Our next drivers’ profile introduces Ian Johnson, who has been involved in motor sport since Noah was a boy. Take a few minutes, and enjoy his story.
He has raced many vehicles, including an FX Holden that he once drove to second place chasing Alan Moffatt at Surfers Paradise. He’s also driven Porsches, an EH Holden and is now developing a 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder.
A race sight on Australian race tracks, or roads for that matter, the Chevy Corvair was a response to rising sales of European cars in the United States during the ‘50s. Seeing great success in the United States in its early years, the model was available in a few variants over its short life span, which improved its appeal, handling and power.
Ian’s car is a Chevrolet Corvair Monza Spyder, and is one of the most developed variants of the car. Spyder, in this case, refers to the car’s turbocharged 2687cc flat six, which was the second turbocharged motor in a production run car, using the same turbocharger setup GM’s Oldsmobile Jetfire that hit the road a few months earlier. That flat six sits low down in the back of the car as well, much like the six cylinder boxer motor you find sitting in the back of a Porsche 911 – only the Corvair was introduced three years before the 911.
Being such a new development, the turbocharger was very much not sorted, and was known to have a few issues. It also gave the car a unique power delivery which, combined with the motor hanging out over the back of the car, meant drivers struggled to get a handle on the Corvair Monza Spyder’s handling.
In 1966 the Corvair faced competition from a new Mustang and some very unkind words in Ralph Nader’s 1965 book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’, and it began a decline before being phased out in 1969.
Ian encountered the Corvair during a trip to the United States a few years back, while searching for something unique to put on the track. He did a little research and found that the Corvair met eligibility requirements for Group N, so he found his Corvair Monza Spyder, brought it to Australia and began to build it up into a Group N race car.
With the support of a very patient wife and a lot of time in the garage, he’s built a marvellous machine. The car is beautifully presented, and the 2687cc air-cooled turbocharged flat six with Weber carburettors sounds great.
It’s had more than its fair share of teething troubles, overheating, throwing fan belts out of the engine bay, retiring the turbo before the end of the race and generally being cantankerous in its early days as a race car. However, Ian’s definitely put the work in and is steadily getting it sorted, enjoying the time in the garage as much as his time on the track.
We’re looking forward to sharing more track time, garage time and good stories with Ian and his Group Nb first – the 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Spyder.