Classic American

1960 Chevy Corvair Coupe Speciale

A one-off 1960 Chevy Corvair Coupe Speciale was recently offered at auction…

- Words: GMA Images: Gooding

The Chevrolet Corvair debuted in the autumn of 1959 for the 1960 model year. Its name came from a blending of Corvette with Bel Air and the ‘air’ portion was a nod to the Corvair’s horizontal­ly opposed, air-cooled, six-cylinder engine. Initially, the Corvair was offered in base and deluxe sedan configurat­ions, with the entry-level sedan basically equipped to keep the price under $2000. Both sedans were powered by a 145cu in Chevrolet Turbo Air air-cooled six which claimed 80bhp. GM wanted the Corvair to compete with the invading and ever popular Volkswagen Beetle, as well as other compact imports.

January of 1960 saw the launch of coupe versions of the Corvair, also available in base and deluxe versions, just like the sedans. The coupe was a hit, selling more than 14,000 of the base versions, and more than 36,500 of the deluxe versions for the 1960 model year. It was even named the 1960 Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine. Naturally, in light of this early success, Bill Mitchell, vice-president of GM Styling, believed some sleeker styling might enable the pocket-sized Chevy to compete with imports in their own home markets (talk about sending coals to Newcastle!).

So, he had a Corvair sent to Pininfarin­a, where the exclusive Italian design house waved its magic wand over the coupe, creating a stunning exercise in modern styling which ultimately went on to feature on the front cover of the March 1961 Road & Track magazine. Eventually the 1960 Chevy Corvair Coupe Speciale Concept would be restyled and updated by Tom Tjaarda and remained part of the Pininfarin­a collection until 1996. From there it was sold to a collector in California, changing owners twice more before ending up in La Jolla, California in 2001. It’s been featured at the 2007 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and at the Quail Motorsport­s Gathering in 2010.

Painted bright red with a white interior, the Chevy Corvair Coupe Speciale Concept is a real one-off and is one of the few concept cars to have survived – usually manufactur­ers crushed them after a stint touring car shows. It’s only got 3700 miles on the clock and still has its original 145cu in air-cooled flat six-cylinder, with a pair of single barrel Rochester downdraft carbs. The flat six produces 80 horsepower and is hooked up to a four-speed manual transaxle. It still retains its original four-wheel drum brakes, front independen­t coil spring suspension, and a rear swing-axle suspension with coil springs.

With all its fascinatin­g provenance, this one-off 1960 Chevy Corvair Coupe Speciale found a buyer when it featured at the Gooding & Co Pebble Beach auction in mid-August, going under the hammer for $315,000.

 ?? ?? Interior appears stock...
Interior appears stock...
 ?? ?? 145cu in flat six.
145cu in flat six.
 ?? ?? Bonnet is the boot.
Bonnet is the boot.
 ?? ?? … although bodywork was extensivel­y reworked.
… although bodywork was extensivel­y reworked.

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