We all have our specific comfort zones, be it clothing, politics, food, or region of residence. It’s what we’ve grown comfortable and familiar with for whatever reasons and any trigger of this comfort zone is, well, comforting.
If one is to apply this comfort zone philosophy to automobiles, the second generation Monte Carlo would fall into that realm for many of us. How could it not? Chevrolet sold some 353,000 Monte’s for 1976, allowing it to become quite familiar to many. It was so familiar, its sales handily outpaced the Chevelle upon which it was based. More interesting in this comparison is the Monte Carlo came in only one body style, not three (coupe, sedan, and wagon) like the Chevelle.
The newest second generation Monte Carlo from 1977 is now forty years old and many of us are of an age when we can remember these when they were sparkling new on the lot of the local Chevrolet dealer, an aspirational entry-level personal luxury coupe with a Chevrolet sized price tag.
The Monte Carlo of this era was a car with a seemingly broad spectrum of appeal, an appeal that endures with many to this day. One particular 1976 Monte Carlo in the higher trim Landau series made a huge impression on a three year-old me, a silver car with a red roof and these turbine wheels that possessed enough bootylicious bowtie appeal for a contrary, no-nonsense fifty-two year-old man to have opened his rarely used checkbook. How so?
My grandfather Albert bought one.
Technically, the Monte was for my uncle but he and Grandpa, ever the GM loyalist at the time, had made a business arrangement. It happened this way as my grandfather would not have entertained any car he didn’t like himself plus he knew his youngest child, at a solid 6’8″ in height, was greatly limited in what he could comfortably drive. The Monte Carlo was a great fit for my uncle as is the Chevrolet Suburban 2500 and Dodge Ram 1500 he now owns.
That a Monte Carlo was able to appeal equally to a three year-old, a twenty year-old, and a fifty-two year-old is a remarkable thing. Seriously, how often does that happen?
An anecdotal story about the purchase of this particular Monte Carlo gives strong indications that resale on late model Monte Carlos was rather admirable during this period while GM’s desire to move the new metal was equally robust. As my grandfather once relayed to me:
“Jason, we went to Jim Bishop Chevrolet in Cape. Your uncle went along with me and your grandma but I told him to keep his big mouth shut. Pretty soon a salesman came out. I was looking at a used 1975 model when the salesman asked me if I intended to use GMAC financing. I told him I was considering it. Hearing that, he told me he could sell me a new ’76 for the same price as a ’75. So we picked one out, test drove it, and got the paperwork started. When he told me what the final price would be, I told your grandma to write a check”.
“I thought that salesman was going to shit. He said ‘Mr. Lambert, you said you were using GMAC’. I corrected him as I only said I was thinking about it; I never said yes. He started getting red in the face and I offered to go see Brennecke Chevrolet up the road in Jackson”.
“We drove that Monte Carlo home.”
A proud new owner of a Monte Carlo was a very frequent event for 1976. It was selling in volumes that were starting to approach the exclusive neighborhood of the full-sized Chevrolet and a volume that one could argue might have met or surpassed the full-sizers had they not been downsized for 1977. The trajectory of the Monte Carlo was in full blossom that year, a trajectory that would be the envy of any automaker introducing a new car today.
To think of it in a more contemporary perspective, Monte Carlo sales for 1976 were comparable to current Honda Accord sales in the United States. For 1977, Monte Carlo sales exceeded the sales volume of the Toyota Camry each year from 2009 to 2013.
Perhaps this comparison is an apples-to-oranges proposition, but it does paint a vividly colored picture.
The first Monte Carlo eased off the assembly line for 1970. Based upon the A-body Chevelle, the A-Special Monte Carlo was an immediate success for Chevrolet. Coming about when muscle cars were about to wane and personal luxury was on the ascendency, Chevrolet was being remarkably prescient in market planning.
Where the first generation Monte Carlo displayed a degree of understatement, the second generation sprinted in the opposite direction. With heavy body sculpturing inspired by cars from the 1930s, the word “baroque” was often used in describing the new for 1973 Monte Carlo.
Sales catapulted over 1972 levels and, apart from a hiccup in 1975, sales climbed every year.
All Monte Carlos from the beginning were powered by no less than a 350 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V8 straight from the Impala / Caprice line. Manual transmissions were also available from the beginning, depending upon engine, but various sources state that few, if any, were actually manufactured after 1973. The availability simply went away for 1976 when the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic was the sole transmission found in any Monte Carlo.
In an acknowledgement for the need to achieve greater fuel efficiency, 1976 also marked another milestone for the Monte Carlo. Engine sizes were down, with the standard engine (except in California) being the 305 cubic inch (5.0 liter) V8; the largest available engine was now the 400 cubic inch (6.6 liter) V8 as the 454 (7.4 liter) had seen its swan song in forty-nine state guise in 1975.
As an aside, this was when engines certified for use in California often differed from engines available in the other states. It was a confusing time for buyers and is still confusing for those researching it now. Like bell-bottom jeans, the downsizing of engines (and later bodies) was a sign of the times.
This Monte Carlo is sporting a distinct automotive sign of the times, one that is sometimes maligned in these parts but one I find magnificent. Yes, I do love me some stacked headlamps. The Monte carries them well, giving a visage of determined, clenched teeth assertiveness that replaced the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the earlier second generation models. It would be a lie to say I didn’t gaze in amazement at those novel, stacked lamps on my uncle’s Monte Carlo, enamored of them on through my teenage years when the Monte went away. That one single element of this car has positively imprinted itself into my brain is simply proof positive of how unique and different these stacked lamps were.
Let’s take a moment to discuss stacked headlamps as this Monte Carlo is hardly unique in having this trait.
Ford would use this styling element on the re-skinned Torino marketed as the LTD II, making it one of its most endearing traits.
For what it’s worth, this particular LTD II isn’t horrible but brochure models often look much better than the tan, base model sedans that were often the reality of the LTD II.
Of course, Chrysler jumped on the bandwagon for their mid-sized Dodge Monaco (and Plymouth Fury). As many of these were ultimately equipped with a light bar and shotgun rack, the assertiveness of the headlights worked rather well in its favor.
Knowing a good thing when it illuminates them, Chrysler also used this trendy design element on the Cordoba.
Perhaps Chrysler went overboard when using them on pickups (and vans), but these do help make for the best looking pickups sold in America for 1979 and 1980.
Or maybe Chrysler didn’t go overboard as GM recycled the idea when they placed these double stacks on their pickups (and vans) from about 1981 to 1987. This might explain my affinity for GM pickups from this period.
The stacked light theme obviously had stamina as these contemporary Silverados did not go over like a rock in a punchbowl. Despite their turbulent times of late, there was enough heartbeat at Chevrolet to sell 600,000 of these in the United States for 2015 with another 46,000 in Canada.
At this point I fully comprehend I’m likely in the minority for fancying stacked headlights, but there is obviously an audience for them. As someone recently told me upon professing this fondness, we all have our curious predilections.
It was those stacked headlamps on this Monte Carlo that pulled me into a comfort zone, an example found on a day that fully demonstrated the CC Effect. How so? The day I found this Monte Carlo was the day Paul published his CC on a 1970 Monte Carlo, expressing surprise we’ve covered so few Montes here.
From thinking back to long ago when these freely roamed the earth, this particular Monte Carlo is an unusual example. With the base model wheel covers and lacking the vinyl toupee, this plain Monte presents itself in a candid, pure manner. While not normally a fan of white, the lack of pigment does aid in the purity of look this Monte possesses, with its body sculpting accentuated by the red pinstripes.
This lack of adornment also helps convey the family similarities the Monte Carlo shared with the Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Buick Regal. From this angle, these tail lights almost present an Oldsmobile vibe. To borrow a Chevrolet tag line for the third time, this Chevrolet’s DNA runs deep with other GM products.
As is typical of my CC finds, this Monte Carlo was for sale. Whether or not this base model Monte Carlo with a white vinyl bench seat interior is worth the asking price is beyond my concern although learning this Monte Carlo was being offered to a new home did make me stop to enter my zone of imagining and reminiscing. I found myself reflecting upon the time when a young, innocent Jason gazed at this Monte’s sibling for extended periods of time, imagining an adult Jason driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
While there is no better time that the present to chase one’s dreams, reality forced me out of my comfort zone. But what a wonderful trip down memory lane this solid yet mildly bruised Monte Carlo offered to help warm an otherwise cold, dreary day.
Found January 19, 2015, in Jefferson City, Missouri
1970 Monte Carlo: A Modest Beginning To A Huge Hit (And Hips) by PN
My CC: 1976 Monte Carlo by Chris Green
Driving a 1998 International 9300 semi tractor, I often wondered if it’s stacked light bezels weren’t lifted directly from the Monte.
Sure looks like International raided the GM parts bin:
I can understand the typical fan of the bowtie brand wanting a Monte Carlo instead of a Chevelle/Malibu, but the Pontiac and Oldsmobile alternatives strike me as better looking.
Whenever I even think of stacked rectangular headlights, a picture of the Family Truckster comes to mind.
I knew that these were crazy common and seeing those production numbers confirms why.
My Dad and Stepmom test drove one in 1974 and I remember riding along. At 15, I was probably at the peak of my anti-Chevy period but could at least understand why they were so popular. They eventually settled on a Cutlass Supreme, one of the few cars more popular than the Monte.
I really like this one in solid white as it tones down the side sculpting, which I still find a little over the top.
When you consider the state of the economy and new-car market in 1974 and 1975, the resilience of Monte Carlo sales in those years is amazing.
The fact that, after 1975, sales continued to climb through the final year – 1977 – despite the age of the platform, is also a remarkable feat. It was the same for the personal luxury Colonnade cars offered by the other GM divisions. People may criticize the Colonnade intermediates today, but it’s easy to see why GM dealers, stockholders, accountants and product planners liked them.
I think it says as much about the personal luxury market exploding. It was one of the best of the breed. As virtually all personal luxury cars did very well at the time.
There are vehicles that I think look really good with the stacked lights, but this one doesn’t work for me.
As you point out, the basic styling of it comes from the classic pre-war cars. The two big round lights of the 73-75 models just seem made for that.
I never met stacked headlights I didn’t like!
Tons of friends had these and they all loved them. I believe the suspension was a big improvement over the first generation. (Perhaps someone has info on that.)
My personal preference is the round headlight. Seems to tie in to the overall look better.
The sales numbers for Monte Carlos in this era are staggering, particularly since for the past few decades, anything with two doors has been labeled a niche vehicle and immediately consigned to the periphery of the sales floor.
Also, the multi-generational appeal of these cars is a fascinating angle by which to look at them. This held true (to a lesser extent) with the later A/G specials as well — I recall in high school, several kids had older (at that time) Montes & Cutlass Supremes, while several teachers drove nearly identical cars.
It’s hard to think of a modern equivalent in terms of multi-generational appeal. The first examples that comes to mind are pickup trucks, which seem to hold a similar broad appeal today, in terms of buyers’ ages, incomes, etc. In terms of cars, it’s much more of a stretch to come up with an equivalent, particularly in terms of anything that’s sold even remotely as well as these 1970s Monte Carlos.
I was thinking about any current example, But you’re right pickups are just about the only regular vehicle that has that much intergenerational appeal.
Interesting question about the cross-generational appeal. I think there are some SUVs/CUVs that fit the bill. I see younger and older folks driving CR-Vs, Escapes, Jeeps, RAV4s. Cars, however, are another story. Perhaps a few luxury brand products are an example–I do see both younger and older folks driving BMW 2 Series and 3 Series, as well as Audi A3 and A4s.
I recall having read a roadtest of the Honda HR-V that summed it up that everything they changed to make it a “compact CUV” rather than a “small car” made it a little bit less good than a Honda Fit; the same is true in the Chevy family with the Sonic hatchback and Trax.
My thoughts immediately went to PLCs, trading away function for style.
LED headlight ‘eyeliner’ is the new stacked headlights…
When younger I used to like the 78+ montes. But really…. These were the true beauties. Swooshy and curvy.
Stacked rectangular headlights ran counter to the reasoning the industry petitioned the change in the lighting laws for. To lower hood lines and increase aerodynamics of cars for fuel efficiency. of course, when rectangular lights got approval, the bean counters would not allow moies for all new front clipse and header panels to accommodate them. so if you look at many of the examples sporting stacked rectangular lights. you will note the hoods still carry the original curved stampinds for round sealed beams. To keep cost down, the existing hoods and fenders were kept, only a new header panel was needed. And that is why a lot of vehivles featured stacked rectangular lights…..it saved money. Hang the style. it was all bottom line. Give me low and sleek fornt aspects with side by side rectangulars of the day. A few marques found the money. The grand Prix and the Regal , for instance, ponied up the cash for new hood stampings.. A far better look.
While a cost saving move, it made sense at the time. The stacked lights were almost exclusively installed on older models that were given a light refresh before their fate in the incredible downsizing machine was met. Arguably even the LTD II, with its fresh metal, was just a folded and creased box put over the 1972 Torino chassis. It was barely more than a cheap refresh of a car doomed to die after three model years. Scaling down the front end of these cars a few inches was hardly going to make aerodynamic economy cars of them – the hard points at the cowl, windshield and rear deck height would see to that. All those issues were resolved with the downsized versions.
Personally, the stacked light look worked for me – it was a limited time opportunity for the stylists that coincided with happy cost accountants.
I think the LTD II used the ’74-’76 Elite hood, which, like the Monte, had raised stampings for single round headlamps.
And the ’77-only LTD II wagon used the Montego rear fenders to do away with the Torino’s distinctive upkicking crease there.
As did the ’77-’79 Ranchero.
Very nicely written article. I’ve always thought this generation of Monte Carlo to be a beautiful car, but being a generation younger than the author, never gave much thought to its status, which this article reflected nicely on. Had to chuckle when reading the story of sly grandpa outfoxing the dealer.
Hard to believe california only got the 350 and 400 4bbl cars. U wudda thot they only got the 305 2bbl.
It was fairly common that CA got larger displacement engines as air pollution and fuel economy fought for supremacy in the engineering department. My guess is that early de-smogging to CA specs robbed so much power that they made up for it with a bit more torque to give the cars some semblance of performance off the line.
Perhaps a better qualified engineer could step in here. I’ve wondered about this issue myself.
I’d suspect the problem was the 2GC carburetor used on the 305 and 350-2bbl. This was a far older design than the Q-jet and would have a much harder time to meter fuel as precisely as a Q-jet. GM eventually abandoned this designed in 1979 for the Dualjet which was essentially the front half of a Q-jet. It was a cleaner carburetor than the 2GC, but also very restrictive and most engines that switched to it in 1979 from the 2GC had a lower horsepower rating.
The other factor to was likely to save money, GM probably just certified the engines they believed were the most common engine choices. I am sure in 1976, the 350 would have been the most popular engine for the Monte Carlo. And in 1972, you couldn’t get the 307, 402 or the 454 in the Chevelle/Monte Carlo in California, just the 350.
Power difference between California emission engines and federal wasn’t substantial. Maybe at most 10 hp. Driveability though could vary significantly.
Certifying popular engine choices makes a lot of sense. When I was shopping in Nebraska for used Cutlass models when in high school the 350 was dominant. The 455 and later 403 would turn up occasionally. I never came across the 250 6 or the 260 V-8.
I can’t think of a single car that looked better with stacked square headlights vs. round ones. It’s like seeing a very pretty girl and liking what you see and then she pulls out a pair of heavy framed coke bottle eyeglasses to get a better look at you.
I have to admit I was seriously smitten by this generation of Monte Carlo at the time. Over time it has looked more and more over styled and I have come to prefer the look of the first series. However, I can attest to what a wonderful ride they were. My best friend at the time had a ’73 Monte we took on a road trip to California from the Midwest, while my parents had a ’73 Malibu four door sedan (in the exact cream-over-orange color of the ’73 in the picture above. Its name was The Pumpkin Car.) The Monte, with its high caster front suspension, radials, sway bars and extra sound proofing tracked down the highway straight and quiet and true, and felt like a luxury car that could actually handle. I can see how the ride and handling would have attracted older buyers who were moving “down” from a full-sized sedan, while the style appealed to a broad segment of the populace. The Malibu, by contrast, was…a nice sedan.
I’m still not sure how to feel about these.
Ours was a ’77, in Landau trim, chocolate brown with light tan top and vinyl bench interior. It was the Disco Era, and every time I see one of these I hear Gloria Gaynor or Donna Summer playing in my mind. I was 10 when it was purchased, and I can distinctly recall the shopping trip to H&S Chevrolet in our home town. We test drove a black one with red velour interior. My mother balked that black was hard to keep clean and my brothers and I would mess up the cloth seats. So the choice was down to the “blah brown” one or a bright red one with white vinyl top and white interior. We ended up with “blah brown” despite my long and impassioned protestations because, again, “Those white seats are going to look like hell in 2 weeks with 3 boys in the car”. (Not to mention that the red and white color scheme was deemed “Too Showy” by my father, who wouldn’t have wanted to pull up to St. Monica’s on Sunday morning looking like he was trying to put on airs. So I washed that blah brown Monte Carlo every other week, as I’d aged to the point when that became my job along with lawn mowing, and I cursed its somewhat femininely shaped “blah brown” flanks as I’d invariably miss a spot somewhere, leaving a swipe of dust (Note to Mom: Blah brown is hard to keep clean too). I remember scrubbing that thinly padded Landau top with a nail brush to get all the crud out of the graining in the vinyl pattern, using that same brush on those blasted whitewalls, and trying to get my fingers into every little slit on those turbine wheels, which NEVER looked clean. Not to mention the countless times I was dispatched into a ditch to retrieve one of the center caps from those same “Polycast” wheels, which had the infuriating habit of launching themselves into the tallest of weeds without warning (I think the car was traded in with only 2 of them left).
Yeah…now that I’ve had this detailed reminiscence I DO know how I feel about these. Hate ’em. YMMV
I realize this info comes way too late, but the white interior would have worked for you. My Stepmom’s 74 Cutlass Supreme had a full white interior (blue dash and carpet) and my Mom’s 74 Luxury LeMans was the rare combo of burgundy interior with white seats.
A rag and a spray bottle of 409 would clean the insides of those cars right up. The white vinyl interiors were my favorite parts of those cars so keeping them looking good was a labor of love for me.
I feel you on the brown. By 1977 I was really tired of earth toned cars and brown was the worst. Especially after the GM lacquer began chalking.
Ahh, Formula 409, the ’70s detailer’s friend. Do they still sell that stuff?
I’d forgotten all about scrubbing the dirt out of the grain in the vinyl. I had a dedicated brush in my cleaning kit – finally tossed it out two cars after my last vinyl roof!
Perhaps the ugliest use of stacked rectangular headlights…
Never, ever understood this
I actually thought the stacked rectangular headlights looked WAY better on the GM pickups than on any other vehicle of the times.
For me, the headlights complemented the squared off look of the front end.
Although I don’t generally like the stack rectangular headlights, I didn’t mind them on GM trucks. The example about has the is an early 80’s style grille which was the least attractive grille in my opinion. The 1985-87 grille looked the best, for both Chev and GMC in my opinion.
The stacked headlights on this K10 suit the truck.
Yep, looks like an air conditioner with headlights. I love this bodystyle, but if I ever got my hands on a 80-87 I’d be swapping on a 73-79 nose ASAP.
One could argue that this look was kept all the way up to the GMT800 series of trucks…
These are in my comfort zone as well. Almost like automotive comfort food–perhaps I “shouldn’t” like them, but I do! These were abundant when I was a kid, along the all the domestic personal luxury competitors, and it was fun to see them and be able to tell them apart. Personally, I’d take a Cutlass Supreme or a Grand Prix over this Monte, but I’m still happy Chevy made the car just the way they did. It was a bold statement, from a time when that actually drove sales. Can’t say the same for the Camcordtimafubu of today…
Also, when you think about it, the ’73 A-Bodies were the last cars from GM that had truly comprehensive styling differences for each product at launch, with virtually no shared panels. Inner structures and rooflines were common, obviously, but every other panel–even the door skins, were unique to each division (The only common parts other than roof and glass I can think of that were shared were wagon tail gates and rear bumpers). No GM platform redesign since then has had as much styling differentiation between the divisions.
Good point about the styling variations. It could be argued that the 77-79 B body also came in 5 unique flavors with no shared sheet metal (outside of the wagons). But those cars’ boxy shape sort of camouflaged the differences which were more subtle than those on the Colonnades.
I was wracking my brain about that, but I actually think the ’77 B- and C-Body program did share more panels, most specifically door skins. Olds and Buick shared front and rear doors (both B- and C-Bodies) as did Pontiac and Chevrolet B-Bodies. Fenders, hoods, deck lids, bumpers were still different (other than wagon rears), but the center section of the cars were very similar. So in that regard the ’77 full-sized program had more divisional commonality than the ’73 A-Body program.
I had not thought about the door skins, and had never looked to see if they were all the same. I assumed that with clearly different sheet metal everywhere else below the belt, door skins would be different too.
Funnily enough I focused on this detail when I ran the post of the ’77 Car Preview Sketches, where they noted that Chevy/Pontiac and Olds/Buick would share door stampings (though not the same for all 4). So I looked closely, and sure enough, the Chevy/Pontiac doors are the same. Likewise, on both B- and C-Body Buick/Olds the door panels are identical. These doors then mate with different front and rear fenders. Wagons are another story altogether–the rears all share the Chevy/Pontiac stampings, and the Olds/Buick wagons have different front fender stampings than the Olds/Buick sedans/coupes, in order to line up with the Chevy/Pontiac doors. Complicated commonality!
For ’76-’77, the Cutlass Supreme and Regal coupes shared door panels. But about the only Colonnades that did.
I was 13 in 1977. I remember these things being everywhere. The sales figures are amazing in today’s world: there are no 2-dr coupes selling in those numbers now let alone 4-dr sedans or even SUVs. Maybe only pickups now have those kind of volumes.
Count me as a fan of the stacked headlights.
While the standard wheel covers on the subject car are nice, they are not the ones that were used in 1976. The ones on the subject car are from a third generation Monte Carlo (1978-1980).
Right. The standard covers for this generation are these, which I always thought were a real letdown on a car with this much sculpting and gingerbread.
You were supposed to spring for the optional turbine-style wheels featured on the car in the second photo. That was how you made your spiffy new Monte Carlo even more “sporty” and “personal.”
How about these rare one-year only Monte Carlo wheel cover offerings? The #4 deluxe wheel cover – the same style standard on the newly downsized Caprice Classic, with the appropriate emblem, of course – and the #6 Sport Wheel Cover – the same style as my Dad’s ’77 Caprice Estate. They had a tendency to “fall off” every so often! I can only imagine trying to find either one of these today as they were rarely ordered back then! Even a quick google search of 1977 Monte Carlo doesn’t show any pictures with either style
Here is a picture I found of a gold one with the Sport Wheel Covers. Seems like most popular were the Turbines with the Landau package.
My ’75 with standard wheelcovers
The twin with turbine wheels
Dean – those are the nice and somewhat seldom ordered optional “Deluxe” wheel covers. Chevy would take the standard Caprice Classic wheel cover, change the emblem in the middle to the appropriate Monte Carlo red shield and make them available on the Monte Carlo as the optional Deluxe wheel cover. I only learned this a short time ago, and I remember as a kid wondering why some Monte Carlos had different wheel covers than others.
Look like they belong on a Chevette.
I believe the (incorrect) covers on this Monte are 1980-1984 Caprice base wheel covers.
100% correct Dave
Those are actually Caprice/Impala caps, the 78-80 Montes had 14″ wheels, this one has 15″ standard.
Understand about your appreciation of the stacked lamps of the era, Jason. Most of my sense of what I like has been gleaned from the offerings on the Isle Of Misfit Cars, so yes, I get it.
But, I always thought the stacked lamps ruined a lot of good or respectable looking designs of the period.
And this era of the Monte Carlo seems as overwrought as the 59 Pontiac featured earlier on CC. Both seemed to work overall and hit a definite bull’s eye for the public.
But then, I never understood what was so “personal” about a huge 2 door car with minimal interior room and a long hood or understand the current obsession with trucks as passenger cars, so take my comments with a pound of salt.
It’s personal because the car is designed for your personal comfort, no one else’s. I don’t understand the appeal of vans, wagons, or crossovers for people without kids or frankly even one kid.
Functionally, a “personal” car is a style statement. It isn’t more comfortable than a standard sedan.
Offroad vehicles have been prestigious/style statements in the US for over 50 years. Long ago, owning a Wagoneer said, “I have an expensive weekend house so far back in the woods that I use this special vehicle, which is also expensive, to reach it.” The style statement has been progressively diluted by crossovers becoming the default choice for many buyers.
No salt needed, Dweezil.
The most current car I can think of with that kind of broad appeal is the Chrysler 300.
Being a lifelong tightwad, I never understood why anybody would pick a Monte over a Malibu coupe. Aside from the wheelbase stretch (which surely added weight, which the A-bodies decidedly did *not* need) a Monte was 10-20% more expensive for what amounted to the exact same car as a V-8 Malibu.
I suppose that’s why my Marketing degree never amounted to anything.
The formal roof line and opera windows were a huge draw at the time. Besides the overt body sculpting. The Malibu coupe didn’t have the ‘de rigueur’ allure of the ‘Carlo.
The Monte Carlo was like the flashy, favourite aunt who visited from time to time, the one who wore bright red lipstick, leopard-print clothes, a bouffant hairdo cat’s eye glasses and stilettos. The Malibu coupe was like the 30-something spinster next door who wore sack cloth dresses and orthopedic shoes.
I’d like to meet your aunt!
You’re both right, of course. On some level, I totally understand why people are willing to pay extra for flash and gingerbread – it sells, so it’s obviously true.
I just won’t ever understand WHY. I’m too practical, I guess.
The Monte Carlo had panache – the Malibu not so much. Style, prestige – these things all mattered greatly back then in the 70’s when buying and choosing a new car. Not that it doesn’t matter today, it is just a different world and market. Heck, the name Monte Carlo alone just sounds so great. I’m sure telling someone you just bought a new Monte back then sounded a lot better than telling them you just bought a new Malibu! (And that doesn’t mean I dislike the Malibu because I really do like them too.)
It was notable that GM Canada offered a Malibu Classic 1976 Montreal Olympics tribute car at the time, but not a Monte Carlo version. Probably because the Malibu was more family-oriented.
Car for car, the base Monte Carlo was about 5 percent more than a comparable Malibu V8 coupe, and additional options were the same price for both cars.
Eh you had me until stacked headlights. I think the only example that pulled them off ok were the Dodge pickups – there was never a “face” on this generation D-100 I found attractive so that may not be saying much, but the stacked ones came with a much less fussy grille that previous and succeeding ones, so I like them by default. – and the Fury pulled them off because the frumpiness of that body was now complete. I absolutely hate the stacked light C/K trucks, the original single rounds with the slightly protruding grill looked so good, and then it got blunted with those cyclops eyes for the rest of the run. In fact I stop liking Chevy trucks and start liking Ford trucks at that exact point in time.
I owned ’73 and ’76 Cutlass Colonnades coupes, the siren song of the Olds 350 exhaust note along with slightly better quality bits and pieces (especially the dash tops) was hard to ignore. But, the ’73 Cutlass styling was not lacking for busy detail – as was the case with many of the Colonnades.
Probably because I ignored Chevy so much in the ‘70s, the Monte might now be my top pick if I were to pick up a classic Colonnade. Buckets and console would be a must, and just to be contrarian, put on the standard wheel covers.
The only Colonnade I really object to is the Malibu. After ’73, it was blatantly obvious that GM hated anybody but fleets buying the ‘bu. The styling details were frequently unfinished, abusively cheap and the build quality of those bits was usually at the same level of hate that GM reserved for the contemporary Vega and Nova.
Like many others, I’ve never like stacked, rectangular headlights. Conversely, I rather prefer stacked, round headlights, so long as they’re not bolt upright but have a forward cant (one of my favorite cars is the 1967 Fairlane), and I’m trying to figure out the reason. It may be that with round headlights, there’s more of a separation between the lenses, almost always a chrome bezel. With rectangulars, there’s no bezel and nothing that separates the top from the bottom lens. Oddly, I’ve never seen a car with stacked rectangulars where they went with a forward lean or any kind of separation like most of the older, stacked, round headlights.
I guess it’s a good thing that rectangular sealed beam headlights were a very brief fad that only lasted until composite headlights became legal for use in the US.
I think rounds work better because as an assembly they are tall and narrow when stacked, due to the perfect symmetry of a circle. The problem with rectangulars are that they’re rectangular, so when they’re stacked the assembly is short and wide, they may as well just be one large square light.
It all depends on execution. Does this look like one single light?
Unlike most executions those are clearly separated by the grille design, so no. The XJ Wagoneer front end actually always reminded me a lot of the 1966 Ambassador with stacked rounds, which is a refreshing take on it(though I still prefer the standard XJ nose, and the Rebel’s for that matter) Most other stacked rectangulars are just contained within a single bezel though, that’s where the one assembly effect comes from. In cars like this Monte Carlo, as well as the Cordoba, Century sedan and others they even placed them within the same basic footprint as the former large round lights.
That’s an interesting looking truck. Did Comanches ever come with the stacked headlights originally, or is that a Wagoneer Limited front clip transplanted onto a Comanche?
Either way, I liked it. The stacked headlights in Cherokees (& possibly Comanches) seemed to work better than the large rectangular lights — just makes for a more interesting design.
I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think your thought about a Limited front clip on a Comanche is what we have here. It was staring at me as I pecked out a comment in a parking lot.
Square versus round, as seen in the late eighties.
The 1970 Full-Size Chevy numbers seemed low. Chevy could usually shift around a million units a year from ’65-’73.
I pulled this from the Standard Catalog………..
The resource I used stated wagons were included – I think
It was the Encyclopedia of American cars. Thanks for expanding on this.
Outstanding post and pictures. This generation of Monte Carlo is the only 70’s car that (to me, anyway) really rocked the stacked-quad headlight look with any success. I prefer the round-headlight 1973 – ’75s, but I don’t find the ’76 / ’77 unattractive.
We agree on the MC having the most successful stacked lamps. Likely due to my being brainwashed by them at such an impressionable age, I vastly prefer these to the earlier MCs of this generation.
As we can see from the comments, I was quite safe in speculating about being in the minority. 🙂
I was born in the same year as this car. I just hope 1976 was a better year for people than cars.
I think the Monte Carlo far outsold the Chevelle/Malibu cos the Malibu was flat ugly. The rest of the Colonnades had nice sculpted sides, handsome detailing in the grilles, taillights, headlights, and trim; the Malibu had the dumpy unsculpted looks of the Before pictures in a diet product advertisement. Plus, the other Colonnades had no junior compatriot in showrooms so you can combine the Monte Carlo and Malibu/Chevelle sales to get one blockbuster platform.
Additionally, Ford’s Torino was dumpy and lumpy and handled like a pig; Chrysler offered the handsome Cordoba but that had quality issues; the Colonnades were the best of the bunch. In an overstated, flashy with no substance, baroque era with fake heraldry, the Monte Carlo was the flashiest and most baroque.
I can give you a few reasons for the gradual rise in sales: Automotive sales are cyclical with peaks and troughs and ’73 was one of the peaks so ’77 was due to be another peak. Reason two was by ’77 Americans had gradually gotten over the terror of the ’73 gas crisis and were ready to buy something a little more stylish and roomier than a Dart/Valiant, which were no longer available anyway. Reason 3 was plenty of people had seen the previews of the downsized A bodies and said HELL NO and bought the last version. When we were looking at used cars in the mid ’80’s an alleged selling point was the car was pre-downsizing. GM’s downsizing was a watershed moment in the automotive landscape and everything was either pre-downsizing or post-downsizing.
I really do like the stacked headlamps and when I was young, I FAR preferred the rectangular headlamps to the round ones. Matter of taste I guess.
There was some real fear of downsizing regarding these cars. I think the ’77 Grand Prix was the largest benefactor of the get ’em while you can phenomena. It sold in record numbers never matched again. Remarkable for the final year of a 5 year old design with a new model in the wings.
A 350 equipped Colonnade coupe with a decent list of options and features was a very desirable used car until they were all used up.
My folks nearly got one but held out for the ’78 downsizing. Considering the build and quality issues we had with the ’78, they should have gotten the ’77.
My mom had a 75 or 76 Monte Carlo that she bought new.
As a 7 year old, I thought the car was cool. Or, at least it was better than the 1960 VW Bug that was my mom’s previous car.
I always loved the looks of the 70’s Monte Carlo’s.
The Monte Carlo was a massive piece of crap.
Things started to fall apart on day one.
Amazing, the car managed to make it to the winter of 1980, when the entire rear axle assembly came off the car while on the interstate. Southern car, no rust.
My parents were slow learners.
They replaced the Monte Carlo and my step-fathers 1977 Chevy 4-door truck with a 1979 Monte Carlo V6 and a 1980 Monte Carlo V8 (267).
They finally learned their lesson after those final craptastic pieces of GM failure.
The cars looked good, but that was about the only good my family ever got out of them.
I worked at a small factory/machine shop in the mid 70’s could not get over how
many 75 76 Monte Carlos were in that parking lot I thought these looked kind of goofy
when I first saw them ,but after a while there were so many of them,I think I
learned to like them!
I always preferred the single round lights.
With that said, these Montes wore the stacked lights well. I certainly wouldn’t kick one out of my driveway.
While we are the topic of GM and headlights, I want to bring up the thing that has always puzzled me. Why did GM spend the money to refresh the 1979 Nova so it could have square headlights and a revised front end when the ’79 Nova had a short production year before being dropped for the new Citation. Was GM rolling in that much money that they could waste money revising the front end on a car that was only to be made for a few months? Or was it the usual GM hubris at work (We are GM and we can do anything)?
Yes. Bigger question is how Chrysler justified doing the same thing to their 1980 Aspen/Volare, considering their truly precarious situation.
The Volare/Aspen still had to be competitive for a full model year until the K-cars were ready. And the ’78-’79 Volare/Aspen front clips (with round lights) looked dated next to the Fairmont/Zephyr, Nova and Citation-based X-cars, the LeBaron/Diplomat, the GM A-bodies, as well as the Concord. All of their competitors had square headlights.
Chrysler probably saw it as the cost of keeping these cars looking competitive. Even if 1980 sales of 124,434 (combined) were less than half of 1979.
I believe the Volare/Aspen were originally intended to continue through 1981 as well. The ’79 Nova I have never understood, particularly since none of the other ’79 Xs were changed.
The Volare/Aspen facelift included significant new sheetmetal, the Nova was a new plastic grille molding and headlight buckets.
Yes, the ’80 Volare/Aspen shared front fenders, hood, and front and rear bumpers with the restyled LeBaron/Diplomat.
I believe doors and windshields were shared between the M and F bodies from the start.
I don’t know if Chrysler was trying to save money with their modest Aspen/Volare front clip restyle for 1978, but they probably should have adopted a newer design with square lights at that time. Using the LeBaron/Diplomat fenders. The 1980 design would have served well in 1978, and been more competitive styling-wise, with the more modern looking square light Fairmont and GM A bodies. When sales were still strong and square lights were already being widely adopted.
I think it was a mistake keeping the F Body round lights, if they were attempting to make the LeBaron-Diplomat more exclusive. As round lights dated the Aspen/Volare compared to their immediate competition.
The inconsistent parking/turn signal light location between the Aspen and Volare in 1976/1977, struck me as odd as well. As they adapted the Volare’s layout for both the Aspen and Volare in 1978.
Per a Mopar fan site, there were quite a few engineering changes to their F body in 1980 as well as square lamps. I am assuming they were meant to last well into the 80’s, but Iacocca pulled them to show Congress that “we mean business” about switching to smaller cars.
Although Chrysler did get some use out of the car, as the M body variants lasted to ’89.
Another question is why did Pontiac spend money bringing out a whole new name [Phoenix] and look to replace the Ventura, and only for 2 calendar years?
Was an “all new” car in spring ’77, and then the downsized LeMans/Grand Prix come out 6 months later, to push it aside. Why bother? Did they have extra cash to spend?
I recently had a conversation with my 83 year old Mom regarding her cars of the 70’s. She had a ’66 Bonneville convertible, a ’72 Toronado and then a ’79 Riviera – of course, all coupes. I asked her if it was a nuisance with a young child (me) and she said that it was actually easy because she didn’t have to worry about me falling out of the car/opening the doors. Today with the regulations and cars seats and such a coupe makes no sense at all. But my, how times have changed!
Never much liked these, especially from the rear. But This CC ’76 I would drive with a smile, on account of nothing less or more than its colour.
I like the custom cloud best.
In the mid 80’s a friend of mines uncle went to several dealerships cash in hand to buy an advertised loss leader. He was told no way and was shown the door in each case. They said the only way they would sell him a car at the advertised price was financed at a high interest rate. I have never had this problem in my 66 years on this earth as I was taught at a very young age to stay away from new & used car dealers and always buy private party. Never had a car payment in my life and and have probably enjoyed more trouble free and less expensive miles than the average motorist. Still have yet to pay $1,500 or over for a car or truck.
Here you go, Jason, this headlight configuration should make everyone happy.
Side-by-side and double stacks – this wagon literally has it all! And if you don’t like it now, just wait until you drive it.
Always liked this generation of the Monte Carlo a lot, is it just me or am I the only one who liked the stacked headlights more than the rounded headlights, then again I might be biased because my mother used to own a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo and it was a very good car, this era of the Monte Carlo’s and it’s personal luxury Colonnade cars are among some of my favorite vehicles built in the mid to late 1970’s.
I also prefer the stacked lights on these Monte Carlo’s. The round light cars just didn’t work for me. I also seem to remember way more 76-77 Monte Carlos from when I was kid, than the 73-75’s. I think Chevy did a much better job on the Monte Carlo with the stacked lights vs the Malibu. The grille work and the fender edge that protrudes forward on the Monte Carlo looks far better than the Malibu. For the Malibu’s, I much prefer the single round light cars.
“where did all these MC’s go?”
These were quite popular dirt track racers in late 70s/80s.