Our featured video is from “Welcome Chevrolet” of Chicago circa 1978, but the beginnings of “personal coupes” on the American scene can actually be traced back to 1958 when the market’s first was introduced. Ford’s introduction of the four seat Thunderbird in ’58 was a move that was not looked upon very nicely by the sports car enthusiasts of the time, but it did increase the automaker’s profits.
Not only had Ford made more money off of the four seat Thunderbirds than they had off of their two seat models from ’55-57, but they even made more money off of the personal luxury coupes than Chevy had made off of Corvettes around the same time.
General Motors had a solution for the up and coming personal coupe trend, and the Monte Carlo would become Chevy’s luxury coupe that used a Chevelle platform and what Autos.ca’s Bill Vance describes as a “formal rear roof line that was quite attractive.” The Monte Carlo was Chevrolet’s contemporary answer to Buick’s Riviera, introduced in 1963, as well as to Oldsmobile’s front wheel drive Toronado in ’66 and Cadillac’s Eldorado, introduced in ’67.
With similar dimensions to the Chevelle, the Monte Carlo had a wheelbase of what Bill Vance estimates to be 2,946mm, or 116 inches. The Monte Carlo was more than just a new, full size entry for Chevy in 1970; it paid tribute to the elegant yet understated, European bodystyle by trimming out lines and eliminating excess chrome.
The Monte Carlo for the 1970 sales year also used the best platform available, as it featured front, independent A-arm suspension, four wheel coil springs and standard front, power disc brakes.
A 350 small-block was the base motor available for the Monte, but a 400, 402 and even 454ci option were available. In fact, an “SS454” Monte Carlo could be ordered and was remarkably fast at the beginning of a generation that would stress fuel efficiency later on in the decade. A February, 1970 issue of Car Life reported that a Monte Carlo SS454 had done 0-60 in 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 132mph.
Styling changes for the 1973 sales year were some of the 1st-Gen Monte Carlo’s most drastic, and they included more pronounced fender lines, sharper creases and more sculpted sides. Side rear windows were also added to somewhat relieve the blind spot caused by the coupe’s squared off rooflines.
Chevy’s Monte Carlo was introduced at the beginning of a new and coming, luxury car market in the early ’70s. The difference with the Monte Carlo and especially the SS454, however, was that Chevy had made one of the division’s first attempts at creating an elegant muscle car that could still be versatile.