Project Car Fun: 1964 Corvair Monza

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my brother’s place, and I had a chance to talk with him about his latest project – a 1964 Corvair Monza. I’ve seen it a few times before, but this time I wanted to let you all in on the fun. Check it out.
I’ve written a little about his other project, a 1977 El Camino in green and white. He’s had the El Camino for several years now, but just picked up this Corvair last year. For the uninitiated, this is a 1964 Corvair Monza, the premium 2-door model for the 1964 model year. Throughout its run, the Monza was a popular choice for drivers who wanted a sporty version of the Corvair.
The interior mostly original Monza spec, although he tells me the seats have been re-covered once. I was surprised by how nice the original dash looks. You can clearly see some rust in the floor pans, but he plans to replace all that. A previous owner fitted a hood release in the back seat, since the original hood latch would have been a simple lever, and not very secure. Another thing I noticed about the interior is how roomy it is. I know that’s because it’s been gutted, but this still a decent-sized car even today. My brother is a few inches taller than me and has no problem driving it – again, when it’s running.
The first time I really got a good look at a Corvair engine up close was last year at an orphaned and abandoned car show, and I was always impressed how Chevy took a simple flat- 6 and turned everything on it 90 degrees. It’s a really efficient design, and when it’s running, my brother tells me it runs smoothly. It’s got some upgraded electronics and new wiring for the sake of safety and performance.
When I was putting together this article, I asked my brother what he plans to do with his Corvair, to which he replied “I plan to drive the snot out of it.” That’s the attitude we hoons like to see, and that’s why I wanted to share this project with you. Stay tuned as we bring you updates throughout the year.
[Photos Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Marcal Eilenstein]

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  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    Interesting blue fan shroud. I’m assuming it’s a 110, and I see it has a Powerglide. The ’64 has the best early rear suspension, since they added a transverse leaf spring (camber compensator), something that aftermarket companies had been offering for awhile, but GM’s version is better designed, since they designed a new differential housing to bolt it to. Also, the ’64 and ’65 models have a dipstick for the differential.
    I guess it also has a Pertronix ignitor in the distributor? I had one on my’66. It’s a good idea to also carry an old breaker plate with points as a backup, as the Ignitors do fail occasionally. I also ran a Pertronix coil, which I bought at a local Mustang parts seller.

    1. gerberbaby Avatar

      er, how do you shift it? I can’t find a gear selector.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        It’s a Powerglide. Look in the second picture. You can see the indicator window, a little vertical slot, just to the right of the ignition switch. You can see the lever (a little paddle) peeking out under the steering wheel spoke, and its shadow on the radio housing.
        A long cable runs back to the transaxle (inside the tunnel), and enters low on the driver’s side. The fitting where the PG shift cable enters the transaxle, and its o-ring, are common leak points.

  2. mdharrell Avatar

    “…and when it’s running….”
    I had a ’65 Monza like that.

    1. mve Avatar

      You had a many cars like that, I gather.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        I still do.
        The only other category is “cars that have never run while I have owned them.” I have three to five of those right now, depending on how generously one defines “car.”

        1. mve Avatar

          Half the wheels and a frame.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Five, then.

  3. Smee Avatar

    The Corvair gets more revolutionary every year. When the handling has to be maintained with weird F/R tire pressures, it tells you something is not quite right. But, a very cool car that might have been spectacular if it had seen another generation.

    1. CapitalistRoader Avatar

      It did see another generation. That ’64 is the last of the first, ’65-69 was the second.
      VW’s of the era also had an 8-10lb. F/R pressure differential.

      1. mve Avatar

        He makes a good point. The 3rd generation could have been great, if they had given it a chance.

        1. CapitalistRoader Avatar

          GM realized that workaday rear engined cars were on their way out since it was difficult and costly to get air cooled cars to meet emissions requirements. VW designed their last rear engined passenger car, the Type 4, in the mid-60s and it only lasted until ’74. The rest of the air cooled VWs died not too long after.

          1. dukeisduke Avatar

            GM had to add an air pump for ’68, to meet California emissions standards. In durability testing with air conditioning, the cylinder head temps went off the scale. So, they dropped air conditioning as an option starting in ’68.

      2. dukeisduke Avatar

        The recommended pressures for my ’66 were 15 front, 26 rear. Those were for bias plies, and I typically ran radials at 20/30.

  4. Yuppie Scum Avatar
    Yuppie Scum

    I really want a 2nd gen corvair Monza.

  5. Mister X Avatar
    Mister X

    I haven’t owned one for over 20 years, but I’ve had at least 30 Corvairs of all flavors, and as the former owner of a specialty repair shop, worked on hundreds of vairs, and I still love the little beasties.
    Your brother’s ’64 engine compartment has some important items that need attention if he wants to “drive the snot out of it” for very long, like replacing the missing grommets for the oil dipstick and the vacuum modulator pipe (and shorten the rubber hose!), and reseating the dislodged grommet for the powerglide trans dipstick, and replacing the missing defroster hose, and how does the throttle shaft bellows look, is it broken too?
    And the engine compartment sheetmetal shroud next to the left carb is missing, it needs to be replaced as well, if it wasn’t temporarily removed for another repair/mod, and make sure that the outer flexible gasket is clamped to the body like it’s supposed to be, because all these missing/unseated things mentioned are critical for an air cooled engine to survive, it’s like ignoring multiple small water leaks in a water pumper, not a good thing as it runs hotter than it’s designed for.
    Another thing I see that’s amiss is the crankshaft pulley, it’s supposed to be a harmonic balancer, so one of two things has happened to this car during it’s lifetime, one: the oil pressure sending unit or fuel pump failed at some past point soaking the rubber in the harmonic balance which caused it to fail, so it was replaced with a pulley off of a 102 HP engine, or two: the original 110 HP engine was replaced with a 102 HP engine at some past point, either way, get a new harmonic balancer as the 110 HP Corvair engines do have a tendency to break cranks between the 5 and 6 journals due to a missing balancer.
    Nice to see the alternator mod, and remember, don’t tighten the fan belt too tight, slightly loose is much better than too tight (one finger pulling toward you on the alt pulley should be barely able to move it), not as much of a problem with the powerglide models, but it can still cause a fan belt to flip off during a hard shift if it’s adjusted too tight.
    I hope he has a lot of fun with it, just beware of the tire pressures and the trailing throttle oversteer and all will be fine.