May 30, 2024

Classic Wheels Spotlight: 1963 Corvair Monza

‘Basketcase’ 1963 Corvair Monza is real attention-getter

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1963 Corvair Monza Driver Side

Jim Sikora bought his classic 1963 Corvair Monza 2-door sedan 30 years ago. While he’d already had a 1961 Corvair Lakewood station wagon for 45 years, he was looking for something with a bit less rust and more options.

When his friend Larry Claypool from The Vair Shop in Frankfort called him up and told him a client of his had brought in a 1963 Monza for some repair work and decided he wanted to sell the car, Jim took a ride out to see it.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1963 Corvair Monza Passenger Side

When he got to the shop, Jim was a little taken aback that there wasn’t much to the car. It was partially disassembled and had been sitting for three years. While it had many of the options he was looking for and not much rust, much of the car was in baskets in the trunk. A true ‘basketcase.’ Of course – he bought it.

When Jim got the ‘63 Corvair Monza home and went through all the parts that came with it, he realized many of the parts were New Old Stock (NOS). The previous owner had worked at Ridgeway Chevrolet in Lansing, Ill., and had purchased most of the chrome and body trim pieces, including the bumpers, while working there. Jim did all the bodywork and the paintwork himself. All the work that was done to the car was handled by Jim, with some help from Corvair Club members.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1963 Corvair Monza Rear

Although Ralph Nader, a political activist, author, and attorney involved with consumer protection rules and regulations, deemed the Corvair unsafe to drive because of steering and suspension issues, GM addressed these issues and modified the rear swing axlesto be more like the Corvette’s independent suspension, and added sway bars for better stability.

Jim left the suspension as it was, except for gas-powered shocks and Firestone radial tires. He says that when he takes the car on the road, he is impressed by how it “hugs the road!”

General Motors wanted to compete with VW Beetle and the Chevrolet Corvair was produced from 1960 through 1969. The Corvair was a rear-engine, air-cooled vehicle that had many distinct options available. Jim’s Corvair came with a padded dashboard, AM push button radio, full-tint windows, front seat belts, a 2-speed automatic transmission, 2-speed wipers, factory A/C, and a 3.89 Positraction rear end.

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1963 Corvair Monza Interior

Not much was done to the engine, a 145-cubic-inch opposed 6-cylinder with two 1-bbl. carburetors. The carbs were reworked for better performance and reliability.

The interior is roughly 75% original, with the addition of a Craig under-dash 8-track player. Jim says that when people look at the car, they point out the 8-track to their kids and say, ‘that’s what I was talking about!’

Photos by Rudy Host, Jr. - 1963 Corvair Monza Wheel

Jim and his wife like to take their car to road rallies and car shows. In 1995, Jim entered the car in Chevy Vette Fest, and was awarded The Silver Spinner. They are also involved with a few car clubs, the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA), and the Vintage Chevy Club of America (VCCA) Midwest region, and the Chicago Corvair Enthusiasts. Jim even had a go at Gymkhana racing (similar to motocross racing for cars) for a few years.

Jim says he is always amazed that his car is such an attention-getter at the car shows. Even when his car was entered in an Air-Cooled Car Show in Downers Grove, Ill., he was put in with a group of Porsches and everybody was checking out his car.

Jim says with all the options the Corvair Monza offered, it did not come with a side view mirror. In his opinion, the hub caps with trim rings are the things that stand out.

If you have a car you would like to see featured in Classic Wheels, contact Rudy Host, Jr. at