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Corvair Club History


The last Corvair was produced in May of 1969 after a brief run of 6,000 cars that year. This last year production by GM was surprising considering that over 1,790,000 Corvairs were built from its introduction in September 1959 for the 1960 model year. Corvairs are split into “earlies” (1960 to 1964) and “lates” (1965 to 1969). The stats for production are below:

·         Early Coupes           677,651

·         Early Sedans            464,788

·         Early Convertibles   96,540

·         Early Station Wagons   32,120

·         Early Vans               106,591

·         Early Pickups           20,630

·         Late Coupes             253,492

·         Late Sedans             82,109

·         Late Convertibles     52,322

Shortly after the production ceased it became quite clear that the Corvair had a huge following by devotees. Lots of informal events occurred. The need for a national Corvair Club was born.

In 1972 the Corvair Society of America was incorporated. It is also known as CORSA. Which conveniently reused the model name of the high performance Corvair model from 1965 and 1966 also know as the CORSA.  The CORSA club quickly became one of the largest single mark car clubs in the US. The high-water mark for the club was almost 20,000 members.  There was now a need for a very high-quality newsletter magazine known as CORSA Quarterly which began production in 1973. The club’s growth was so fast that the Quarterly magazine changed to a full color Monthly magazine now known as the CORSA Communique. It is still being published monthly after 52 years!


The San Diego Corvair Club was formed in 1973. Initially it had 23 members which grew to over 250 members by the late 70’s. It was a very ambitious club that hosted local driving and social events. Its main charter was, and still is, to “encourage the preservation and enjoyment of the Corvair Vehicle”. The clubs’ ambitions knew no bounds. In 1978 it arranged and hosted the first international Corvair Convention. Corvair members from the entire US, Europe and Australia attended. That convention in San Diego had over 300 cars in the judged car show, The Corvair Concours de Elegance. Almost 600 people attended the banquet.  Besides the Concours there was an autocross, an econo-run driving event and a massive swap meet to buy all of the Corvairs parts that were still readily available.  See side bar for a view of San Diego as it looked in 1978 at this massive convention.


The San Diego Corvair Club is still going strong. While membership is down from that high water mark we still sponsor driving events, repair and restoration clinics, car shows and of course social events like an annual beach party. Mission Bay is a great location for a beach party. The San Diego Club also was the creator of the GWFBT event. The Great Western Fan Belt Toss. Which occurs every October in Palm Springs California. Well attended every year it regularly attracts 50+ cars to the car show. The GWFBT draws attendees from 13 states. After 47 years it still is one of the most prestigious events in the Corvair world.


For those considering obtaining or restoring a Corvair nearly every part on a Corvair is reproduced in exact detail by Clarks Corvair in Massachusetts. The catalog, still printed, is like an encyclopedia for Corvair owners. Each part is shown in detail and where it goes in a Corvair. After 50 years in business Corvair owners can sleep well knowing they can fix ANYTHING on their Corvair.

Chevrolet Corvair History

The Chevrolet Corvair was produced from 1960-1969 with 1,786,243 units completed. It was designed by General Motor’s own General Manager Ed Cole. It was GM’s plan to produce a compact car to compete with the imported European cars such as Volkswagen. Instead of shrinking down previous car designs like Ford and Chrysler, Ed Cole dreamed up the Corvair, a rear mounted, air-cooled engine with a uni-body. This design would land Ed Cole on the cover of Time magazine and would earn the Corvair Time magazine’s car of the year in 1960.

1960-1964 models are the first generation of the Corvair and are often referred to as Early Models. The 1960 Corvair was first released as a 2 and 4 doors in the 500 and 700 model trims. Later in the spring Chevrolet released their Monza version of the Corvair.

In 1961 Chevrolet expanded the Corvair line by offering a 4 door station wagon, two van models dubbed the Greenbrier and the Corvair 95, and a pickup called the Rampside. 1962 brought along a turbo-charged engine, the second production car to feature factory installed turbo, just a few months later than the first. The last year of the early models saw an increase in engine displacement from 145 cu. in. to 164 cu. in. which would help increase the high performance engine model to 110hp from the previous 95hp, as well as, a transverse leaf spring for the rear suspension.

The second generation of the Corvair was produced for the 1965-1969 model years which featured a more aggressive sporty look and an increase of horsepower in their turbocharged models. Horsepower for the early model Spyder models was rated at 150hp. With the new turbo-charged engine the Corsa model had an output of 180hp. In 1966 Chevrolet saw a decline in Corvair sales--109,800 were sold in 1966 compared to the 220,000 sold in 1965. By 1968, only three models (500, Hardtop Coupes, and Monza Convertibles) remained in production. Although interest was dwindling, the late models Corvairs were still produced until 1969 on an off-line area of the production plant in Willow Run.

General Motor’s goal of creating a compact economy car turned into quite a following for those seeking a “sporty” car. There were many factors other than Ralph Nader (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 1972 report debunked Nader’s claim singling out the Corvair over safety concerns) that lead to the production demise of the Corvair. With the combination of Chevrolet deciding to produce other vehicle models to compete against rival companies, production costs, and harsher emission laws, the Corvair saw its days numbered.

For a more in-depth history of the Corvair, click here.