I found this Monte Carlo sitting at a local repair shop. Serious Monte fans will identify it as a 1974 based on the I-beam rear bumper and recessed tail lights.
But before we look into this car, I’d like to point out that there isn’t a full Curbside Classic write up on any generation of the Monte Carlo. When these cars arrived, GM enjoyed a near 50% share of the US market, and they lasted right up to the GM bankruptcy (if we ignore their brief hiatus from 1989 to 1994). Based on that, it seems a tale begging to be told.
I considered a full write up for the second generation based on this car, but there were several issues…
First, the pictures suck. Not only is the car parked too close to others, the sun did not cooperate with my interior shot (as you can see here).
Second, it’s had a number of modifications. A forensic examination of that interior photo brings up this “Landau” badge. If the car is a Landau, it lacks the appropriate vinyl top over the rear third of the roof. As it happens, I prefer the look of the steel top, but we need an appropriately dressed Monte Carlo for a Curbside Classic write up.
Also, if this car is a true Landau, it’s missing the factory Turbine II wheels. In my opinion, those replacement bean hole mags make a poor substitute.
I will say this though- I love the look of this car. Without the vinyl top or any side trim, the body sculpting and overall silhouette is easily distinguished. While it can be called excessive, loud, baroque, silly, extreme, over the top, those criticisms miss the point. It is supposed to be excessive, loud, and baroque. Of all the seventies personal luxury coupes, from 1973 to 1975 the Monte Carlo best symbolized this look.
Having said all that, you may thinking to yourself, “Why only ’73 to ’75? Why not the ’76 or ’77 second generation cars?”
Simple- In 1976 GM wrecked the styling. I refuse to post an example, but you all know what happened. They used STACKED rectangular headlights. I’ve bitched about pasting these headlights on existing vehicles before, and today I’m going to show you a picture that demonstrates my point to perfection.
There – I’ve modified the look of a 1932 Chrysler Imperial to mimic the ’76-’77 car. These grand cars from the early thirties served as the inspiration for the Monte Carlo, and as you can see, stacked square headlights simply do NOT work in this application. Point made. Discussion over. Class dismissed.
Having provided you with my opinion, I’m sure a small minority of you wish to provide your own counterpoints. If so, I fully understand. While I recognize the Monte as one of the best of that era, I’m not looking to own one. But if you’re looking for the best of the baroque, I strongly recommend it.
Before the ’73 to ’77 Gran Prix fans come at me pitchforks, I love that look as well, but in a different way. Where the Monte Carlo is excessive, loud, and baroque, the Gran Prix is subtle, muscular, and restrained (especially in black). Quite a trick considering the two cars share the same body! D/S
I have to agree: the horizontally oriented rectangular lights on the ’76-’77 Grand Prix work so much better.
They work better on the ’32 Chrysler, too.
These are a hair too big and boaty for me, but I sure do miss my ’78 Landau, for some silly reason.
Do the stacked headlights provide better illumination at night? Was this so that the car could use halogen bulbs? Enquiring minds want to know!
However, I found the interior and build quality of the Monte Carlos to be less solid than that of the Cougars and T-Birds I had or tested on the lot. Even the solitary Cordoba I looked at in 83 felt better.
Closing the ’73-77 Carlo’s doors always, always seemed to be like pulling a metal accordion file shut, the door panel would pull out from the rest of the door as I’d tug on the armrest, then the rest of the door would follow. Internal parts would continue to slam home after the door latch engaged. It didn’t feel solid at all. This happened in every 2nd gen MC I ever sat in or test drove and really soured me on them. What was the rest of the car’s build quality like if the doors were so bad?
These square/rectangular lenses did not use halogens; Lincoln Versailles (Granada/Monarch in a slutty dress) were the first U.S. production car to feature halogens . . . .
In the aftermarket, one could always buy either rectangular or round halogen sealed-beam headlights; I did that myself when I had my 1970 Torino. Halogens were also available in either the large rectangular or large round headlights; my dad put halogens on his 1961 Mercedes 190db. Even as sealed-beam units, halogens were a welcome improvement.
Right David, I have posted one of these pics before in this forum on a lamp monitor discussion. But, if you look closely on the right photo, you can clearly see the diff between the modern low beam and ’70s high beam. The new modern housing and projector lens allows for a hyper-white halogen bulb, weather sealed in rubber boot inside of a sealed beam style enclosure. The high-beam is still the original (for now).
The other pic isn’t head on to show how great an improvement it is with modern bulbs, but it is, & you can see the color temp against the garage door as opposed to any dim 1970’s headlamp. The original low-beams or existing high beam when illuminated, looks like my generator/alternator is dying, or already dead. An awful, dim, golden color.
Good call on those GM A body coupe doors. Those fancy door pull straps always gave up very quickly, too. And this one has the ubiquitous Chevy Disappearing Shift Knob ™. That must have come in the same package as the Luxury Flapping Door Straps.
jp, I hate those pull straps on any car (but GM’s seemed to fail the most) and, I love the tensioned ‘casket handle’ pulls.
We were always using crazy glue and over-sized Phillips wood screws to try and fix those pull straps. I have clear memory of doing this for my Aunt on her 1978 Monte Carlo
With these standarized bulbs, position had very little effect on lighting performance. Like the round units, the square ones could be stacked, mounted horizontally, or even mounted at an angle (think ’59 Buick- Did any manufacturer ever mount the square units off the vertical or horizontal line?).
With the advent of aerodynamic headlights, there were performance differences from headlight to headlight, and some units were infamous for poor lighting performance (the ’96 Chrysler Minivan comes to mind).
Halogen sealed beams typically provided improved lighting, but that came from the light source itself, not the reflector design. Halogen and conventional sealed beams were interchangable.
I can attest that the door slam feeling followed well into the ’88 model year on the coupes
My 77 Chevelle sedan (the 4 door version of this car) doors feel much much more solid unless the window is rolled down partway, then it has the crashy-feel of these doors. Thats the big reason why I like the 4 doors over the two doors of this era. that shorter gap makes the body that much tighter.
The sealed beams.. well they work better than the 9007 based composite lights in my 1995 Explorer, I can actually light up the road for at least a 1/4 to 1/2 mile, and highlight reflective signs up to a mile or more away with all 4 lit up with halogen bulbs. It’s my preferred car for night driving, but the stacked position puts the low beams up higher than the horizontal styling and compromises low beam aiming to get the same amount of light on the road.
As far as the interior build quality goes, they are sub-par but on the same level as the 68-72 cars, but to be honest, mine (which is a tired original) feels richer and better put together than say a 1998 Saturn SL, or even the 00 Contour I sold to buy the 77 and neither one of those would be considered high quality automobiles. At 37 years old, it doesn’t rattle unless the windows are down which is a design flaw of the window mechanisims, all its electrical doodads still work, it still averages 17mpg mixed driving and can get 20 on the highway. I still see far more of these cars on the road than I do of its contemporaries from the rest of the world.
In the ’70s GM used a side impact protection beam in the doors of many of their cars. This made the doors way heavier than they needed to be. Being GM, they didn’t upgrade the hinges, latches or interior door pull straps. Within a few years the whole assembly was so loose that slamming a door (and you had to slam them) sounded and felt like an earthquake in a hardware store. The interior door pull was usually the first casualty and the cure was ever larger self tapping bolts. I think my ’78 Firebird got up to 7/16″ by the time I passed it along. Just another one of those ’70s things.
I’m not as visceral about the ’76-’77s…the MC’s I can’t stand are the ’78-’80s. I’d have preferred round headlights on those models. ’81-the end I can take or leave.
That said…I can’t think of another vehicle that wore the cow-catcher bumpers and brougham look as well as the mid-decade Montes. They were excess done tastefully.
This does appear to be an original Landau; why would someone go to the trouble of placing badges on the door panel unless said panel (in the singular) was a replacement from a junkyard for a sun-blistered one. I believe this is the ‘real deal’ as it appears the car has been repainted (lack of trim, especially around the opera window even though the opera window trim was a cheesy plastic that would split and warp). Also, the slot mags (E-T, US, Appliance) were very popular in the 70’s, especially on Montes and I saw many of this vintage with slotted aluminum wheels and raised white letter tires.
What is cheesy on this is the missing column shift knob (no big deal) and the lame-o steering wheel cover. Other than that, this is straight and clean.
I personally don’t mind the stacked Monte headlights, but do prefer the round lenses of the ’73-’75. Not having the vogue rectangular/square lights of the mid/late seventies would’ve been a style/visual faux pas not unlike the ’55 Lincoln (vs. other FoMoCos in ’55 and the competition – the Lincoln kept it’s ’52-’54 swept forward a-pillar for 1955). Just as the ’55 Lincoln lost sales because “it didn’t look up to the minute new”, Montes would suffered the same fate. (Yes, Cordobas carried over round lenses through ’77).
I agree. Most Monte’s rusted under the landau roof, and most folks just took them off and bondo’d the mess underneath. The window trim and emblems usually were taken off and never replaced. Attached is my ’75 with trim still on.
All the GM Landau style roofs from the mid-70’s had some kind of drainage problem and even in California, the rust would bubble up on the edges . . .
I like the look of those wheels, always thought they could make any car look cool.
1974 was a pretty big new car year in my family. Both my mom and my stepmom were looking at new cars. Mom bought a Luxury LeMans sedan and stepmom got a Cutlass Supreme coupe. However, I remember a backseat ride in a Monte Carlo demo. White car, white interior.
I had spent a lifetime in the backseats of GM A bodies by that time, and had watched a steady downgrade in materials quality. Those 73-74 cars, though, where in another league entirely when it came to cheap plastics. All these years later, while I have come around a bit on Regals, Cutlasses and GPs, I still have no real love for these Montes.
I find it fascinating that a single element (stacked rectangular headlights) of the overall design create such a strong emotional reaction. I had a similar reaction to how Chevy differentiated the Bel-Air/Biscayne from Impala/Caprice in the sixties and early 70s. The low-rent Bel-Air/Biscayne had only two tail light lenses on each end of the rear bumper…while the snazzier Impala/Caprice had three. Looking at the Bel-Air instantly made me think the driver was a Jack Benny cheapskate (which was GM’s intention all along I’m sure), but knowing the alternative made the Impala drivers seem to be Rich Guys who’s car looked fantastic. Funny how the mind plays tricks on us like this. This is what allows good marketers to fleece us…..
That reminds me of a 70 Bel-Air I seen a few months ago being used as a summer daily driver–the owner proudly showed me the car was a 6 cyl, 3 speed column shift.
These days, manufacturing costs phohibit stocking different bumpers, lights, trim for a modern BelAir/Impala equivalent. The tooling to stamp different tail lamp sockets in bumpers alone would be costly.
True, but when you consider the sales numbers involved back then…..
I still see some 1973-1977 Monte Carlos around Tucson; rust is not an issue here generally. These are the survivors, the ones that made it in spite of the awful build and materials quality rampant in the 1970s.
What I remember vividly from these A bodies in the 1970s is how rapidly the weatherstripping around the windows disintegrated in the Tucson sun, how badly metallic paints faded, and how much gunk oozed out around the trim on the backlight and from the side rub strips. I can’t forget the cracking dashboards or the disintegrating upholstery, either. These were common in cars just a few years old.
Not bad, but needs white vinyl interior with swivel buckets to be truly 70’s fantastic.
Bean wheels aren’t my favorite either, the optional rally rims look best on these.
JPC, in the salty north these cars were often optioned with patented GM flappy slam door bottoms too.
Had a ’74 Monte many years ago, one of the worst car I’ve ever owned. In its defense it was beaten like a bad monkey by its previous owner, as I found out later. I have a friend that has a solid very restorable ’73 Monte Landau that’s pretty awesomely equipped: full vinyl top, moonroof, swivel bucket seats. console w/floor shifter, and the best part, (even tho it’s a smogger) the factory original 454 still resides under the hood. Been trying to get the car but he won’t part with it.
Oof. This thing is ugly from every angle. Those fender bulges just look like a preschooler doodled on the side.
I kinda like the quads on the Imperial lol
Yeah, me too… There better be a support group though…!
It’s interesting to contrast this car with the green Nova from a couple of days ago. I’ve always thought that generation of Nova was an example of what a Chevrolet was supposed to be. Montes were the polar opposite. And in the ’70s the dealership my Dad worked at sold every Monte they could get their hands on while Novas languished in the cheap seats around the side of the building. Decent 2 year old Monte trade ins went straight to detail shop and then into the arms of a waiting customer. It’s hard to imagine today why these things were so popular, but for a few years it was the car to have.
Tiredoldmechanic . . . you are so right. In the 70’s through the 80’s, this vintage Monte Carlo was a hot ticket, most especially in California. Once the truncated ’78’s came along especially as I remember TV ads in my youth with one Bay Area Chevy dealer in particular hawking V-6 ’78 and ’79 Monte Carlos at below dealer cost . . . .
What I remember about these Monte Carlos, and many other GM cars of the time, is that the defrosters blew air into my eyes.
In th early ’80s, a friend of mine had a ’77 Monte in triple-black with rally wheels. Stacked headlamps or no, that was one sharp ride!
The Gen 1 will always be my all time favorite Monte Carlo. pref 1972 w/ egg-crate grille. must be the Cadillac in me.
This car has all the signature Monte lines and details, without going over the top and too far. I especially love the rear end design details, the brushed trim strip and tail lamps.
I not only prefer them as this black one has, with the full tuxedo grain top, but I think it’s almost required on this particular car. When I go jogging in the park here in the summer, there is a bronze one often parked at the main building, and I can lust after it every time I pass by. What beautiful cars these were. Yep, another one I want in my imaginary 20 car garage.
My parents had one of these. A ’74 Landau, white with a navy blue velour interior and matching vinyl landau top. They bought it in ’78 ( when I was in elementary school ) and kept it until 1990, when a carb fire killed it. The damage wasn’t bad, but thanks to my dad’s stubbornness I wasn’t able to rescue it and fix it. Off to the junkyard it went.
I’m still bitter about that one to this day.
The Grand Prix was so much better looking, and it, along with the Gen 2 Monte Carlo was one of the cars of choice in high school parking lots from the late 70s through most of the 80s. Van Halen in the cassette deck was a must. Despite the door construction, lack of power and 70s excess styling, I have lots of fond memories in those cars.
No argument from me on the looks of a Grand Prix Dan, I am a fan. But, you gotta love the 1972 Monte (Pontiac wins hands down on the interior/dash), at least equally, no?
I think I liked every generation GP, even the downsized ’78 IF it was in the right color/trim combo, and they had plenty to chose from. That particular body-style looked great in tu-tone.
Of all the downsized ’78s, my least favorite was the Monte, and then, as we all know, (although in 1981 GM knocked it outta the park in styling & they all look crisper and much better overall), the Cutlass stole the game on those re-designs.
I do think the Monte improved greatly for ’81 over 1978, cleaner, crisper lines. But I like better how the Grand Prix brought back all the hard style lines that year, (a’ la 1977), including the Cadillac style power dome line that carried from the grille across the hood, down the sides and then back across the deck lid. It just ‘worked out’ better than the Chevrolet version’s attempt to hark back to past model’s design traits.
Anyhow, I owned a white ’77 Grand Prix with maroon velvet buckets and the awesome dash with all the dials for a short time. I bought it to flip but really enjoyed cruising around in that car for the short time I drove it.
One of my favorite things on a car to this day was Pontiac and Buick’s use of dials/circles on the dashboard across several generations and iterations.
Of course, there were no consumer computers or handheld devices back then, so I had to tape signs in the windows and run an ad in the local newspaper for the cars I flipped. Certainly, very different times.
Mark, I certainly do like all 3 generations of the Monte Carlo (I don’t even consider any of the late model FWD variants) and I wouldn’t kick a 70-72 SS454 out of the garage; I think the MCs look great in dark colors on Corvette Rallyes and RWLs, but I am partial to the Pontiac styling, engines and interiors. The swivel buckets in the MCs were cool though, I always wondered why they weren’t available in the other divisions. And someday I will have an 80s Monte Carlo SS with a modern LS drivetrain.
Back in HS, I had my GP and I had a buddy with a green 74 MC and another buddy with a beige 76 Cutlass and we sure had a lot of fun in those cars.
btw, in regards to the 76-77 stacked headlight cars…would I be crucified if I said I liked those better than the single headlights?
Discussion over. 😉
A great example of Seventies carchitecture, but the ’75 model gets the nod for the better looking flush tailights. And white, ugh! These need to be silver with a red landau roof! The ’76 restyle blunted the forward thrusting front end, ruining the car.
And seriously, what’s with ordering a car as flamboyant and impractical as the Monte only to cheap out by ordering a bench seat! Nobody bought these as their sole family car, shell out for the swivelling buckets fer cyrin’ out loud.
My parents ordered a 1973 S from the dealer when my sister was born. My mother’s Opel was “too small” for the protection of all the offspring according to my father.
Black, green vinyl bench seats, no air, AM radio, defroster, full gauges, rally wheels, column automatic and a 454 V8.
It was a very attractive car… that a grown man could stand in the space between the engine and bumper even with the big block.
All of them (including ours) rusted at the bottom corner of the back window.
It also had the unwelcome habit of lunching an engine accessory every 10,000 miles: water pump, power steering pump, alternator… one after another, after another. By the time I had my driver’s license, it had become our fourth car and stayed in the garage except for occasional drives… or when my father decided he wanted to drive “my” Citation X-11 instead of his ‘vette.
As fast and as beautiful as the Monte was, it was a huge car and the lack of air was stifling in the summer and the AM only radio was simply awful in my view… not to mention the steering was so overboosted, it was like piloting a barge.
Still, it’d be nice to have one in the collection.
Ah, the round vs. rectangular debate again. Well, as my avatar shows, I own the later version of this car with the stackers. I actually like both, and always did, and if I had found a 1973-75 as nice as the 1976 I bought, I probably would have bought it. I love the 1973 model, especially, with the smaller rear bumper and turned-in taillights. But as far as the stackers go, I think they’re fun, and as far as why they did it — well, because they could, and thought of it first, and why not? As you can see from the photos here, the front end of the car was massive and tall, and didn’t have to be raised at all to accommodate the stacked arrangement. Stacking the headlights also allowed them to continue the same basic theme in hood sculpturing and keep a lot of body color around the lights, and it helped keep closer to that retro 30s appearance than horizontal rectangles would have. Also, keeping the headlights round wouldn’t have been an option–in that era, the rectangles were the latest thing, and it made the car look new. I remember thinking (as a kid at the time) that all the cars that didn’t have them yet looked instantly outdated. This is planned obsolescence at its best, or worst, depending on your viewpoint. One more thing I like to point out about these lights is that they were copied almost immediately — both by Ford (LTD II) and Chrysler (Cordoba), just in case you had any doubt that GM was a styling leader in the ’70s. 🙂
Glad you’re enjoying your Monte! My problem with the stacks on these is that they don’t mesh with the neo-classic look, Delahaye fender sweeps and all. And neither does the bluff front end and three section grille. The LTDII carried it off as it’s body had a more contemporary look. Even the more upright and formal Cordoba managed to pull it off better,
No full CC on the ’73-’77 Montes? How about the “My CC” by Chris Green?
I was referring specifically to Curbside Classic articles, but upon review, Chris did a nice job of reviewing the history of the second generation car, as well as describing his car.
Ah, I see. No “traditional” CC. In that case you’re right. I’ve found a ’77 Monte Landau, but like you the pics I took are not really good enough for the full CC treatment. I have found a ’76 Grand Prix LJ that I need to write up, however.
+ 1 on the Grand Prix write up.
When you do, check out the Lemans versus Grand Prix sales chart I posted in my ’73 LeMans write up. Grand Prixs had a big uptick in sales in ’76 and ’77.
This car nerd looks forward to your GP write-up!
Hi my name is Robert in Covina Ca,I wanted to ask you if you know if this 74 Monte Carlo is still at this repair shop and where is it? I’m actually looking for a white 74 monte carlo with the black interior not a new one but one that looks like it needs work and tlc but all original just stock with the 350V8 please email me back id like to know where this shop is maybe i can talk to someone there about it?
Those pictures are over a week old, and the car itself is no longer at that shop.
First car I floated a loan to buy. 77 Monte red and white and fully pimped up! I miss it!