Molzon Corvair-Porsche Special

Posted September 20, 2017

By Dean Larson

Here at ReinCarNation, we love stories about unauthorized projects, experimental vehicles and other skunkworks creations. Throughout history, many legendary cars started as pet projects and as a means to occupy after-hours leisure time but went on to define their brands. While this fabulous mid-engine marriage of GM parts and European influences didn’t get much attention from the brass, it’s worth looking at as one possible path GM could have explored.

What we’re looking at here is said to be the creation of General Motors and Chrysler Corp. designer and engineer William Molzon, a close friend of the remarkable designer Larry Shinoda. It’s a small fiberglass-bodied car powered by a Corvair air-cooled flat-six engine hooked to a Porsche transaxle. The build seems well engineered with a tubular space frame with semi-monocoque construction and a stressed floor pan. Now, nearly 50 years after its completion, the Molzon Corvair-Porsche build has resurfaced and was recently offered for sale on eBay.

Without any proper name to use, some other sources have started calling it the Molzon Corvair-Porsche Special, and the name does speak to its design a bit. After all, had the Corvair been designed differently, it could have been an American Porsche (even if only for its rear-mounted, air-cooled engine) and the car does use one or more Porsche components and seems overall European in design. Fortunately, its designer William Molzon had much grander guiding principles for the build than this. Molzon actually started the project back in 1963 while working at General Motors Styling and studying mechanical engineering. After a few initial projects in chassis design, Molzon began working on a complete design project with the following objectives:

  • Maximum utilization of space and maximum performance.
  • Acceleration superior to a Corvette with the economy of a Corvair and the handling capabilities of a Lotus.
  • Planned capital outlay of no more than $2,000 by using off-the-shelf parts wherever possible, a minimum of custom machining, and doing all the work himself.

While Molzon’s overall design transformed quite a bit during the realization of his project (starting as a wedge-shaped roadster and resulting in a streamlined mid-engine coupe), the finished product is truly remarkable. The reworked Corvair engine makes over 200 hp according to the seller, thanks to modified internals, equal-length headers and tall velocity stacks. Not much is known of the Porsche transaxle, other than it dates back to the 1960s and is a five-speed unit. With a finished weight of just 1,200 pounds, we’re sure the Corvair engine is enough to accomplish Molzon’s goals. 

The level of finish work on the exterior of the Molzon special is intriguing. While it might have started as a design exercise, it’s clear that Molzon wanted the finished product to be a usable automobile. The body has hidden flip-up headlights, integrated fog lights, a windshield wiper, awesome rear louvers, nicely designed air scoops and provisions for front and rear license plates. Comments across the web bash the car's tall ride height and gray steel wheels, but that’s half of what makes the car so appealing in our eyes. With it ultralow 38-inch roof height, we're not concerned about the ride height, and the steel wheels reflect the use of budget parts in the build (plus they’re just plain cool wrapped in redline tires).

Molzon was able to get a street title for his creation back in 1970 and allegedly logged all 958 miles that the odometer shows. Even he was slightly “unnerved by the alacrity of its acceleration” and the direction responses were beyond expectation. But after these quotes from a period Road and Track article, the Molzon Special seems to go off the radar until recently.

When the car surfaced on eBay last week, many greeted it with skepticism, wondering if the car was legit and where it had been for the last 40-plus years. Some also questioned the seller’s claims of authenticity and believed the $125,000 asking price to be unrealistic. We could only find one other piece of information that the other sites were missing regarding the recent discovery of the Molzon Special. An entry from Feb. 5, 2017 on the Corvair Center forum shows a car, looking identical to this, right after its recent purchase. The author, Caveman Pete, claims to have recently acquired the car from a garage, and it sure sounds like he has purchased the car from Molzon, but the entry quickly dies out.

Ultimately the Molzon Special seems to have gone unsold on eBay. The seller claimed that this would be the one and only time the car was offered on eBay, no matter the results of the auction. The auction was ended a day or two early, and all photos and additional info was removed from the ad, strange indeed. We’ll probably be seeing the Molzon Corvair Special again someday, and we do think the car has some serious value, but for now this is all we know about this unique one-off.

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Corvair One-Offs