What do you say about a car that was so unremarkable that you barely remember it existing when new and figured that it couldn’t be a Monaco, but rather the somewhat more common Eagle Premier version when faced with it across the dirt lot at the junkyard? I still don’t really know what to say, but I do know that I don’t see these every day, week, month, or even year so I’d better take this opportunity to share this one even though it’s long lost any glitz or glamour that its name may have once tried to bestow on it.
The Monaco (this generation) was derived from the Eagle Premier, a car that premiered for the 1988 model year and was produced through 1992. The reason for creating the Dodge sister car starting with the 1990 model year was that Chrysler was contractually obligated to purchase a certain number of engines from Renault as part of their AMC deal and it wasn’t looking good with the way the sales numbers for the Premier were looking. As it turned out, the Premier was vastly more popular than the Monaco so overall it was a bad bet. In fact Chrysler did end up paying a penalty to Renault in the end instead of fulfilling the agreement.
This being a 1991 model makes it the middle year of the three it was sold as well as the most popular year with a total of 12,436 sold that year to people who wandered in to look for a Diplomat and walked out with this after being told it was the replacement model. (7,153 were sold in 1990 and another 1,960 straggled out in 1992). Of course it itself was replaced in 1993 with the very successful Intrepid that shares a surprising number of details with the Monaco.
Monaco was available in LE and upper level ES trim. This one is an LE. However, for the introductory Monaco model year of 1990, all Premiers and Monacos were equipped with four wheel disc brakes and for 1991, all Monacos had ABS brakes fitted as standard on the ES and an option on the LE. 1991 also saw all chrome deleted for either a black trim or monochrome look, depending on trim level. Automatic Climate Control and A/C were standard as well.
It may look blocky as a barn, but this was one of the most aerodynamic sedans of its time with a drag coefficient of 0.31, slightly bettering the Ford Taurus. The exterior was a Giugiaro ItalDesign creation, with the interior styled by Dick Teague as one of his last tasks.
There isn’t much difference between the Eagle Premier and the Dodge Monaco besides the front grille, the rear light panel having some of them replaced with a dark filler panel, and the color of the front turn indicators becoming orange rather than clear (although the rears stayed red).
The trunk is quite large and deep, although it looks a bit shallow for a FWD design. At least the liftover height is low and the whole thing looks decently carpeted, or at least covered in that felty stuff that tries to pass as carpeting.
June of 1991 makes it one of the later ones of the year and there wouldn’t be many of the ’92’s produced so this one’s probably from the last ten percent or so of the total run. Perhaps that’s what let it live so long. Produced at AMC’s Brampton, Ontario plant (Bramalea), this was one of the jewels of the whole AMC deal as the plant was new at the time. Even though built in Canada, the Monaco was never sold there as opposed to the Premier. I suppose it wouldn’t have made much difference in overall sales numbers if it had been.
Your tired eyes do not deceive you, that is a PRV “Douvrin” engine of 3.0Litre displacement. While the family of PRV engines powered all manner of Peugeots, Renaults, and Volvos, one version also powered the DeLorean and in the Monaco produced 150HP and 171lb-ft of torque. Weighing around 3000 pounds, this wasn’t bad at all for the era. I believe all Monacos were automatics, in this case a 4-speed ZF unit, but there is at least one reference to a 5-speed manual option that I could find but I doubt it’s accurate. The Premier could also be had with a 2.5l four cylinder engine but that was canned for 1990 and never available in the Monaco.
Fuel efficiency of this port fuel injected engine was figured at 18City and 27Highway. It’s also mounted longitudinally while being front wheel drive, this car is the reason that the Intrepid features the same configuration as Francois Castaing at Chrysler apparently insisted on it.
The powertrain was also bestowed with Chrysler’s 7/70 warranty. MoPar and its warranties confound me, they seem to jump between 50k, 70k, and 100k from year to year and sometimes back and forth, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason, often the same engine will be warrantied for twice as long one year as the next and then back again a few years later. I suppose it’s all marketing driven; sales go down, increase the warranty; sales and claims go up, notch it back down again.
But since this car is based on a French design (Renault 25) there must be some weirdness and the interior does not disappoint. After Dick Teague tucked into his croissants and cafe au lait one fateful morning, he penned this. At first blush the seats look properly veloury, and the color is an unrelenting sea of blue-gray, but what’s going on near the wheel?
Ooh la la, it’s a little pod for the lights and a tiny flappy paddle for the turn signals! And sliders for the instrument lighting as well as the wipers. How are they going to get used to that down on the farm? (Turns out they didn’t, apparently). Supposedly the turn signal stalk would self-center after being pressed, with a gentle “gong” noise to denote when the signal stopped flashing instead of the lever clicking back to center as in most vehicles. Tres chic.
The fake stitching on the horn pad is decidedly not french stitching, that’s straight out of the upper MidWest, but the other pod on the right is comprised of selector buttons for the HVAC, the actual selections of which are displayed in the lower right corner of the instrument panel. Madame in the passenger seat will have NO idea what is going on and her fingers are in danger of a guillotine chop if her hand strays too far towards the back of the steering wheel area to attempt adjustments.
Interestingly for a car not sold anywhere but the US, there is a selector for English vs Metric units at the middle left, I do not know what that would change as everything visible without power is analog. Still, the gauges are clear, large, and comprehensive enough for a large family sedan. This one seems to have given up the ghost at 159,684 miles which seems on the low side for around here, although it does look like it’s been sitting for some time – the dirt isn’t from the yard, this was freshly placed when I saw it.
To the left of the driver’s seat is not the first place I looked for the hood release, I’ll grant that. The Japanese had been putting their trunk and fuel filler releases in this spot for decades by the time this was released, but Chrysler clearly thought that a longer and more complex release cable mechanism for the hood made more sense. It did still work, so there’s that I suppose.
That’s a lot of legroom although the front seats are sort of in “Rear Legroom Brochure PhotoShoot Position”, still that bench looks quite cozy except for the middle position, the occupant of which sort of straddles the front center console. It seems roomier than the Diplomat this replaced though, although it’s been a long time since I’ve sat in the back of a Dippy.
I don’t know if the Monaco deserved better than only 21,549 sales, perhaps so, I’d certainly prefer it by far to the slightly lower in the line-up Dynasty which absolutely clobbered it as far as sales numbers go but I don’t recall a lot of marketing support for the Monaco, most people probably didn’t even know about it. The Premier outsold it 5:1 despite only being available for an additional two years (before the Monaco bowed).
This seems to be the only commercial I can find for the Monaco, in this case a snazzy ES model from the intro year of 1991. Equating passengers in a car generally to sardines in a can I’d find slightly offputting in any context and it probably didn’t help here either.