Smack dab in the middle of America’s heartland there’s now a Corvair Museum honoring the existence and history of Chevrolet’s air-cooled mechanical marvel. The unlikely location for a museum devoted to the Corvair is Decatur, Illinois, which is 40 miles east of Springfield, three hours from Chicago and Indianapolis, and nearly a seven-hour drive from Ypsilanti, Michigan, where it was previously located. But, thanks to the good graces of the Chevrolet Hall of Fame Museum there, a sizeable room has been set aside for the Corvair museum’s new home.
A favorite among all the cars on display is this one-off 1960 Super Monza. It was designed and built for Bill Mitchell, head of General Motors design. It features knock-off wire wheels, air vents on the quarter panels, and a tufted-upholstery interior.
The most interesting display was this 1969-spec body shell which had never been completed. Instead of a serial number, it carries a XXXXXXX designation. It is the only completed example of an as-delivered-to-GM-but-never-assembled Fisher body known to exist.
Donated to the Corvair Preservation Foundation by Mark Corbin, this Le Mans blue coupe is car number 5999, the last-known surviving Corvair. With its 140-hp engine and Powerglide transmission, its MSRP in 1969 came to $2,941.70.
The grand opening was held on Saturday, May 19, and I was there searching for cars to feature for a book that I’m writing on Corvairs. It was a sizeable turnout, with about 200 Corvair owners and enthusiasts in attendance and there were around 75 cars taking part in a People’s Choice all-Corvair show throughout the day that was held in front of the museum.
Two-tone exterior paint schemes were fairly common on the Corvair station wagon as this white-roof 1962 Monza wagon clearly proves. Being the last year of the station wagon body style, only 2,362 Monza wagons were built.
This all-original four-door Deluxe Sedan is one of the earliest known to exist, as it dates back to 1959 when the production of the Corvair first started. It is on loan to the museum from noted Corvair expert Larry Claypool.
Long before Chrysler invented the minivan, the forward-thinking Corvair designers and engineers created the Greenbrier Sportswagon. Known as the Corvair 95, this is a 1965 model.
With a total floor space of 9,000 square feet, it’s not a large museum, but for Corvair fans it’s loaded with all sorts of interesting cars, engines, literature and Corvairabilia. The museum is the result of the hard work of many notable people in the friendly Corvair community, the most significant of which is CORSA club President Mike Hall, whose steadfast vision ensured the museum and all its displays were ready for the grand opening. And it was.
One of the prettiest Corvair models ever produced was the Club Coupe; this 1963 Monza 900 Club Coupe is owned by Jan Bradley of Indianapolis. Alongside, sat a 1965 Monza Sedan that is an unrestored original, still wearing its factory-applied Crocus Yellow paint; it was driven down from Plymouth, Minnesota, by its owner Dick Mickelson.
Modified and customized Corvairs are an integral part of the Corvair community. Five-spoke Camaro wheels are a popular modification for the second-generation Corvairs, as shown by this 1965 Monza convertible in the rare color combination of black with saddle interior. It was driven from Ash Grove, Missouri, by owners John and Teresa Miller.
The Corvair Museum, its exhibits and archives, are maintained by the Corvair Preservation Foundation, which is a non-profit affiliate of the Corvair Society of America.