By on April 22, 2010

The Corvair’s impact in Europe was highly significant, and GM styling boss Bill Mitchel thought a dashing Italianate coupe to go along with the sedan would make some inroads there. Pininfarina was commissioned to build a prototype, but it was penned by Tam Tjaarda. The process started in 1960, and the design evolved somewhat, but the final 1963 version is certainly superb. The airy roof line certainly hints at the direction the 1965 production Corvair would take. And those teardrop headlights made their first appearance here, but it wouldn’t be their last. Pininfarina wasn’t the Italian to take a swing at the Corvair, and Americans and GM itself went at it too.

Bertone did this more radical take, by putting the front seat where the rear used to be, and creating the longest trunked Corvair ever.Those front headlights foreshadow Bertone’s brilliant Lamborghini Miura.

The whole front upper passenger section was a single piece, and lifter like a canopy.

GM’s own Monza GT of 1962 was penned by Larry Shinoda under the direct supervision of Bill Mitchell himself. Mitchel’s favorite shark themes of the era are obvious, as well as hinting at the ’68 Corvette.

The bizarre hidden headlight arrangement left something to be desired though. The Monza GT mounted the warmed-over Corvair engine mid-ship, and the whole car was extremely low slung.

The Monza SS was the open-top companion to the GT. A delightful car to look at, and one can only speculate what it was like to drive.

Hints of Ferraris of the the period, especially from the rear.

If the Monzas weren’t low enough, there was always the Astro 1 from 1967, which stood exactly 35.5 inches high. A canopy top made it possible to actually insert a body into it.

The Fitch Phoenix was an attempt to build a limited production sports car based on the Corvair, by shortening its platform by 13 inches, and increasing power to 170 hp via a set of Weber carbs on each cylinder bank. It came to naught, once GM announced that the Corvair’s days were numbered. The spare tire bulges on the front fender are an interesting detail.

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25 Comments on “Stunning Corvair Concepts By Pininfarina, Bertone And GM...”

  • avatar

    I remember dad bringing me pictures of these when they were released, and hoping against hope that at least one of them would reach production. Unfortunately, the American lover of the big block V-8 (yeech!) won out, and the last hope for Detroit to make something wonderfully different died in 1969.

    Still have memories of the ’65 Monza coupe dad brought home for a couple of weeks, just to let me drive in the driveway while he was home for lunch or supper.

    The Tjaarda/Pininfarina car always blew me away, even back when I was in my teens. And it has the same effect on me today.

  • avatar

    Screw Ralph Nader

    How about a series on that other GM rear-engine debacle?

  • avatar

    Wow! I was in love with the Corvair from the first time I saw one as a small boy, and the Pininfarina concept makes me remember why.

  • avatar

    The top one is a beauty. The rest – way too Buck Rogers.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Bertone looks very 928ish…

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking a combination of E Type and Jensen Interceptor from the rear (the wire wheels inevitably adding to the E Type look), and flattened Studebaker Avanti nose/headlights for the front. Come to think there’s quite a lot of cars which could have taken influence from this…

  • avatar


    Agreed, I would love the Pininfarina one right now. It’s truly a beautilful design.

  • avatar

    The green Pininfarina prototype looks to my eye like a slightly altered design exercise or prototype of the 65 model. IMO the production model was every bit as attractive, maybe even more so.

  • avatar

    The Pinifarina hands down.

    Love it.


  • avatar

    I have a high opinion of GM styling from the 60s, but in this case, they designed clown cars. It’s as if they were designing them with an eye to the future Hot Wheels market.

    In contrast, the Bertone is futuristic without being ‘rocket age’ and reminds me of both the Alfa Romeo Montreal and the Porsche 928. The Pininfarina design is just plain drop-dead-gorgeous.

  • avatar

    Nice pics of what might have been. But let me ask, gently, got editing? I count three typos, including the missing word. Clear those up and no one but you and me will ever have to know.

  • avatar

    The concepts don’t do anything for me. Maybe back then, but today the production Corvair is a (curbside) classic, while these look badly dated.

  • avatar

    The Pininfarina reminds me of a Jag XJS from the hood forward, and an XJ6 coupe from the front door back.

  • avatar

    We’ll never again see roof pillars that thin until unobtanium isn’t.

    • 0 avatar

      I had the same thought. On today’s roads the Pininfarina concept car would give a fantastic 360 degree view of massive SUV bumpers and blackened glass windows.

      I’d like to see the pretty blond from my coffee shop in this thing. It is close enough to a convertible to do her justice. Right now she drives a nice old triumph or an mg midget depending on the electronics. Such a pleasure to hear her shift. An element of fantasy should come as standard equipment with every coupe.

  • avatar

    I see a whole lot of the Pininfarina design in the BMW 2000c/cs. Graft on a new nose, add a Hofmeister kink to the c-pillar, and you have it.

  • avatar

    Talk about the boulevard of broken dreams…

    While I realize that my taste is not always mainstream, who can’t look at that grouping and not find at least one of those concepts to make you drool?

    Had they only built cars this beautiful.

  • avatar

    Nice stuff. I hope you’ll do some stories on dream cars by the other US mfrs, including Ford, Chrysler, and AMC. GM isn’t the only company to abandon cool ideas.

  • avatar

    So, why don’t manufacturers build cars that look like this? Assuming the hard points fit and you can design around the required interior space, why not put a fantastic body on a normal car, rather than just a supercar? Are the shapes that much more difficult to produce even after they’re tooled, or is there some kind of unwritten conspiracy between manufacturers not to upset the apple cart by making cheap cars look awesome? :P

    • 0 avatar

      Well the rumor has always been that GM made their cheap cars crappy so people would buy Impalas ect… I believe personally that this might have been true back when the General had 50% of the market. I hope their not that stupid that they do it on purpose now.

  • avatar

    Thanks for posting this Paul! It brought back memories for me. Back in HS my Physics teacher and a group of my constituents converted his old ‘Vair to an electric car. The process of tearing down the original car taught me much about these vehicles.

  • avatar

    The one that caught my eye is the Monza GT-62. That car is absolutely beautiful (except for the headlamps / pointy front end) Since these concepts were all done before the 1965 redesign, I hope they included a replacement for the swing arm rear axle found on the production models. I thought those cars were horrible! I did end up owning a 1965 140 hp Monza with the new IRS that was a delight to drive. It could be made to over-steer a bit with power and was a lot pf fun on a windy road or a gymkhana course. In addition to Fitch and Yenko did uprated (Stinger) versions of that model that ran really well.

  • avatar

    Would that we had such gifted designers today.

  • avatar

    I also see a heavy dose of Miura in the doors from the front on the Bertone.

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