Automotive History: A Salute To The 1977 and 1978 Dodge Monaco (And Plymouth Fury) – The Most Abused Car In Entertainment History?

Once upon a long duration of time, these Chrysler B-body twins of the Dodge Monaco and Plymouth Fury were seemingly everywhere in movies and television being subjected to all manner of harsh treatment.  While it seems the Dodge version was generally the more prevalent, the Plymouth certainly did not escape being bludgeoned in novel and creative ways.

So were these the most abused cars in cinematic history?  While a definitive determination might be difficult, these would certainly be contenders.  Let’s explore this theory…

For those less initiated with the intricacies of Chrysler’s most mistreated line of automobiles, the 1977 Dodge Monaco stems directly from the 1971 Dodge Coronet.

The family lineage is obvious, although the noses and butts differ considerably.

It was at this time when there was actual distinction between Dodge and its Plymouth cousin.  The 1971 Satellite, progenitor of the 1977 Fury, is seen here.

Subjectively speaking, Plymouth did a better job with the tail of these than Dodge did with the Coronet.

Model year 1976 was the last year for a Coronet; this Dodge gained those bodacious stacked headlights and was rechristened as Monaco for 1977.

Plymouth beat Dodge to the name juggling contest a year prior when it rechristened the Satellite as a Fury.

It was also for 1975 when the two cousins (although siblings is likely more apt) started to gain a more homogenous look.  The tails for both were of a theme based upon this 1974 Dodge Coronet.  This tail treatment theme would be shared until the end for these B-bodies although some pretense of difference remained, as we shall see.

Now before we jump too far into this, let’s discuss climate.  The frequent sightings of the B-body Monaco (and Fury; Monaco shown) in entertainment was undoubtedly a supply-and-demand issue.  There was a lot of supply as these were popular fleet vehicles and there was likely little demand for them when rotated out of service after a few years.  Chrysler’s shaky financial circumstances at the time likely also played toward the demand end of this equation.

Additionally, this was the Smokey & The Bandit era.  While conjecture on my part, it really seems like this movie truly kicked the era of car jumps, chases, and crashes on television into high gear.  This was the fourth highest grossing film in the United States in 1977, after Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Saturday Night Fever.

That is quite the divergent conglomeration of spaced out movies, isn’t it?

To be fair, other movies had vehicular shenanigans prior to the 1977 release of this Burt Reynolds masterpiece.  Bullitt, from 1968, is credited for having one of the best, most realistic car chases of all time.

As an aside, Bullitt was a trendsetter.  Not only did it torture a Chrysler B-body but also a Charger.

This generation of Charger could easily provide a sequel to this article.  Not just the orange painted one from television, but other venues hammered them also, such the movie Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (which I have never seen).

Other movies and television shows from the early to mid-1970s can be found in which the previously mentioned 1971 and 1972 Plymouth Satellites were featured.  Adam-12 is a prime example.  However, other than Adam-12, few experienced profound success.

Perhaps the right automotive player had not yet been procured.

Seriously, when was the last time you heard of the movie Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens?

As another aside, the Wikipedia article about that flick is memorable.

Given the timing and circumstances, it only stands to reason the Dodge Monaco (and Plymouth Fury) were able to capture the amount of air time they did.

Previously in various comments in which the subject of the B-bodies arose, they have been referred to as being identical.  Close, but not entirely; there were some very subtle, yet inescapable differences between the two.

While this is a two-door, the header panel is the same.  This shows a divided grille on the Monaco.

The Fury had a remarkably less inspired, one-piece grille.

The taillights also differed; the Monaco had ribbed lenses whereas the ones seen on the Fury, seen here, are more segmented.  Not exactly heady differences but enough to give one insight into what they are gazing upon.

In this shot from the NBC television show Hunter, one can see where somebody had to do some patchwork giving us a Monaco lens on the left and a Fury lens on the right.

While I have yet to watch a single episode of this show (similar to my experience with Seinfeld), the title character drove a series of B-bodies during its broadcast run from 1984 to 1991.

Some of these Monacos looked to be in pretty good shape…

Others did not.

Regardless, these Monacos were used…


…and finished off.

Next up, in order of what is popping up in my searches, is T.J. Hooker, brought to life by none other than Mr. William Shatner.

You have to give the guy credit…when he’s not out chasing Klingons, his other enterprise is driving a Dodge Monaco.

Unlike Hunter, I watched a few episodes of T.J. Hooker when it was first aired between March 1982 and May 1985.  The show is currently found on various streaming channels.

As this gif shows, they were hard on these Monacos.

While these cars look great flying through the air…

…We know the landing is the unpleasant part.

Would this be considered siblicide?

“Dodging Siblicide” sounds like an episode from Star Trek.

It seems like anytime a person sees a Monaco of this era in any motion picture or television show, it is going to have the same undesirable fate as any red-shirted person on Star Trek.  Just an observation.

When T.J. Hooker ran out of Monacos, they transitioned to the Dodge St. Regis.

The St. Regis didn’t fare any better than the Monaco.

While we have looked at television thus far, and will again, the movies were also chock full of Monacos for quite a while.  How about The Terminator from 1984?  Schwarzenegger drove a Monaco in one action-packed scene…this was excellent automotive casting.  A bad-ass character drives a bad-ass car.

The front end design of this Monaco exudes unwavering determination.

So often you will see the rear tires smoking on various celluloid captured Monacos.  Dodge (and Plymouth) still put a 440 in these for 1977 and 1978, but only for the cops who likely bought most of these cars when new, so this smoking likely wasn’t the result of any Hollywood trickery, such as putting dish soap on the tires.

Sadly, as is so often the case, you can witness our featured Dodges experiencing the pain of sudden and rapid deceleration.  Although if you look closely at the tail lights, this is a Fury.

Another motion picture, one that seems to have acquired a cult status of sorts, is the independent film The Junkman by H.B. “Toby” Halicki who also directed and produced the original (and vastly superior) Gone In 60 Seconds.

Perhaps that horrid remake could have elevated its quality by inclusion of a few B-body Monacos.

Halicki appeared to have no preference in cars for his movies, other than inexpensive ones, since he wrecked them all.  Naturally, a few Monacos make an appearance.

A Datsun / Nissan 240 (or something closely named) also makes an appearance with another Monaco.

Somebody got the short end of that stick.

Halicki obviously purchased multiple Monacos for use in his film.

Here’s at least a third one.

Disclosure:  I do own The Junkman on DVD and a short included documentary showed how this Monaco was wrapped around that tree.  It was pretty ingenious.

Another semi-obscure Monaco movie is 1983’s Eddie Macon’s Run starring Kirk Douglas.

Douglas, the square-jawed tough guy on a mission, drove an equally square-jawed Dodge.

I haven’t a clue about the fifth of whiskey and the underwear by Douglas’s knee.

Sadly, and predictably, we know how the Dodge ends up…and in a cemetery of all places.

Based upon the dual exhaust, I will freely speculate this car may have had a 440 under the hood.  Also interesting is how it appears to have lost its gas tank.

Ultimately Douglas gets his guy, who is on the left.  Convenient, since this younger guy leads us directly to our last Monaco examination (covering them all would be impossible), but likely one that achieved some type of record for creative automotive sacrifices in the name of weekly entertainment.

Yes, it’s that show with the orange 1969 Charger and in which its first ever flying car was a slightly older, C-body Monaco.

Give the show credit as all Monacos were treated in roughly the same manner.  Or the same rough manner.

There was a brief liaison with AMC Matadors during the first season.  These weren’t nearly as photogenic as the B-body Monacos and Furys.

The show transitioned to the mid-sized B-body Monaco at the beginning of the second season.

Remember that creative sacrifice statement?

Some Monacos were gussied up before going to that great junkyard in the sky.

Others went in a very clean fashion – into a pond.

However the award for Most Creative Monaco Sacrifice comes about from a mid-air, head-on collision.

As one who was likely in the prime demographic for the Dukes of Hazzard when it initially aired, I vividly remember flying to the television set every Friday night.  Seeing the Monacos (and Fury’s, as seen here) was just as much fun, if not more, than the Chargers.

The switch to using the Plymouth Fury came about a few seasons into the show.

Perhaps after destroying seven Monacos in one episode, the highlights of which are seen here, maybe it was realized the supply wasn’t infinite and the producers had to adjust and adapt.  However, while there is no definitive amount, various sources state 300 to 350 Monacos / Furys were destroyed during the series run.

Admittedly, this clip is a bit dark.  However, if you watch it you’ll also see a ’64(ish) Cadillac on two wheels.

This clip proves a 440 Monaco can fly in more ways than one.  Don’t bother with sound and the first 30 seconds are the best.

Monaco sedan production never exceeded 40,000 in either year; Fury production was greater, hitting nearly 99,000 for 1978.  While it may seem all were destroyed in movies or television, they weren’t.  These cars are still out there, albeit quite thin on the ground (I found this one in 2016), and the contribution they made to entertainment once upon a time has long been overlooked.

Hopefully this helps memorialize all those wonderful B-body Monacos and Furys that gave their all.

Related Reading:

1978 Dodge Monaco – Dark Days For Dodge by PN

1978 Plymouth Fury – I’d Recognize That Shape…. by PN