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The one that got away (Episode 72): Molzon Corsa

Have you ever heard of the spectacular Molzon Corsa from 1968?
No? Then read on – and weep!

Truth be told, I’d never heard of it either. But as I learnt a bit more, it became painfully clear that I had missed the train: This was a car exactly as I like them, and for once that even included the price – which I only realised after the car had sold.

Do you remember the story of the yellow AC 3000 ME, which I attempted to buy at an auction in England? Otherwise, read about it here in the article The one that got away (episode 47): AC 3000 ME. The Molzon in today’s story is in some ways an even more depressing story about a car I missed.

An exposed gearbox is a surefire telltale of a truly special vehicle.

Which started with me not knowing the car at all. Which isn’t all that strange afterall. Where they produced almost 100 AC 3000 ME, there was only ever one Molzon Corsa built. As if that is not special enough: It’s also the only model Molzon ever made. Now that’s the kind of rarity that I like most!

These sketches are apparently from Molzon’s job application. A three-wheeler? None the less, he got the job.

In short, William Molzon was a car designer, educated from the Art Center’s College of Design in Los Angeles in the early Sixties. Like so many others, he was obsessed with building his own car – and as a car designer, he had better prerequisites than most. His basic mantra was that design and technology would melt together to an unprecedented extent, resulting in a sports car with good performance (he used the benchmark “faster than the fastest Corvette”) and not least excellent efficiency and handling (where he used Lotus as a benchmark ).

Molzon’s boss was Larry Shinoda – seen here with one of many Chevrolets that never went beyond the prototype stage.

After graduating he got a job at General Motors – by good fortune his boss was none other than Larry Shinoda, who went on to become one of the most famous American car designers. However, it was in parallel with his daytime job at GM that Molzon began to pursue the dream of creating his own sports car. Typical for the period, his creation was based on a tube chassis covered in a GRP body – but the location of the engine in the middle was perfectly state-of-the-art when Molzon started his project in 1963. Since a one-man-band homebuilt project by nature takes its time, he was beaten to the market by several others by the time his car neared completion.

The Molson Corsa inevitably makes me think of the De Tomaso Vallelunga, first shown as a prototype in Turin in 1963.

By September 1968 it was ready: The low 38.5-inch car was powered by a modified Chevrolet Corvair engine cranking out some 200 horsepower, transmitted through a Porsche 911 gearbox. The shape was spectacularly organic, and in a peculiar way the finished car looks more like a UFO than a sports car. The name “Corsa” may reveal that in fact it could be even more racing car than sports car? This seem to be backed by one of the most amazing numbers about the Corsa: The declared weight of 1100 pounds – equivalent to a mere 496 kilos! But then it is only 345 centimeters long and 98 centimeters tall. Road & Track magazine tested it in 1970 and confirmed that it was very fast.

All its own. And with 200 horsepower pushing only 1100 pounds spectacularly fast.

Molzon himself must have been satisfied with the car as he then kept it for almost 50 years. Not that he drove it a lot – it showed all of 950 miles of use in his hands! And he did not build any more either. Only due to his age did he finally elect to sell it at some point in 2017. It was the person who bought it then, who had put the car up for sale at one of the many auctions in Arizona last weekend.

So here we have a unique 1968 car (as in the true definition of unique!) with two owners, 950 miles, known history, exciting technology and an even more exciting design. That sounds very expensive, right? Well yes, as it was  catalogued witn an estimate between $ 100,000 and $ 125,000. But it was actually for sale without reserve. So brace your self and get ready to digest the final price: $ 41,800 including premium! Sure, it’s not exactly peanuts as such – but in terms of what you get, this buy is in my book nothing less than the best classic purchase I’ve heard of for years.

Organic curves with a hint of mystery…

…and spectacular doors to break the rules.

OK, I might be a tad subjective in this case, because this skewed creature is so much my kind of car – others might think it’s terrible? But I just don’t care. If I had been present at this auction (and if I had been registered and if I had $ 41,000 and change lying around in my golden trousers), I would not have hesitated for a second. Not a split second. I think it is SO  genuinely amazing, both in itself and even more in relation to its price. I would assume the auction house is disappointed and most probably the seller too – but the buyer, he must be ecstatic about his purchase. If nothing else – I am on his behalf!

Like a hotrodded buggy with full bodywork, ready to jump.

Generally though, I am also pleased on behalf of all car enthusiasts: I think this story helps to emphasize that there are still exciting cars out there which are economically achievable. Especially if you care look beyond what all the others are looking for. I actually think I’m going to indulge in this pastime much more again – at least I’ve learnt that much from this story.

The story of the man, the car and its construction is told in more detail in auction house Bonham’s description of the lot, Lot No. 41 1968 MOLZON CONCEPT CORSA GT38, where you’ll also find many more photos. Have a better look and I’ll leave you to decide whether I and the sole buyer are completely out of sync with the rest of the world – while it’s all those who did not bid who were right. What do the discerning ViaRETRO readers think?

4 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Admitted, I too had never heard of the Molzon Corsa, but what a fabulously bonkers design! :-) – And concept for the matter, with the mid-mounted Corvair engine linked to a 911 gearbox. William Molzon proved he wasn’t afraid of thinking outside the box!
    Your description “hotrodded buggy with full bodywork” is vey accurate. I guess it’s just the dimensions of the whole car being so very diminutive, which in turn makes the wheels seem rather oversized, and thus also the ground clearance. It’s certainly different that’s for sure – but I too really like it!
    Take a fair portion of GT40, add a teaspoon of 250LM and another teaspoon of Tipo 33 Stradale, then top it all off with a really good sprinkling of beach buggy – Presto! you’ve got a Molzon Corsa.
    Just fabulous!

  2. Dave Leadbetter

    200bhp and half a tonne all up? I’m in! It must be quite tail heavy though as the engine and gearbox will account for a fair proportion of the weight, it must have some interesting spring rates to make it turn in, you’d hope.

    I wanted to see a photograph with the headlamps up as I’m curious if they pop or roll but there aren’t any amongst the Bonhams photos. I wonder if they’re in working order? It would have been interesting to see the car in series production form and particularly what solution would be found for the wheels, the only part that is aesthetically awkward. They look huge but seem to only 13 inch which emphasises how small the whole car must be.

  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    I was wondering about the headlights as well, Dave – it made me suspicious that the panel gaps around them seems impossibly tight for a homebuilt glassfibre body. I guess that they are actually not functional. Maybe it could be considered a small job for the new owner to finish the car?


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