Ask a Chevrolet Corvair owner about their time with the car and many will simply sum up their ownership experience with a four-letter word that rhymes with spit.
While there are plenty of Corvair fans, to be sure, we doubt GM will ever seek to retread the name. Ever.
However, there is one Corvair that we’ll drool over all day long: The 1963 Chervolet Testudo.
The Testudo, a one-off show car styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro during his five-year stint at Bertone, is actually based on the chassis and running gear of the Corvair Monza.
The story goes that Bill Mitchell, a famous GM designer who penned the Tri-Five Chevrolet, the 1966-67 Buick Riviera and the original Corvette Sting Ray (to name a few), wanted to investigate the possibility of promoting the Corvair in Europe with a locally-styled variant and proceeded to supply two European design houses, Bertone and Pininfarina, with a Corvair chassis.
Giugiaro was lead designer at Bertone at the time and he took the project under his wing and subsequently penned one of the seminal creations of his career.
The Corvair Monza chassis was shortened and strengthened but no modifications were made to the drivetrain, which means this sumptuous creation still houses an 81 hp air-cooled, flat-six over the rear axle, hooked up to a four-speed manual transmission.
Named after the latin word for “turtle”, the Testudo features a sharp crease around the waistline that essentially divides the top from the bottom, mimicking the look of a turtle. And that’s without mentioning its rounded turtle-shell-esque roof.
Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on March 3, 1963, the Testudo is said to have influenced a great number of designers over the years. It’s believed to have caught the eye of Ferrucio Lamborghini, beginning a long and prosperous relationship between him and Nuccio Bertone.
You’ll also see part of its design in later Bertone creations like the Lamborghini Miura and the Alfa-Romeo Montreal. It’s also no surprise to learn that Porsche design director Anatole Lapine loved the Testudo– just look at a Porsche 928.
Here are a few more amazing facts about the long, lost Testudo, which incidentally sold for €336,000 (around $550,000) at RM Sotheby’s Villa D’este in 2011:
- The cockpit was accessed through a forward hinged canopy (like the Corvair Monza GT & Saab Aero-X concept)
- The car stands just 41.7 inches tall
- The steering wheel is rectangular, rather than round
- Pop-up headlights that rotate upwards (think Porsche 928)
- Full glass roof
- The first application of taillights housed in polycarbonate plastics
- This is the best-looking Corvair you’ll ever see. Ever.