The 1963 Corvair Monza SS concept car was one of two Corvair Concepts to make their public debut at the 1963 New York Auto Show. Created in the GM Design studio, Larry Shinoda working under Bill Mitchell's direction penned both this stunning SS roadster and the equally remarkable Monza GT coupe.
Like the GT, the SS was based on a shortened Corvair platform. But unlike the GT, the engine was left in its stock location, behind the transaxle. With a wheelbase of just 88-inches, the rear mounted engine helped give this short wheelbase roadster a comfortable cockpit, featuring fixed seats with adjustable pedals and the added benefit of a small luggage compartment.
When viewed today, with its four-wheel disc brakes and magnesium wheels complimenting the Weber carbureted air-cooled flat-six, the 1963 Monza SS is clearly a concept that demonstrated how heritage can influence the shape of the future.
Chevrolet's air-cooled, rear-engine Corvair reached production for 1960 as GM's answer to the growing popularity of small, inexpensive imports, including the similarly laid-out Volkswagen Beetle. Mitchell was excited by the design possibilities offered by the Corvair's component set. With no big lump of an engine or bulky radiator up front, it enabled the designer's dream of very low, sleek, aerodynamic front ends.
To explore the possibilities of Corvair-based sports cars, he created a gorgeous pair of concepts named for Italy's famed Monza racing circuit. The red Monza SS roadster's five-inch-high windscreen swept around its cockpit, and its rear targa wing incorporated a built-in roll bar. Developed in 1962, both slippery shapes reflected substantial wind-tunnel testing.
Among other innovations, these concepts pioneered the tall, voluptuous fenders that made the 1968 Corvette such a stand-out design. And they offered the potential of a future expansion of the Corvair line to include a low-cost alternative to the Corvette.
'I wanted something more exotic,' Mitchell told historian David Crippen in 1985, 'so I built the one where the hatch came up....and it's still a beautiful car, but it was heavy. Then I built the open job. GM just couldn't see putting that out....but it went around to shows everywhere.'