Bill Shuster, of Grosse Pointe Park, remembers when his dad, Stuart Shuster, brought home the 1969 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.

Bill Shuster, of Grosse Pointe Park, remembers when his dad, Stuart Shuster, brought home the 1969 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Behind the Wheel: Corvair convertible stays in the cruising lane

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published July 27, 2023

 The engine in the Corvair is located in the back.

The engine in the Corvair is located in the back.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


METRO DETROIT — If you’ve ever ventured over to Eddie’s Drive-In, you may have spotted Bill Shuster and his 1969 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.

On occasion, the Grosse Pointe Park resident takes the vintage vehicle to the popular Harrison Township eatery, where diners are served by carhops on roller skates.

Cortez silver in color, the Corvair is always a conversation piece. Sometimes Shuster comes across people whose parents or relatives once owned a Corvair. Other times, he’ll meet someone unfamiliar with the car, but intrigued.

The convertible has been in the family since 1970. The evening his father, Stuart Shuster, brought it home for the first time is forever etched in Shuster’s memory. It was Stuart Shuster’s 31st birthday, and Shuster remembers his dad coming home from work later than usual on that snowy, January evening.

“My father was a designer at General Motors,” Shuster said. “His studio developed the Firebird insignias. He was a really good designer, really talented.”

As Shuster waited for his dad, he heard a “sort of sputtering rumble” echoing through the Birmingham neighborhood where the family resided. Looking outside, Shuster saw tail lights in the winter air. He didn’t think much of it until the Corvair pulled into the driveway.

Once his dad was inside the house, the reveal of the new family car came as a surprise. While looking at it, Shuster felt the Corvair had “an aura.” It was his dad’s prized possession.

“Nobody drove this car except my father,” Shuster said.

Although the car was in great shape, Stuart Shuster insisted on tinkering with it over the next few months with his oldest son helping him at the age of 5. Shuster also has a younger sister and brother.

“I was out in the garage every weekend,” he said. “A lot of that was holding the flashlight.”

The Shusters owned other cars over the years, but the Corvair always stood out.

“Everyone knew this car,” Shuster said. “My dad drove it daily and he would take it to car shows.”

As a passenger in the Corvair, watching drag races was a childhood pastime.

“When I was very young, there were a lot of drive-in restaurants along Woodward (Avenue) we would go to,” Shuster said. “That’s where all the hot rods met to set up races. You’d see Super Bees, Jaguars and Corvettes.”

Mustangs, Challengers and Firebirds also were a part of the action. Shuster described the atmosphere as “an incredible sensation of noise and color and, of course, the music at the time — the MC5, all the Detroit bands.”

Stuart Shuster purchased the convertible from Ed Rinke Chevrolet in Center Line. Shuster still has the paperwork. One distinguishing feature is the engine is located in the back while the trunk is in the front. Other traits are noticeable.

“The pipes have a nice growl. It has the original fire extinguisher my dad put in,” Shuster said. “It’s all original. I had to replace some parts.”

Shuster kept track of the car’s history. He said the car was once owned by Ned Nickles, the designer of the original Corvair body style. Shuster’s research also determined that General Motors executive Ed Cole “was the chief engineer” of this car. Stuart Shuster was such a fan of the Corvair that he became a member of the Detroit Area Corvair Club.

On the last day of school sophomore year at Seaholm High School, things switched gears a bit when Shuster finally had the chance to take the car for a spin.

“I asked my father if I could take the car out and drive around,” Shuster remembered. “He said, ‘If the keys are on my dresser, you can go ahead and do that.’”

So, when the teenager woke up on the last day of school in 1981, he checked the dresser, and saw the keys. He was “shocked” that his dad granted him permission, and after school he rounded up his friend Matt. They cruised around a bit, making their way over to Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills.

“We were clearly the coolest guys in Birmingham,” Schuster thought.

One stop was a gas station at Maple Road and Woodward Avenue in Birmingham. The gas cap is on the front of the car on the driver’s side.

“As I was backing up, there was a Cadillac Coupe de Ville in front of me,” Shuster said.

That’s when Shuster accidentally bumped something and got a scratch on his dad’s Corvair.

“I just went white,” Shuster said. “It was like waiting for the apocalypse to come home.”

But his dad remained calm when he learned of the mishap.

“He was pretty mellow about it,” Shuster said. “But he garnered my wages.”

That included what Shuster earned on his paper route and from his job at the local hardware store. Shuster did not get behind the wheel of the Corvair again until four years ago when his dad died.

A couple of years ago, the car was invited to be displayed at the annual EyesOn Design on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. All these years later, there were attendees who remembered the car from its early days with Stuart Shuster.

“It runs really well,” Shuster said. “Driving around, I can feel his spirit.”