Mom had come to visit me in Chicago several years ago, and she and I had taken the Metra commuter rail out to the southwestern Chicago suburb of Aurora to visit with an old family friend. Alvina was waiting for us in the restaurant adjacent to the station, but as soon as Mom and I deboarded the train, I spotted a Chevrolet Monte Carlo from the dawn of the so-called Malaise Era that I knew I had to photograph. I then noticed it happened to be parked next to its as-yet-final iteration, the refreshed 2006-’07 W-Body. Mom politely abided me, fanning herself in the shade, while I got a few shots of both cars. (Thanks, Mom.)
Flipping through the frames in my camera’s viewer, I wondered if the owner/driver of the newer Monte was aware he or she had parked next to his / her car’s predecessor. I imagined the respective drivers of each car being quite different – with the older one being owned by a working-class male in his late-twenties / early-thirties, and with the newer one perhaps being driven by a middle-aged female with an office job. This isn’t to stereotype – these guesses would be based on previous observations of drivers of cars similar to these. These two Chevies, separated by three decades, simply seem reflective of different walks of life despite sharing a nameplate.
The expressively-styled ’75 looks like yet another GM Colonnade coupe which could have been transported from my Michigan high school’s parking lot in the late 80’s / early 90’s. The cars I like best tend to be closest to factory stock, but in terms of aftermarket wheels, I can think of only a handful of mid-70’s coupes that Cragars would not improve the looks of. The rattlecan grey and suspension rake don’t disagree with me, either. The neatly creased rear window appeared to be sealed with duct tape – a situation which probably should have been addressed ASAP with a more permanent solution (I’m hoping it was), and there was some apparent lower-body rot, but otherwise, this ’75 appeared to have some decent bones for a daily driver.
With the newer Monte not being a period piece, I focused not on its condition, but on its styling – questioning the success of the 00’s interpretation of the classic, Colonnade Monte Carlo design cues. Let’s forget for a second that the older one is RWD and the newer one is powered by the front wheels. I’m glad the opera windows weren’t brought back – those fulfilled their role in the 70’s, but didn’t need an encore. The echoes of the pontoon fenders etched into the bodyside sculpturing was a tastefully-scaled retro touch. That the 2006-’07 models shared the Impala’s front-end sheetmetal didn’t enhance the family resemblance to older Monte Carlos, but I think the final front was more attractive than that of the 2000-’05 models – which looked a little like it was perpetually welling up. I do give Chevy extra points for bringing back the pleasing, teardrop shape of the older car’s taillights.
One styling element of the last models I never quite understood was the humped trunklid. That wasn’t one of the original styling cues from any previous generation of Monte Carlo, and it just didn’t work. The standard trunklid spoiler which came in the final two seasons seemed like a tacit acknowledgement of this from the Bow Tie people. That piece of plastic improved the looks of the last cars immensely.
Chevrolet had moved over 130,000 units of the inaugural-year 1970 models (one of which, coincidentally, was the last production Chevrolet automobile to roll off an assembly line in my hometown of Flint, Michigan). While the Monte Carlo would go on to sell 411,000 for banner year ’77, the ’75 total was almost 259,000 – a very healthy figure. The final ’07 models sold a paltry 4% of the ’75 figure (just under 11,000). There were six model years between 1989 and 1994 when there was no Monte Carlo, and it has now been almost nine model years since the last, new ’07 models rolled out of factory doors. And with that last model year, one of GM’s (and America’s) once most-popular cars seems to have permanently peaced-out.
All photos are as taken by the author in (Chicago suburb) Aurora, Illinois.
Sunday, June 17, 2012.
Paul Neidermeyer’s piece on the inaugural 1970 models: Curbside Classic: 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – A Modest Beginning To A Huge Hit (and Hips)
Chris Green’s piece on his pristine ’76: My Curbside Classic: 1976 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau – Hope You Like Green
William Stopford’s piece on the later car’s immediate predecessor: Curbside Classic: 1995-99 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – Lumina Coupe Two