I’m partial to the styling of the Early Model Corvairs (1960-’64), which is widely known to have inspired the designers who penned the 1961 NSU Prinz. Here’s an example of the other way around. Back in 1960, when the Corvair first came out, someone decided they liked the idea of the air-cooled 80-hp, rear-engine, four-speed, swing-axle Chevy, but didn’t like how much it resembled other Chevrolet products and commissioned Italian coachbuilder Pinin Farina (originally named for founder Battista “Pinin” Farina but styled Pininfarina after 1961) to shroud the European-influenced chassis with Euro-style coachwork.
According to Gooding & Company, who are offering that chassis for sale this month in Monterey, that someone was GM Lead Stylist Bill Mitchell, who was seeking a design proposal. What he got back from Italy was the Coupe Speciale you see here, but not in the form you see it. As it was displayed at the Paris and Turin, Italy motor shows and shown on the March 1961 cover of Road & Track, the Coupe Speciale wore a version of this hardtop styling, but with a much more sloped, Porsche- or Citroën-style nose with single round headlamps. It also still wore ’60 Corvair dog-dish hubcaps on steel wheels.
After that first show season, prolific automotive designer Tom Tjaarda was called on the reconfigure the coupe as a 2+2. He also redesigned the car’s rear end in a more angular vein, expanded the side windows, and added the car’s now-characteristic ellipse-shaped headlamp housings. In this form, painted dark green and wearing ’61 Monza wheel covers, it was again on the cover of Road & Track, in February 1963. In a final restyling, sometime thereafter, Tjaarda reconfigured the A-pillars to remove the final visual connection to the early Corvair.
Given the lead times required by production and the nebulous dates connected with some of Tjaarda’s remodeling efforts, it’s hard to say how much the Coupe Speciale influenced the styling of the Late Model (1965-’69) Corvair two-door hardtop versus itself being influenced by the direction Chevrolet stylists were already taking, but the resemblance is clear and the efforts of both the great Pininfarina and the legendary Tom Tjaarda make this one special Corvair.