issues that should have been figured out eons ago, given that most have many decades if not over a century of knowledge in how to do so.
The key is to figure out the goal of the project and learn about the rewards as well as the limitations and responsibilities of using it.
The 930 had a maximum boost of 0.8 bar (11.4 psi), even higher than the Corvair, but the sense of lag was exaggerated by the engine being less powerful than the normally aspirated 911 off-boost: lower compression, milder cams with shorter duration, less overlap, and less lift.
Also, I had a look at the Corvair factory service manual and it does call for removing, dismantling, and inspecting the turbocharger and replacing all of its gaskets and seals (in addition to any “unserviceable parts” found on inspection) every 50,000 miles. That’s not the same as an engine rebuild, of course, but it is a fairly involved piece of additional maintenance even if the engine itself is in good health.
Oil in the 60’s had a tendency coke (get crusty). Todays oil would have been better.
I had a 62 Spyder convertible. Blew the top off of one piston twice.
Supercharger takes power from the motor versus a turbocharger runs of free exhaust to drive the exhaust side of turbo considered free horsepower.
In 1962 GM engineers did not have waste gates snd pop off valves or computers to adjust timing snd fuel air mixtures, so they accomplished it be a one barrel YH carb from 1953 Corvette. This carb continued to be used thru 1966 end of turbo production. It was an inexpensive solution to the issues of turbos.
Turbo uses free exhaust gases to run turbo while a supercharger takes power to make power. Remember Corvair was originally designed as an economy car that was discovered was fun to drive and better handling than peers of it’s day.
In 1962 the Spyder (turbo) was an option for the Monza but in following years the Spyder was a separate model number.
Since this was 1962-66 there were not any on board computers or waste gates to control timing, air/fuel mix and detonation, so the factory achieved thus by using the YH carb off 1953 Corvette Blue Flame Six.
You suggest 60,000 miles before major motor work, I have owned a ‘64 Spyder turbo and currently a ‘65 Corsa, as well as, 72, 73 and 83 Porsche 911s and Corvair at 1/4 price of a 911 has not disappointed. Porsche 930 had many issues of turbo problems and new water cooled 911 in 1999 had so many issues with IMS and RMS failures they ran out of new motors for warranty replacements and had to rebuild used motors. Porsche was bad engineering problems, but still one of worlds best sports cars.
Of course writing in the style to appeal to the given audience.
Continued to day to the point of becoming unreadable in some UK monthly rags. Perhaps I am just getting older ….
Lee Iacocca: Hey, have you seen that new Corvair Monza Spyder over at Chevrolet? Let’s make one of those here at Ford, only use the Falcon platform so it won’t be as expensive to build. We’ll sell a bundle and make millions…
hahaha, right! And that was the start of the Pony car at Ford!
Just the Monza with bucket seats started the Mustang gestation, Ford couldn’t care less about the turbo, nor the rear air cooled engine.
BTW: ’64 Barracuda was just a fastback Valiant. Far from the collector darlings, Hemi E Bodies.
its all irrelevant now, lag or not it was first and worth owning. any Corvair turbo. Ill take it over any 110 man (14 sec.) or automatic (19 sec) 0-60
loved my 64 spyder but I changed several head
gaskets. I solved that propblem and the turbo
lag by putting a 140 corsa engine in it’s place.
Notice the “heater” is one of the options.ev
The forced air heating system using the engine’s heat was standard. There was an optional gas-fired heater available. So either this was a typo or it had the optional gas fired heater.
I wonder how 0-60 in 12.1 seconds and the 1/4 mile in 18.5 @ 77 mph compared to the sporty versions of the domestic competition in 1962: the 170/4-speed Futura or a 225/3-speed V200. My guess is the Valiant had the edge, even with a 1bbl.
Nope, but the margin was not what one might like at these prices. Motor Trend tested a Valiant Signet 200 with three-speed and the optional 3.91 axle, which did 0–60 in 12.3 seconds and the quarter in 19.6 @ 74 mph. The 0–60 would certainly suffer with a more sensible axle ratio. Car Life‘s 1963 Dart 270, manual three-speed with 3.23 axle and 225, did 0–60 in 13.3 seconds and the quarter in 19.3 @ 72 mph.
And in addition to these, the Lark V8 would do 0-60 in some 10 seconds.
The real problem came in 1963, when the 260 V8 was available in the Falcon.
And comparing the Corvair factory turbo to a Valiant Signet 200 with the 170 and dealer-installed Hyper-Pak wouldn’t be fair.
Only insofar as the Hyperpak, which was never available in great numbers, was no longer offered by the time the Spyder arrived. It was at least as peaky as the turbo Corvair.
0-60 at 12.1 seconds had me head scratching after driving my ‘64 Spyder and then going back to the publication CORVAIR SAE PAPERS finding the development and testing of the turbocharged engine delivered 0-60 with two passengers resulted in 9.8 seconds. Not that my personal car was delivering that but it sure feels acceleration is better than 12.1.
Corvair was a very unique car for America. Not only was it attractive in two door hardtop, convertible and wagon form, it was technologically advanced. Kind of a step outside the norm of thinking for GM, thanks to Ed Cole. shame Ralph Nader drove a nail into its coffin with his book. I like both styling iterations of this car (1961-64 and 1965-69). These cars are also still affordable on the collector market for the most part. Good club support.
I meant 1960 above instead of ’61, but the system won’t allow me to edit my original posts.
Ralph Nader didn’t kill the Corvair; the Mustang did. Nader’s book didn’t come out until late 1965, by that time the Mustang had inflicted the mortal wound.
There were several factors, not necessarily in this order:
1) unit cost. Corvair was an entire model line into itself: coupe, sedan, convertible, van and rampside truck and dud not share any major parts with other Chevys.
2) Mustang intro in ‘64-1/2 was a free months before the better looking second generation 1965 Corvair.
3) Ralph and his one chapter on Corvair
4) cheap gas to feed the hp frenzy about to be unleashed
The ‘65 Corvair is still a better handling vehicle than the early 64/66 Mustangs with 6 and small V8 low hp.
Corvair was meant to be a volume VW ‘Bug’ competitor, but ended up being a “cult car”, and that wasn’t enough to sustain it.
Actor Ernie Kovacs’ fatal accident driving one in 1962 [before Nader’s book], started the negative image in my opinion, and down hill from there.
Actually, it was quite a bit more than a “cult” car; it sold quite well (averaging over 250K per year) through 1965; and more importantly, it didn’t cannibalize big Chevy sales, like the Falcon did.
That 250k would be the equivalent of some 500k per year nowadays, based on market share in the current market. That’s more than the top-selling RAV4.
First-gen production, model year (including Greenbrier and FC 95 models):
Average annual (model year) production: 279,358.
It should be noted that Motor Trend tested another Monza Spyder a year later (June 1963) and trimmed a full second off the 0–60 time (11.1 seconds) and 0.6 seconds off the ET (17.9 @ 80.5 mph). It was still very peaky (the 0–30 was actually half a second LONGER), but they got an actual observed top speed of 110 mph @ 5,500 rpm, so it was definitely putting out when it got around to it.
Don’t forget that strengthened internals aside, the Spyder engine was basically an 80hp Corvair engine with a turbo attached. Obviously, that’s a little flippant, but not too far from the truth.
So until boost came in, you were effectively driving a base model Corvair around town.
Not really. The Spyder engine had the hotter cam from the 102 hp engine and lower-restriction exhaust, but lower compression and a single-throat carb. Its off-boost torque curve was about the same shape as the 102-hp engine, which means that the curve didn’t drop off at higher rpm as fast as the base cam. However, the off-boost torque peak was a bit lower.
Great article and thanks!
Ive seen very few Corvairs in the metal, not a lot made it to NZ the last I saw next to me at a traffic light was a ragtop though which model I have no idea it looked good cream with dull red top.
I vaguely remember reading that the plastic cooling fan was never used in production cars. Something to do with some nasty fumes being pushed into the cabin if the voltage regulator malfunctioned, overcharged the battery, and the resulting acidic fumes interacting with the plastic fan material.
The later 164 ci engine had a magnesium fan. This solved the problem of the early cast iron fan causing thrown fan belts. I heard of one Corvair being destroyed when the fan caught fire, as magnesium fires are very hard to extinguish.
Yes any car will burn to ground if there is an ignition source and fuel. Fiero and Pinto seem to come to mind as related to oil fueled fires (Fiero) and rear end collision and little no protection for gas tank (Pinto).
Early steel fan.
I have always liked the look of the Corvair, both the first and second gen – however the convertibles do look a little too much like a boat with the top down from a side view.
In my simple rendition, I lengthened the hood a little and also wrapped the bumpers around a little more. The amount could be tweaked a little, but you get the idea.
There were several errors in this publication
The plastic fan was not used in normal production.
The fan was magnesium in 1964-1969, lighter weight and less mass to cause excessive load on the fan belt. Early fan belt adjustment called for tight when cold. We now know it just be lightly loose when cold as the belt tightens up when warm the later Corvairs 1964-69 had lighter fan, and belt guides.
The abandonment of the plastic fan was a late decision that hadn’t been made at the time of the press previews.The early press kits talked about it, as it initially seemed like it was going to be a useful advance. Many of the early magazine articles mention it, so the change wasn’t announced before the various buff books went to press.
I’m trying to figure out how and why the belt would tighten up when warm. I’m failing. Will you please explain?
I have no idea what he’s talking about. FWIW, the 1964 service manual says the procedure for setting the blower belt tension is the same as before except that it calls for using a strand tension gauge to check the belt tension.
(The earlier years call for “a 3/8 deflection between blower and idler pulley under a 15 pound load” — which I assume in practice means “eyeball it” — with a stipulation that a new belt should then be rechecked after running for one minute at 1,500 rpm to make sure it was seated. The 1964 manual omits the latter stipulation and just gives different strand tension specs depending on whether you’re checking a new belt or adjusting one that’s already been used.)
These days we have stretchy belts. As far as I know they’re not made as V-belts (because why would they?), but I wonder if something like that might’ve reduced or eliminated the Corvair’s belt issues.
Wrapped belts all but eliminated the Corvair’s belt issues. The belt no longer had a hard edge to climb the pullies. The lightweight fan helped too, but I never threw a belt on the five or six pre-’64, steel fan Corvairs I owned.
The easiest “eyeball” method for belt tension is to tighten it to the point where you can just turn the alternator/generator fan with one finger: not too loose, not too tight.
I owned a .65 Corsa Turbo. I identified 2 major issues. One the hot turbo 6 inches away from the cooling air intake increased overall engine temp. The other issue was the phony engine air duct flaps on the bottom rear shrouds, the expanding accordian style control that most often failed. Lastly the oil providing cooling oil for the turbo would stop when when the engine stopped leaving the turbo to spin down with no lube causing the turbo bearings to coke up making weak boost. A simple check valve in the feed line would have eliminated that. Under load my engine burned 1 valve #2 and put a slice through a piston, #3 opposite each other, too much heat.
Eliminate phony cooling flap doors pull current pivot rod’s and accordian controls cut 2 flat expanded metal squares using old doors for a pattern for the size, put cut pieces where original doors were inside an reuse pins to hold the expanded metal in place. Cooling will improve and heaters will work. ALL flex hoses must be intact and connected!