1962 Monza GT Corvair: Interview with Larry Shinoda

1962 Corvair Monza GT

Monza GT Corvair:  Interview with Larry Shinoda

© Wayne Ellwood, 1995
Used here with permission by the author

The Monza GT is Larry Shinoda's favorite design. At least, it was on the spring day, early in 1995 when he and I shared our views on some of his greatest designs. Personal favorites often vary with your mood, from day to day. But like the greatest designs, these views are not likely to wander far from a central theme.

At least, that's one of the things that I heard in Larry's description of his employment with the Corvette group. There were some strong theme lines which he created very early in the development of the Corvette and they have evolved over time, with each generation. If you think about it for a minute, you can see how these ideas flow through each model series. You can still see some of the earliest themes carried over in the current Corvette. Side gills (which really aren't necessary for engine compartment cooling), the Shark-like menace of the grill, the pointy nose, the pop-up headlights and Coke bottle shapes.

Corvair Monza GT Prototype Corvair Monza GT Prototype Corvair Monza GT Prototype
Corvair Monza GT Prototype Corvair Monza GT Prototype  

For Larry, the Monza-GT was a car which he designed from the ground up with no direction from Bill Mitchell and it is a car which captured the imagination of the Corvette group. Between this car and the famous Sharks (Mako I and II), you can see all the styling cues for the next twenty years! Join me as I ask Larry if the Monza GT represent something special to him...

"Yes, every line on this car was mine. Mitchell didn't have too much input to it. The car is still at Design Staff storage. They managed to keep it all these years. For example, here is an article written on it in AUTOMOBILE. They had to wait until Chuck Jordan left before they could print it."

"In my mind, the design precedes a lot of Ferrari designs. I think that Guigarro copied the back window treatment for the Lambourgini Muira and the whole graphic for the Mangusta."

"The MONZA had a lot of good design in it. It might have saved the Corvair if they had produced it. The chassis was also pretty good for its day. That chassis held the track record at Riverside, for about two months. We put in a special Corvair engine which had a cooling fan like the Porsche instead of the normal Corvair arrangement. It had a single overhead cam, hemispherical chambers and two special long three barrel Weber carburetors (one on each bank) that Chevrolet made. The engine didn't stay in the car, I don't think, but it may still be at Design Staff. Someone there will know where it is."

"We used the same chassis for ASTRO I. The engine may have been in ASTRO I when we built it but I think that it has since been replaced with a "soft" Corvair engine hanging out of the back."

"Just as a sidelight, you should know that the rear-engine configuration was quite strong. I think it was Roger Penske who drove the MONZA chassis (with a different body) at Riverside when we set the track record. After that he built the ZEREX Special which was essentially a formula one Cooper with a sports body. He then went out a blew everybody away and our record along with it. (Note: See Ecape Road feature column by Connie Curts, "1955 Pooper", AUTOWEEK, April 24, 1995, page 56 for more information on the Porsche/Cooper and its evolution to the Xerex Special). He continued to develop the ZEREX car with a 287 magnesium/aluminum V-8 until it became dated."