Corvair Corsa or Monza: Nearly Identical Classic Cars

Updated on April 11, 2018
perrya profile image

Perrya knows a fair amount about the Corvair, America's aluminum-engine classic car.

There is a mystery or oddity about the Corvair Corsa and Monza built between 1965-1966. Some may not think it is odd or mysterious, yet logically, why did Chevrolet produce two cars that are nearly identical for the public?

Some feel it simply was a continuation of the Corvair line as was done earlier with the Monza and Spyder from 1962-64. Was Chevrolet trying to revamp the underpowered Monza for a more muscle-car crowd? After all, the Mustang and Barracuda in 1965 were the first of many high-powered cars. What was the motive? Did they actually think that Corsa sales would go through the roof? It was the most expensive of all the Corvairs. Did they think that the public would not notice how similar the Monza and Corvair are?

The Monza and Corsa share identical bodies except in their emblems and their placement. If you remove them, you cannot tell which is which from the outside. When you look at the interior, a Monza will have three large gauges on the dash. The Corsa will have several small and large gauges for a more sporty and racy look. The rest of the dash, except for the emblem, is identical. The rest of the interior in either car is nearly identical also.

The engine was the actual distinguishing feature between the Monza and Corsa. The Monza (or the cheapest model, the 500) usually had a standard 95 or 110 hp motor, identified by two carburetors. The Corsa had the 140 or 180 hp motor with four carburetors or turbo.

But Chevrolet confused the issue by trying to appeal to all parties. You had the option of buying the cheapest Corvair, the 500, with a 140 hp motor. You could also buy the Monza with that engine, or with the turbo. Of course, with neither car could you get the purely cosmetic distinguishing features of the Corsa: the "racy" dash and the rear cove area painted that gray-silver. These were Corsa exclusives!

Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Turbo (1965) at car show
Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Turbo (1965) at car show | Source

Chevy tried unsuccessfully to sell both the Corsa and Monza to the same sport audience in 1965 and 1966. What happened was that the Monza and its options outsold the Corsa line by three to one. The public was not willing to spend another $500-1000 for a car that was not that different. Some thought that even the engine of the Corsa, with only 30 more hp than the Monza, was insignificant enough to warrant the added expense. Because both were identical in body, there was confusion in the mind of the public, which asked "why"? Some thought, Chevy tried to make the Corvair a muscle car, yet it was still underpowered when compared to a Ford Mustang 289 hp for around the same price.

After 1966, Chevy discontinued the Corsa model as sales did not warrant it. They continued to the Monza line until 1969, with the option of having a 140 hp motor in the car.

Today, a Corsa is worth twice as much as a Monza in the same condition, maybe more to those who collect them. A totally restored Corsa coupe can fetch between $5000 and 8,000; a Monza, usually around $3000-4000.

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      scottymac 

      13 months ago

      I think your argument falls flat. We could say the same about the base Mustang and the GT version. ""Did they actually think that {GT} sales would go through the roof, as it was the most expensive of all the {Mustangs}? Did they think that the public would not notice how similar they are?" Substitute base Mustang (Monza) or GT (Corsa) in the rest of the article and you'll see GM really did nothing different. You state remove the emblems and outside is identical, a couple paragraphs later you mention the silver cove, an identifying mark of the Corsa. A few corrections: +The Monza had a three pod instrument cluster, but the middle was usually blank, unless the rare clock was ordered. +Corsa dash had cylinder head temp, vacuum (boost for turbo), clock, gas, speedo, tach. +Heavy duty suspension and quick steering were options, not standard to Corsa. +Shifter was same throughout the line. +You neglect to mention the four door Monza hardtop, which contributed to the disparity in sales numbers. The Mustang was a target the Corvair couldn't hit - the Corvair's engine couldn't grow appreciably larger to compete with the pony cars. Chevy could have taken the route envisioned by the Astro 1 engine, overhead cams, dual three choke carbs, but chose to abandon the Corvair, rather than invest more money to make an American Porsche, then just a small blip on the sales chart. I imagine if you compare base Mustang and GT sales, you'll find a similar sales difference to the Monza and Corsa. As a Corvair owner, I would have expected a better researched, and sympathetic story.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      19 months ago

      Go with the VIN, perhaps one of the previous owners used similar parts from a Monza.

    • profile image

      donna 

      19 months ago

      I have a corvair 66 that ive been trying to sell it says corsa but also says 500 .also turbo charged but the vin registers corsa and gauges say monza as there are only three can anyonee tell me how to identify possitive

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      6 years ago

      But only in a short distance, in the long run, Corsa will lose.

    • profile image

      bill 

      6 years ago

      My 65 140 Corsa, could beat 289 Mustangs in a drag, and out run Vettes in a road race.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      7 years ago

      I know, I have 67 Monza. The turbo models did not sell well and are the rarest of any corvair, assuming they are running. yes, corvairs from 1960-69, sold nearly 2 million cars. The Corsa and Monza are identical in many ways, i know, I had a corsa.

    • profile image

      John 

      7 years ago

      sorry dude, the turbo was a Corsa only option also...They were very popular with sales approaching two million. All pony cars should pay homage to their reason for existing, the Corvair. A late model Corvair draws a crowd everywhere with its sophisticated and timeless looks. Go look at a similar year Mustang....dated, isn't it?

    • profile image

      Jason Stubblefield 

      8 years ago

      Chevy never tried to make the Corvair a muscle car, or market it as such. It was a sporty subcompact. Even then the turbo Corsa would walk a mustang at highway speed, and leave one in the dust in a series of corners. All 140 horse cars had dual exhaust, and the turbo cars had a single exhaust exiting through the pan on the rt side, ALL other engines exhausts exited below the pan. That's one surefire way to tell a factory turbo car. I've ridden a few harleys, and owned a few corvairs, and the sound I'd most liken a corvair exhaust to is an airplane, not a poorly engineered 2 cyl motorcycle. No-one bitches that an si civic is nearly a civic. I guess that's because hondas are popular and Corvairs aren't. Go Sheep!

    • profile image

      Jason Stubblefield 

      8 years ago

      I forgot something in my last post, sorry. The corsas also came with a short throw shifter and bucket seats as standard.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      All true, still, but for the nuances, they are almost identical. Corsa had dual exhausts and sounds like a Harley cycle.

    • profile image

      Jason Stubblefield 

      8 years ago

      The Corsa, as the top sport model also came with heavy duty springs, with a lowered ride height, quick steering arms (to decrease the number of turns full lock to full lock). The Corsa is also distinguishable from the exterior by two chrome grill inserts beneath the rear bumper. The Monza had a simple rolled pan. The corsa dash was functional as well with gauges for oil temp, head temp, boost (on turbo models), and a tach, offering those with performance driving in mind the opportunity to watch critical information.

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

      perrya 

      8 years ago

      You are correct. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Rich  

      8 years ago

      Note; you could not buy or order a Monza with the 180hp turbo - this was a CORSA exclusive option only.

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