Norman C. Witte's Corvair Affair
Visitors to this page sometimes e-mail pictures of their Corvairs, or interesting facts. This time, it was both. Norman Witte wrote: "I am attaching a picture of my '65 Corsa 140 taken in Petoskey, Michigan. It is my third Corvair and second Corsa. I have had the car over 11 years and it is currently undergoing its second engine rebuild in my possession. This one should be better than the first job. As you can see the car is pretty much stock. Under the paint is a very rust free body. It was media-blasted to bare metal. Inside is a complete Clark's interior. I also own a '63 Olds 98, a '68 Cutlass Supreme and a '93 Firebird Formula, but for some funny reason the Corvair will always hold a special place for me."
A pre-production Corsa?
Norm also wrote: "I do not remember where I saw it but I once came across a book which featured a pre-production '65 Corsa. The car was Sierra Tan, and was shot from the side, I believe with water and a city skyline in the background. What was significant about the picture was the "Spyder" emblem on its side that did not make production."
According the Dave Newell, owner of Chevrobilia Corvair Literature and official historian of the Corvair Society of America (CORSA), "Perhaps one or two hundred (we'll probably never know for sure) Corsas built at Willow Run, and just a handful in Oshawa, were Spyders, with Monza crests and Spyder scripts on the front fenders, regular Monza door panels and horn buttons, and Spyder scripts on the glove box doors. At least one of these cars, a Spyder coupe, surfaced in CORSA in 1985, in Texas, and I have a photo of it.
The decision to use the Corsa name was made beyond the point of no return for the '65 models, when those first Spyders were almost ready to be built. I believe that when they were built, the assembly plants gradually changed to Corsa components as they became available, so there may have been Corsas with Spyder glove box doors, etc. Spyder and Corsa model numbers were identical.
The Sierra Tan car in the photograph is actually a non-running fiberglass model built by GM Styling and borrowed by Campbell-Ewald, GM's advertising agency, for their photography. The picture was later retouched with standard Corsa wheel covers and Corsa emblems, with the Monza and Spyder emblems removed. Various versions of this picture were used for the Corsa coupe showroom poster, black & white and color publicity photos, a postcard and a color business card that dealers could buy.
These fiberglass mockups had adjustable ride height, and as you can see, the height has been adjusted in the photo to make the car sit lower. According to Campbell-Ewald retirees, this photo was taken on Belle Isle, in Detroit."
Corvair Corsa website visitor Ronnie Stensson of Sweden sent the following comments on the photo: "The pre-production Corvair with Spyder emblems was also equipped with REAL wire wheels. These wire wheels never appeared in production for '65. They are shown on one page of the '65 assembly manual, but there is a CANCELLED text in big letters all over the page. I guess the wire wheels were never very popular in '62-'64, so Chevy didn't bother to put a 5-lug version into production."
Dave Newell confirms that the genuine wires were in fact cancelled, and notes, "the 5-lug wire wheel adaptors were fully engineered and ready to go when the wire wheels were cancelled."
It's also interesting that in the earlier model years, the option price differential between the simulated wire wheel covers and the genuine wire wheels was substantial; in fact, hundreds of dollars. Perhaps this, and the fact that the simulated wires were so well designed, led many buyers to choose the more attractively priced covers.
Hopefully, these facts will clear up the arguments that occasionally surface among Corvair enthusiasts about the existence of the Spyder model or Spyder components on Corsas built during the 1965 model year, and we have Norm Witte to thank for bringing the subject to our attention.
The red Corsa at the top of the page wasn't Norm's first Corvair. In fact, he's owned three, a Monza and two Corsa coupes.
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