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The Corvair Myth Chevrolet Fed the American Public

Updated on October 5, 2009

 Despite my loyalty to America's only aircooled rear engine car bulit from 1960-69, this article is intended to enlighten corvair owners, those that want to be, and to call attention to a myth and deception Chevrolet put upon the public.

It is 1965 or 1966. You are young. Part of the "Now" generation. Hip. Far different than anything than your parents thought of, especially with longer hair and Beatles' music. You are a professional and enter into a cool Chevrolet dealership. You gravitate like a magnet to the Corvette Stingray, but selling at $5000, is WAY out of your budget. Being hip, you like that Corvair, with a Corvette chassis, its air-cooled engine in the back. Hey, way nicer than that VW bug! Prices start at $2000, so, yeah, its doable!

The saleman approaches. You are sold already. But, you want power also, after all, this car looks like a muscle, fast car. The salesman discusses your options , which are:

  • a 110 hp motor
  • a 140 hp motor
  • a 180 hp Turbo motor

The salesman tells you that the 180 Turbo Corsa, selling at $3000 or so, is your ticket to speed. You can waste any muscle car. You will be flying down the road. Then, he tells you about the 140 hp Corsa, worthy of many racier cars off the line, armed with four, yes, four, carburetors. He pops the hood and and your eyes bulge. Must be good, you think. This is less expensive than the 180 by several hundreds of dollars. You are curious, so you ask about the Monza. The salesman clearly states it comes with the 110 hp motor. Its OK, reliable, slower than the 140 and 180 at all speeds, but for $2000, what do you expect?

You select the 180 Turbo. You dish out one-third of your annual income.

The Myth and Deception

What the salesman did not tell you, and perhaps, even they did not know at the time is that they are all basically the same engine with different carburetion and minor tweaks to the cam or pistons. And, if you are mostly doing all your driving in a city environment, owning a 140 hp or 180 hp Turbo Corsa is a waste of money performance wise because you will never use the additional horsepower (hp) you paid for. Why? In either car, until you reach the speed of 45-50 mph, you are running on 110 hp! Since most city driving tops at 40 mph, the extra HP is never utilized until you get on a highway! Thus, it is a total waste of money paying more for motor which is essentially the same as a 110 hp and sold on the cheaper Monza model.

The 140 hp will provide you with better off the line motoring than a 110, but is not dramatic. The 180 hp is actually rather slow until the turbo punches in at 50 mph, then, you zoom. With the180, everything needs to be in perfect spec otherwise the car runs poorly. With the 140 hp, the secondary carbs do not activate until the speed of 45 mph and if the linkage is incorrectly set, you will have all sorts of issues. The 110 hp has two carbs and is fairly equal to the 140 up to a speed of 45 mph.

The 110 hp motor
The 110 hp motor
The 180hp Turbo motor
The 180hp Turbo motor
the 140 hp
the 140 hp


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      7 years ago

      I owned a turbo 180 and it was a lot of fun ! Your right it didn't have the power until the turbo kicked in , so I installed a 2bbl carb and a faster turbo that kicked in at 30mph or 2500 rpm instead of 3500, 2nd gear.

      after installing low wide tires and anti sway bars and a multitude of after market Hi performance stuff .

      It was my priveledge to leave a 350 novaa ss in my dust . after 2nd gear color me gone.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      On a good day the turbo was equal to the 2bbl 289 Mustang which sold for hundreds less and was profoundly more reliable. It certainly didn't drip oil onto the same hot exhaust manifolds from which air was drawn to heat the cabin. In this time American car makers could do just one thing with any degree of competance--cast iron engines in the front powering the rear wheels via 90 degree drive axel.


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