More than once, General Motors played with the idea of transforming the sporty Corvair sedan into a real two-place sports car. Here’s the first official effort, the 1961 Sebring Spyder.
Among other things, GM styling boss Bill Mitchell was a sports car enthusiast. And like any sports car guy, he could see that Chevrolet’s Corvair sedan provided all the necessary components to create a real two-place sports car: air-cooled flat six, a rear transaxle, a light and compact chassis. Eliminate the back seat, add some authentic sports car styling elements, and there you have it—the Corvair Sebring Spyder, a proper sporting two-seater.
Carrying the internal GM designation XP-737, the Sebring Spyder was created by shortening a production 1961 Corvair floor pan some 15 inches, eliminating the rear seat region and shortening the wheelbase from 108 to 93 inches. (This same shortening technique was used on another GM two-seat concept around that time, the Pontiac Tempest Monte Carlo we featured here.) Racy split windscreens and a fiberglass tonneau section with a center divider and twin headrests closed out the upper bodywork.
Racing car accoutrements included a custom dash with full instruments, wire wheels, rear brake ducts, and petite split bumperettes front and rear. Initially, a Paxton centrifugal supercharged was installed, but when the turbocharged Monza Spyder engine became available for ’62, a substitute powerplant was swapped in. Wearing a bright coat of candy apple red paint with white racing stripes, the Sebring Spyder made the rounds of the auto shows and appeared at the annual June Sprints at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In November of 1961, the Corvair two-seater appeared on the cover of Car and Driver magazine.
The Sebring Sprint was scrapped in 1966, the official story goes, but it launched a string of similar Corvair-based sports car and GT concepts starting with the Sebring Super Spyder of 1962. (The Super Spyder still exists and can be found at the GM Heritage Collection.) Meanwhile, the Sebring Spyder’s split bumperettes found immortality of their own. Cal Custom, the famed Los Angeles hot rod parts purveyors, offered knockoffs of the attractive design (below), and the pieces are highly prized by Corvair enthusiasts today.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.