MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Robert Tate Collection
Published 12.22.2014

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The experimental Corvair Monza GT by Chevrolet with its very clean aerodynamic styling shape was first introduced in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin at a sports car event. The specially designed General Motors model was called one of the “idea” cars. The model was also featured at a New York show and became a very big hit with the public.

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In early 1963, the Chevrolet Corvair Monza GT coupe, along with the popular 2-seater Monza SS Roadster, toured many shows and was enjoyed by fans around the world. Semon E. Knudsen, general manager of General Motors, once said “The two passenger cars have an aerodynamic design that is the result of wind tunnel testing. From a delta-shaped front end dipping between arched front fenders, the fiberglass bodies flow with airfoil smoothness to a surprise termination -- a blunted, concave rear end.”

“It is appropriate that these first Corvair dream cars be shown at the International Automobile Show because they express the sports-type flavor which has long been a specialty of this famed exhibition,” Knudsen said.

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The model was designed in Bill Mitchell's semi-secret basement studio at the GM Tech Center. Some of the great talented automotive designers who helped design the Corvair Monza GT, were Larry Shinoda, Tony Lapine and Design Chief Ed Wayne. The Chevrolet team of great engineers included research and development director Frank Winchell and engineer Jim Musser. These experimental vehicles were part of Chevrolet's continuous program of building and evaluating new styling and engineering ideas.

The body styling of the Monza GT coupe featured for the first time a dramatic, wraparound canopy, which could open forward on hinges, allowing full access to the passenger compartment. This unique canopy included the portion of the roof covering the passengers. From the top of the windshield, the Monza GT had a flat roof, which was extended backward in a fastback treatment design. Another special styling feature of the Monza GT model was its concealed headlights and electrically operated doors that many car fans thoroughly enjoyed.

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The Monza GT concept model was built on a Chassis that was supplied by Chevrolet Engineering. It also featured a parallel-wishbone front and rear suspension. The rear mounted mid-Corvair engine and transmission were rotated 180 degrees to shorten rear overhang. The body structure was formed of special fiberglass panels that were fitted to a unique metal cradle assembly design.

The interior of the Monza GT concept model was very impressive and similar to an advanced jet aircraft design. Forward visibility was virtually unlimited through the pillar-less canopy, which was painted on top to reduce sky glare. The wood-rimmed steering wheel, along with the foot pedals, adjusted to the driver's personal preference. The interior of the Monza GT was trimmed in metallic silver to match its exterior paint design.

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In conclusion, the Monza GT concept model was a very stylish model that many fans and enthusiasts admired. The model was very aerodynamic, with its lift-up cockpit canopy. This concept design will always have a great place in automotive history, as an example of the Bill Mitchell years of great GM designs from the 1960s.

Bibliography

Ludvigsen, Karl & Cole, Edward N. “Corvair By Chevrolet: Experimental & Production Cars 1957-1969.” Ludvigsen Library Limited, 2001.           

Consumer Guide. “Prototype Cars Cars that Never Were.” 1981.