Rare Rides has touched on Monte Carlo once before, in a well-past-its-prime NASCAR / Jeff Gordon edition from 2000. Monte Carlo surfaced again more recently, as its Nineties iteration was effectively a renamed second-generation Lumina coupe. But we’ve never covered the Eighties Monte Carlo, which was a very popular car in the midsize segment at a time when the personal luxury coupe was alive and well.
And someone kept today’s 1987 example in as-new condition.
The Monte Carlo got its start in 1970, as the first personal luxury coupe for the Chevrolet brand. Monte Carlo rode on the A platform for its first generation – a hardtop design that lasted until 1972. It continued as an A-body pillared coupe in a second generation that remained through the 1977 model year. A popular mid-sizer, Monte Carlo was brother to other GM PLCs like the Pontiac Grand Prix, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Buick Skylark. The final model year of the second generation Monte should tell you what happened next.
Downsizing! In 1978, the third-gen Monte Carlo lost a full foot of overall length, on a revised version of the A-body. The third-generation car was available only from 1978 to 1980. In 1981, a fourth-generation took its place, once again on the A-body platform. For 1982 the A-body became the G-body, in a name swap that occurred upon the debut of the new front-drive A-body platform cars like the Chevy Celebrity.
Though the dimensions of the fourth-generation car were almost identical to the third generation, the styling was more modernized. Quad headlamps and an eggcrate grille appeared and were both very much Eighties Chevrolet in appearance. The Monte was popular enough to require four different production locations, in Texas, Michigan, Georgia, and Mexico. All examples produced were coupes, though 200 were the special 2+2 SS version, which like the Grand Prix were commonly called Aerocoupe.
Engines offered included four different V6 mills (one was diesel), and three different V8s (again, one was a diesel). With six cylinders, displacements were either 3.8 or 4.3 liters. V8 displacements were 4.4, 5.0, or 5.7 liters. The largest 5.7 was the diesel engine, also known as the one you didn’t want. Transmissions were all automatic and had three or four speeds.
Several changes were made to the Monte Carlo over the years, as GM fiddled with engine and feature offerings, sports versions, as well as exterior and interior trim updates. Sales continued at a brisk pace, and in 1984 GM shifted 112,730 examples of only the Monte Carlo.
1985 brought back T-tops that had gone away for 1984, and the SS trim was further developed. Diesel engines that debuted in 1981 also went away, as they hadn’t found many buyers. Throttle body injection appeared around that time and meant the 4.3-liter V6 made 130 horses, while the 5.0 produced 165. Top power was only available in the SS version, with a high output 5.0 that offered 180 horses.
In 1986 the final trim shuffling occurred, with base Sport Coupe, mid-level Luxury Sport or LS, SS, and the limited edition SS 2+2. For Monte’s final year in 1987, the Sport Coupe was dropped, leaving the other three to carry on to the end of Monte Carlo’s rear-drive life. Customers who missed the PLC lifestyle but needed that Chevy badge would be ushered to Lumina coupe in 1990. By that time, the whole PLC segment was well on the way to its demise.
Today’s beige and beige Monte Carlo is from 1987 and was the offering’s most basic LS trim that year. Cloth bench seats and manual windows mark the car as an Ace of Base, though someone splurged on the V8. White walls and wire wheels assist the vinyl carriage top in playing up the brougham luxury vibe. With 46,000 miles it looks brand new and is available in North Carolina.