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Corvair Prototypes: Clay Designs 1957-1959

Updated on January 15, 2010
The 1958 Clay Version
The 1958 Clay Version
The 1957 Clay Version
The 1957 Clay Version
The late 1958 Version
The late 1958 Version
The Rear Turin Monza Seats
The Rear Turin Monza Seats
The Special Super Monza- 1960
The Special Super Monza- 1960
A 1967 Corvair Monza
A 1967 Corvair Monza

 Designing the Corvair, or any car, even today, involves making mock prototypes by the design teams assigned with the mission. They start with drawings from which several features are selected approved by the design leader. The big test is creating clay models of the car in real life to see if the drawing translates well into a physical realm. Once done, the designers meet and confer about features, aerodynamics, etc. Many times, a car design will take years to find the right mix, it is not something done within a year and Corvair was no different since its first inception in 1953-4, then based on the Corvette. However, by 1955, Corvair departed from its original Corvette heritage and was a design of its own.

For the Corvair, the first clay model was in 1957. Once completed, nothing more was done until mid-1958. So, the 1957 version was the car until that time and for a late 50s car, it was a design ahead of its time in style (no big fins, just lean and sleek). By fall of 1958, another clay model appeared closer to the final production model, still with notable differences in the placement of air intake areas for the engine. Then, oddly, another clay model was produced in late 1958, which differences were more dramatic. In this model, the rear window was divided by a metal wedge and totally eliminating the rear roll down window, in effect, creating a large expanse of glass that curved around to the side. This prototype was rejected quickly for this sole reason, the design had to have roll down rear windows.

The interior did not alter much except for the rear seats. The Turin Monza was a higher end car and the rear seats, despite being vinyl, were designed and stitched in such a manner that truly resembled leather bucket seats even though it is a bench seat across the car.

The Super Monza was a very limited prototype that was actually made in very few numbers. The most notable differences from the production models were the functional side air intake areas for the engine, sunroof, front grill and bumper. It also had the Turin style rear seat.

The Corvair, regardless of year, usually sold for $2045, and could go as high as $3000, as the Spyder, Corsa, Monza sport models with bigger engines appeared in later years. In 1960, the prestigious, Motor Trend Car of the Yearwas the Corvair for its innovation and design. 

Not long after 1960, the Chevy designers started to create a whole new clay model for the later years, 1965-9. Like the early model, it went through reiterations until complete and when it appeared in 1965, it won the Car of the Year again for its innovation and timeless styling.



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