1971 Chevy Monte Carlo Body Styles, Engines, And VIN Decoder

The Chevrolet Monte Carlo was introduced to the world as a 1970 model. The model was manufactured across six generations and much like the automotive realm, endured many changes to its very core. The changes started slowly, with the 1971 Monte Carlo receiving small updates to its front and rear trim. From 1970 to 2007, the marque’s final year of production, Chevrolet’s “personal luxury car” endured a variety of changes to its body styling, engines, and options. Throughout production, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo served up luxury with an “everyman” appeal. Economical, personalized luxury was the concept behind the all-new 1970 Monte Carlo and this early Monte Carlo commercial serves to drive that point home.

GM’s success with Buick’s Riviera, Oldsmobile’s Toronado, and Pontiac’s Grand Prix meant it was only a matter of time before Chevrolet also entered this field. It did in a big way, building the new Monte Carlo on a unique “A-Special” platform along with the Pontiac Grand Prix.

Based on the GM A-body platform, the engineers and designers created the “A-body Special” chassis which extended the wheelbase ahead of the firewall beyond a standard A-body Chevelle or Le Mans. This created a longer hood, which was designed to proportion the Monte Carlo more elegantly. The 1970 and ‘72 Monte Carlos are similar, featuring only minor trim and detail differences. Completely redesigned in 1973, this more baroque, “neo-classic” Monte received only minor trim and interior changes through 1977.

Monte Carlo's body style was updated throughout the years. The biggest change came when the marque moved to a front-wheel-drive platform in 1995.

The Monte was downsized to A-body status in 1978. The 1978 Monte Carlo was downsized along with its sister A-body Chevys, trimming 800 pounds and 15 inches from its 1973-77 incarnations. It retained this basic styling through 1980. In 1981 the fourth-generation Monte Carlo was introduced, refining and enlarging the earlier model’s styling. The Monte’s chassis was renamed “G-body” when GM’s front-wheel-drive A-body cars were introduced for the 1982 model year. It remained the same through 1988, with an added Aerocoupe model appearing in 1984, featuring a fastback rear window to better compete in NASCAR.

The Aerocoupe Monte Carlo was more than a styling exercise, it was designed to give Monte an edge on the high-banked ovals such as Daytona. While not necessary on the street, the design met homologation rules and allowed the air-taming feature to be added to the race car.

Monte Carlo production took a hiatus from 1989 to 1994, returning for the 1995 model year as a front-wheel-drive variant. Chevrolet discontinued the Monte Carlo after 2008, due to declining sales. During its six generations of production, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo enjoyed a variety of performance goodies ranging from big-blocks to Super Sport status.

 1971 Monte Carlo Production

In only its second year of production, any changes to Monte Carlo from 1970 were mostly minor, with updated details to the front end, taillights, and interior appointments. An 8-track tape player and four-spoke steering wheel were new options. Mechanically, the 1971 Monte Carlo was much the same as the year before, save for the Turbo-Fire 400 cubic-inch engine getting a four-barrel upgrade.

Total 1971 Monte Carlo production was 128,600 units, a lower-than-expected number due to a labor strike in September 1970 that lasted 67 days. During 1971 production, only 1,919 SS 454 Monte Carlos were produced this year and 12 Monte Carlos were shipped to Australia and converted to right-hand drive.

Did GM Ever Make A Convertible Monte Carlo?

Answering the question of whether GM ever made a convertible Monte Carlo is complex. Even though early Chevy brochures show a convertible and a couple of cars had been converted over the years by individuals outside of GM, Monte Carlo was only ever offered in one body style, that being a two-door hardtop. The appearance of a convertible in the sales brochure clearly shows that Chevy was considering a drop-top version of the Monte. The examples that have been converted also illustrate that it would’ve been a great-looking option if the maker had decided to go through with the idea.

An early Chevrolet brochure shows that a convertible Monte Carlo was on the drawing boards. A letter was sent out to dealerships explaining that this was not an option, even though Chevy issued drawings to the contrary. Several Monte Carlos have been modified to convertible status and we think they look great!

1971 Monte Carlo Engine Options

350 cubic-inch (two-barrel) V8, 245hp (base)

350 cubic-inch (four-barrel) V8, 270hp

400 cubic-inch (four-barrel) big-block V8, 300hp

454 cubic-inch (four-barrel) big-block V8, 365hp (available as “SS”)

Monte Carlo VIN Decoder:

First Character: Division of General Motors

1 – Chevrolet

Second and Third Characters: Series Designation  

38 – Monte Carlo

Fourth and Fifth Characters: Body Style/Model

57 – 2-door hardtop coupe

Sixth Character: Year of Production

1 – 1971

Seventh Character: Final Assembly Plant  

R – Arlington, Texas

A – Atlanta, Georgia

B – Baltimore, Maryland

F – Flint, Michigan

G – Framingham, MA

K – Kansas City, Missouri

L – Van Nuys, California

Z – Fremont, California

1 – Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

Eighth through Thirteenth Characters: Sequential Production Number

The sequential starting number for U.S. production of the 1971 Monte Carlo was 100001 and Canadian production began at 500001.

It should be noted that the Monte Carlo and Chevelle were built on the same assembly lines at Baltimore, Flint, and Los Angeles (Van Nuys) and sequencing numbers would be in the same range. This means that if the Monte Carlo shown with the inspector was sequence number 123456, the Chevelle next in line would be sequence number 123457.

The Monte Is Still A Fan Favorite

Chevy’s Monte Carlo has captivated Bowtie enthusiasts as racing fans on the big oval, as well as the boulevard. Even today, many enthusiasts are still quite fond of Chevy’s Personal Luxury car.

Monte Carlo at Carlisle GM Nationals

The First Generation Monte Carlo Club celebrates the first three years of production of this marque each year at events around the nation. The next event is scheduled for the upcoming, Carlisle GM Nationals in June.

What started as Chevrolet’s entry into the crowded personal luxury market has fostered six generations of Monte Carlo designs for Bowtie enthusiasts, each era is distinct and was equally suited for its time. With over three decades of production, enthusiasts have a wide variety of Monte Carlo cars to choose from and the 1971 Monte Carlo is one of the stand-outs from this marque.

A great resource of parts for your Monte Carlo is the Original Parts Group in Seal Beach, California. They offer the largest selection of GM restoration parts and accessories with their numerous catalogs and were also a great resource in putting together this story. Check out the OPGI website, which is searchable by year, make, and model of many GM vehicles. For this story, we’re going to focus on the body styles, engines, assembly plants, and VIN decoding of the 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo exclusively.

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About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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