Introduced on September 18, 1969, the Monte Carlo was only available as a four person luxury two door coupe. An American mid-size vehicle that originally designed as a personal luxury vehicle, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo was unveiled at the height of GM muscle car power era. Originally created as Chevy's answer to the new A-body Pontiac Grand Prix, Monte Carlo was the creation of Elliot M. Estes, general manager of Chevrolet and Chevrolet's chief stylist, Dave Holls. The styling of the Monte Carlo closely mimicked the more contemporary Cadillac Eldorado, though much of the body and structure were shared with the Chevelle.
Showcased alongside the Buick Riviera and the Pontiac Grand Prix, the Monte Carlo had a bit of competition in the gentlemen's performance market. The Monte Carlo shared a very short period in the limelight as a muscle car, shortly following its introduction the vehicle fell out of favor in Detroit.
The Monte Carlo was originally intended as competition to the Ford Thunderbird for the 1970 model year, and has continued to last through six generations to date. Closely based on a contemporary mid-sized sedan, all Monte Carlos have remained as two-door coupes. From the beginning, the Monte Carlo has been one of GM's largest successes on the NASCAR stock car racing circuit.
Fitted with the longest ever hood on a Chevrolet, the Monte Carlo rode on a 116 inch wheelbase, and was based on the A-body Chevelle platform with 6 footer hood. Though any Chevelle engine was available, all Monte Carlos came standard with at least a 350 cubic inch V8 engine. To create a more muscular appearance, bulges were added to the fenders. Except for the fake wood trim, the Monte Carlo shared basically the same dashboard as the Chevelle. The base price was $3,123, and cost more $218 more than the Chevelle Malibu.
A fully equipped Monte Carlo cost more than $5,000 with all of the various options. These options included three-speed manual being replaced by two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, or four-speed manual, though most Monte Carlo's carried the Turbo-Hydramatic. Other available options included Four Season Air Conditioning, power seats, Variable-Ratio Power Steering, power windows, Strato bucket seats, full instrumentation, Rallye wheels and much more.
The Monte Carlo SS 454 package was the most sporting option and received an updated blacked-out rear body panel in 1971. The new package also included front and rear stabilizer bars and dash control knows with international symbols and heavy-duty front and rear suspension. A variety of models came with new rubber rear bumper inserts. The LS-5 454 was rated at 365 bhp, which was an increase of 5 bhp, despite falling horsepower rating for other GM motors this year. Priced at $420, the SS package included a standard Turbo-Jet 454 of 454 in³ (7.4 L) with a four-barrel carburetor which was rated at 360 hp (269 kW) at 4800 rpm and 500 ft•lbf (678 N•m) of torque at 3500 rpm.
The package included wider tires, heavy-duty suspension, and an automatic load-leveling rear suspension. Though it cost $222 extra, the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission was a required option with the SS package. Although only counting for less than 3% of Monte Carlo's sales in 1970, the SS was quite a fast ride, that was comparably equipped to the Chevelle SS 454, and only weighed a bit more. From its introduction until 1972, the vehicle remained virtually unchanged when the SS package was deleted and replaced by the Custom package which appeared as a one-year only offering. This Custom package featured a special suspension and other options available with the SS option. But unline the SSpackage, it was available with any engine on the roster. The 454 in³ V8 engine remained optional in Monte Carlos all the way through 1975.
Unfortunately, sales were limited in 1970 when a labor strike cut into profits and dropped sales at 130,657 rather than the projected 185,000. Most Monte Carlos sold for full list price, which in the end paid of and made it a profitable year. The SS 454s only accounted for 3,823 units of 1970 Monte Carlo sales.
Only slight styling updates were made on the 1971 Monte Carlo, including slimmer, vertical taillights. The SS model received new ‘European symbol knobs,' and the option of a four-spoke steering wheel. The small-block Turbo Fire 400 was deleted though mechanically everything else remained the same. Despite the reduction in compression ratio, the SS 454 engine was raised to a nominal 365 gross.
In 1972 the Monte Carlo received a Cadillac-like eggcrate grille that was very similar to the '71 Chevy Caprice. The final year for the first generation design, the grille and metal rear trim molding highlighted the updates for the '72 model. An industry-wide switch to SAE nt hp numbers helped lead to a reduction in the rated power of all Chevy engines, though the engine stayed the same. In addition to the optional Strato bucket seats, the new availability of all-vinyl upholstery with the standard bench seat was the only update in the interior trim.
The standard engine in California was the 4-barrel carbureted 350, to comply with more strict emissions standards. Turbo Hydramatic was the only transmission available in California.
The second generation of Monte Carlo's were introduced in 1973 and featured new Chevy parts along with a sleek new look. Still retaining its 116-inch wheelbase, the new design of the body was highlighted with deep curves that were borrowed from the GM Colonnade coupe.
A brand new redesigned Monte Carlo was released alongside other GM intermediates in 1973. Following the pattern of other GM mid-size vehicle, this second generation of Monte Carlos no longer featured a hardtop, but instead a pillared coupe with rear side opera windows and a frameless door glass. New styling features included dual headlights that were positioned beside an egg-crate grille with a Monte Carlo emblem in front, and vertical taillights that were placed above the bumper. In 1973 federally mandated 5 mph bumpers required that all passengers vehicles sold in the U.S. with the 5 mph requirement extended to rear bumpers.
The basic all-coil suspension was carried over along with the separate body-on-frame construction. The '73 Monte Carlo showcased a variety of innovations to improve both the ride and handling these features included standard radial-ply tires, high-caster steering, Pliacell shock absorbers, and front and rear anti-roll bars. The radial-tuned system was included in the standard Monte Carlo when the automatic transmission was ordered, as well as retained ‘traditional' steering and bias-ply tires. This earned the Monte Carlo S label.
A brand new, wraparound cockpit-style instrument panel was featured inside the '73 Monte Carlo. This panel was quite similar to other contemporary Pontiacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles where the gauges and other instruments were centered within easy reach of the driver. Retained in the 1973 model was the simulated burl elm trim. ‘Strato Bucket' seats of brand new design were an optional option, while a split bench seat was standard. Floor console with shifter and storage compartment was also optional. Able to swivel nearly 90 degrees to permit easy entry to both driver and front passenger, the bucket seats were of a one-piece high-back design. Available cloth and vinyl trims were offered with both bucket and bench seats.
Named Motor Trend's 'Car of the Year' for 1973, the acclaim was found in the styling and emphasis of the Euro-style ride and handling. A new sales record was reached for Chevrolet for this year with nearly 250,000 units sold for the model year.
The Monte Carlo Landau was the new model for 1973 and was basically an ‘S' with Turbine II wheels, driver and passenger-side sport mirrors and a rear quarter Landau vinyl roof.
The recipient of only minor detail updates for the 1974 model year, the Monte Carlo received a revised grille in the front, along with taller and slimmer vertical tailings in the rear of the vehicle. The license plate was relocated slightly and a larger 5mph rear bumper was another additional update. Discontinued, the base Monte Carlo with only manual transmission, standard suspension and bias-ply tires was deleted in '74, leaving only the 'S' and 'Landau' models. These models did have radial-ply tires and upgraded suspensions, as well as standard power steering and front disc brakes.
Setting a whole new sales record of over 300,000 units despite the Arab Oil Embargo of late 1973 and early 1974 that greatly depleted the sales of standard and intermediate-sized vehicles in favor of smaller compacts, the Monte Carlo continued to set a new sales record for the year. The Monte Carlo continued to lead in the intermediate personal luxury car sales, with the Grand Prix placing second.
Very few styling updates were made on the 1975 model from the previous year. A new grille with the Monte Carlo emblem was moved to the center section of the car, and new vertically shaped taillights with horizontal louvers were the only styling changes for the '75 year. To keep up with the latest federal and California emission requirements, all models received catalytic converters that included bonuses such as better fuel economy and drivability. They also received longer spark plug and muffler life, though they now required more expensive and lower-octane unleaded gasoline.
The engine remained the same from the previous year, though they did receive the addition of GM's High Energy electronic ignition that made standard equipment and the 454 in³ V8 that was no longer offered on California vehicles. This left the 180 hp (134 kW) 400 in³ four-barrel the top engine in state of California. Becoming standard in 1976, all 1975 Monte Carlos were now equipped with the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.
A Custom interior option that was new for 1975 included a plusher cloth 50/50 bench seat with recliner on the passenger side and lower door panel carpeting. The interior was standard with a bench seat with knit-cloth and vinyl or all-vinyl upholstery. Still optional with either knit cloth of vinyl upholstery, the swiveling Strato bucket seats and console were still an available. White all-vinyl interiors were made available for the first time during this year with bench or bucket seats in contrasting colors of black, red, blue and green for either carpet or instrument panels.
Unfortunately, sales declined slightly from 1974's record-setting high due to higher prices that resulted from the addition of the catalytic converter, double-digit inflation and the added competition of Dodge's Charger SE and Chrysler's Cordoba. The production of the 1975 sales ended at close to 250,000 units sold.
Both Base and Custom level models remained the same in 1976, though the instrument panel and steering wheel now featured a new rosewood trim that replaced the burled elms of previous years. A two-toned 'Fashion Tone' paint combination was now a new option for 1976.
Reshaped taillights, a new crosshatch grille and newly vertically mounted rectangular headlamps identified the '76 Monte Carlo. A brand new 140 hp 305 in³ V8 became the standard engine, and the 150 hp 350 V8 and 180 hp 400 in³ V8 being the optional engine for this year. Discontinued for this year, the big-block 454 in³ V8 was deleted from the option list for this year. All 1976 Monte Carlos received the Turbo Hydramatic as standard equipment.
This year the Monte Carlo hit an all-time exclusive record with a production rate of over 400,000 units sold this year.
Moving to a stand-up hood ornament in 1977, the Monte Carlo emblem changed positions dramatically to along with revised taillight lenses. This was the final year for the 1973-vintage design before the downsized Monte Carlo was ushered in 1978. The engines were now reduced to a mere two engines, a standard 140 hp two-barrel carbureted 305 or a 160 hp four-barrel carbureted 350 engine. This was the only time when an intermediate model was larger in every dimension than a full-sized model in all of history.
The third generation was unveiled in 1978 and continued until 1980 with the first ever V6 engine for the Monte Carlo. The familiar curves of the body design stayed the same, but a new taillight, which wrapped around the back end, now replaced the original horizontal taillights. Rectangular quad, side-by-side headlights topped off the front of the 1980 model, along with the installation of the turbocharged V6 engine.
Downsized for the 1978 model year, all GM intermediate-sized vehicles including the Monte Carlo responded to the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo and CAFÉ requirements. The third generation of Monte Carlos was 700 to 800lbs lighter and 15 inches shorter than the '77 model. A smaller engine compartment was also featured and with 350 and 400 in³ V8s that were featured previously were dropped in exchange for a standard 231 in³ V6 that was built by Buick, or an optional Chevy 305 in³ V8.
For the first time in a variety of years a three-speed manual transmission reappeared as standard on the base model with the V6 engine, while the automatic was optional. A four-speed manual was offered on the Monte Carlo for the first time since 1971. With the 305 V8 a four-speed manual transmission with floor shifter was optional. For 1978 the optional V8 and all Landau models came standard with the automatic.
The 1979 Monte Carlo only received a few minor trim updates, and these included the installation of larger taillight lenses. A new Chevrolet-built 200 in³ V6 became the standard engine for the base Monte Carlo in 49 states. The Buick 231 in³ V6 engine continued standard as the base engine on California and all Landau models. For 1979 the 140 hp 305 in³ V8 remained as an option, and a new 120 hp 267 in V8 was offered also as an option. A 160 hp version with a four-barrel carburetor was made available. Continuing from the previous year, the same transmissions were carried over and these included a standard three-speed manual and optional four-speed manual. Other options included an optional three-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic. Due to low buyer interest, 1979 was the final year that Chevrolet would offer manual transmissions on the Monte Carlo.
Receiving a slight restyle in the front, the 1980 Monte Carlo received quad headlights with amber indicators that were mounted beneath. A new Chevrolet-built 229 in³ V6 replaced both the 200 in³ V6 of 1979 and the Buick engine that was offered on all '78 models and an automatic transmission became standard on all models. Buick's turbocharged version of the 231 in³ V6 rated at 170 hp was a new option for 1980. 267 and 305 in³ versions of the Chevrolet small-block V8 with up to 160 hp were optional engine for this year.
Defined as the complete new generation of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos, the fourth generation which ran from 1981 until 1988 was in a class all of its own. Featuring a smoother profile in comparison to previous years, the Fourth Generation 1981 Monte Carlo showcased new vertical taillights that's were similar to '70 to '77 models. The Monte body was restyled and updated to follow suit with other GM mid-size formal coupes. The engines were carried over from the year before, and these included the standard 229 in³ Chevrolet V6 an optional 267 in³ V8, a turbocharged 170 hp 231 in³ Buick V6 in the Monte Carlo Turbo and a 305 in³ V8 in the base and Landau models. Standard equipment on the '81 model was an automatic transmission, power front disc brakes and power steering.
The 1982 Monte Carlo only received slight revisions. The Monte Carlo turbo model and the turbocharged 231 in³ V6 were discontinued, while all of the other engines carried over from the previous year. A 262 in³ V6 and an Oldsmobile 350 in³ V8, both diesel engines were offered brand new for this year. Mid size vehicles were now designated A-body cars, due to the introduction of GM's new mid-size platform and caused chassis designations to be shuffled up. Vehicles that were formerly A-bodies were now classified as G-bodies. For 1982, a black exterior was not available.
Receiving only minor updates, the '83 Monte Carlo gained a revised grille and interior trim patters. The standard engine continued to be the 229 in³ V6, and the 165 hp 305 in³ V8 was optional. The Super Sport Package, Z65 was once again made an option in 1983
The Monte Carlo SS was reintroduced in 1983, following twelve years of being discontinued. One of the last carbureted, rear-wheel drive ‘muscle cars', the Monte Carlo SS featured European body color-coding, a new front fascia, a rear spoiler and a V8.
In 1984 the regular Monte Carlo was available standard with a 125 hp 229 in³ V6 and the option of 165 hp 305 V8. The final year for the 350 in³ diesel engine in a base Monte Carlo, only a total of 168 units were produced for '84. For this year, all engines received the three-speed automatic transmission, except for the three SS's, which received the 200-4R transmission with overdrive.
Following the restrictive emissions regulations of the late 1970s, the car-buying public was itching for a power-driven vehicle. The SS was a major hit in 1984, and a total of 112,730 sport coupes were sold, along with an additional 24,050 with the SS option. The SS featured floor console and Strato bucket seats as extra-cost options for the first time rather than the standard split bench seat with armrest.
Discontinued following the '82 model year, T-tops were re-introduced in the 1985 Monte Carlo. A total of 35,484 Monte Carlo SS's were produced for this year, and offered in a variety of colors black, maroon, silver and white. Becoming standard on the SS was a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, the Turbo Hydramatic 200-4R, with a newly revised sport rear axle ratio that contained 3:73 gears. The 229 in³ V6 and 350 in³ V8 diesel engines were now gone for good in 1985. A 262 in³ (4.3 L) V6 that was fuel-injected with throttle-body fuel injection was the replacement for the 229.
Four very unique body styles were featured for the 1986 Monte Carlo. Showcasing the same general body panels that had been used since '81, the base model Sport Coupe was still available, though now it featured new ‘aero' side mirrors similar to 1980 Corvettes and Camaro's. A Luxury Sport model was the new edition to the 1986 Monte Carlo line. The LS also had new ‘aero' side mirrors, along with a revised front fascia and an updated sharp-looking rear fascia. New ‘Euro' headlamps that featured removable bulbs in a plastic headlamp housing rather than the smaller all-in-one glass headlights of years before were found on this new 86 edition.
Unique for the 1986 year was the Aerocoupe model, a modified Super Sport body that included a intensely sloped rear window and shorter trunklid that sported a spoiler. A total of 200 units were produced and sold to the public, the exact number NASCAR officials required for road model features to be incorporated in the racing.
Chevrolet deleted the Sport Coupe version of the Monte Carlo in 1987, which left the SS, LS and the Aerocoupe. The Aerocoupe has been considered to be one of the most beautiful cars ever made. A total of 6,052 Aerocoupes were sold for this year.
On December 11, 1987, the final rear wheel drive G-body Monte Carlo was constructed at the Pontiac Michigan plant. To the world, this seemed to be the end of the Monte Carlo, but amazingly after a six year absence, the vehicle was re-released for a fifth generation in the fall of 1994. Though no longer available with the Super Sport package, the Fifth generation of Monte Carlos were introduced as a front wheel drive, V6 powered vehicle. Two available packages were the LS along with the sportier Z34, and for the final two year, the Z34 featured a 200 hp 3.8L engine.
The final year for the fourth generation of the Monte Carlo, 1988 models were actually constructed late during the previous year. Only 16,204 SSs were produced at an asking price of $14,320. Not much changed mechanically for this year, except for the 231 in³ V6 engine being dropped completely. The Aerocoupe was gone and did not make a return for this year. Chevrolet was in the midst of designing the Lumina, a much more aerodynamic vehicle that exuded sleek body style. Only producing about half of the previous years' sales, only 30,174 units were produced for the 1988 year.
The fifth generation of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo was released in 1995. The mid-size Lumina was split into two different models with the Sedan remaining as the Lumina, and the coupe carrying on as the Monte Carlo. Sharing the same updated W-body chassis as the Lumina, Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Grand Prix and a few others, the '95 Monte Carlo was the first front-wheel drive vehicle of its type. All Monte Carlos that were constructed from 1995 to 2007 were built in Oshawa, Ontario; Canada. Prices for the LS were $16,770 and the Z34 was priced at $18,970.
For this generation, the Monte Carlo was available in two trims, the LS and the Z34. The Z34's featured a powerful 3.4 L DOHC V6 engine with 215 hp (160 kW) and 220 ft•lbf (298 N•m) while the LS was powered by the 3.1 L 3100 V6 putting out 160 hp @5000 rpm (119 kW) and 185 ft•lbf (251 N•m). This fifth generation of Monte Carlos underwent very minor equipment updates, and remained very much the same during its four years of production.
A completely new design was in store for the sixth generation of Monte Carlos. Chevrolet not only requested design inspiration from GM Motorsports, but also from Monte Carlos of the past. In 2000 the newly released sixth generation was powered by a V6 engine, the revived knight crest emblems, along with the curves of its legacy. Stylized wheel flares, vertically oriented tail-lamps and stylized rear bumpers were traits that were pulled from older Monte Carlo vehicles.
The SS trim level became the first front-wheel drive SS in the Chevrolet lineup and received the 3.8 L V6. The re-introduction of the Super Sport (SS) package was also market by 2000, and was offered alongside the standard LS trim. The Supercharged SS package was introduced in 2004.
Unveiled at the 2005 Los Angeles Auto Show, the Seventh Generation of Monte Carlo's were showcased as the companion to the Impala sedan. Producing 210 hp (156kW) the base engine is a 3.5 L V6. The SS model utilized the Generation Four small-block V8 in a front wheel drive vehicle for the first time.
Between 2005 and 2006 models, much debate has been raised at to whether a new generation designation is necessary. Though much of the exterior body panels and glass has remained the same, the interior was wholly redesigned for the '06 year. The new interior featured a revamped, cockpit-style instrument panel with a new control center and instrument layout. The seats and console were also revised for this year.
The Monte Carlo will continue to be produced at Oshawa Car Assembly Plant #1 until December of 2007. The Plant #1 will then be closed for a month in which time all equipment will be relocated to Plant #2. Following the completed move, only the Lacrosse / Allure and the Impala will continue to be produced ending the production span of the Monte Carlo along with the Grand Prix.By Jessica Donaldson