By on April 2, 2021

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.

[Images: GM]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

31 Comments on “Rare Rides: A Pristine Chevrolet Monte Carlo From 1987, Mid-market Personal Luxury...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    a) How many of these were registered in Monaco?

    b) I really need to up my hose-dressing game.

    c) Ask yourself how far the photographer was standing from the vehicle in ‘GM’s’ shots, and the same question for the dealer shots (note that both photographers were ‘professionals,’ but…).

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      a) About the same number as Rivieras?

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        I have long suspected that the safe bet here (highest volume of all-time registrations of a model within the geographic place for which it is named) would be the New Yorker [city not state], but I am only 42.78% confident in this answer.

        https://automotivemap.com/cars-named-after-cities-2646851135.html

        Ferrari California gets a whole state [with a massive population], but Ferrari is low volume.

        Dodge Dakota gets two big states [but sparsely populated].

        Chevy Colorado could be a contender.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      Rambler American?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I do not understand ordering one of these with crank windows in 1987. Like, by then, they were an Ace of Base feature for cheap cars, not PLCs or anything else above base Celebrity level.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      They would bundle the power windows/locks into a big group of things you probably didn’t care for so you’d spend an extra $1,100 on a $7,995 base to get them.

      That’s when I learned to upgrade to power window/locks myself from used Cadillac, Lincoln parts.

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      Crank windows weren’t so bad until they cheapened the mechanism after everyone had to have power windows. I actually think a GOOD crank controlled driver’s window might be nice. Crank windows are much easier to crack just the right amount. Power windows can be maddening trying to get them just that right little bit opened.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    The top pic is an excellent illustration of the Monte’s uncanny power to attract high-class call girls like a magnet, even while unattended.

    • 0 avatar
      peeryog

      It must be the peeling clear coat on the hood.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        If I remember correctly, that started with GM ’88 models and the poorly adhering coatings that were “New! Transformational!” that year mostly from PPG. The clear would peel along with the color coat readily after a year or so in large sheets leaving the base (primer) coat behind.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “though someone splurged on the V8.”

    Sticking with the V6 might have been the better option in ’87. You could get it with the OD transmission, it had TBI and made 140hp/225lb-ft. Going for the V8 only brought you to 150hp/250lb-ft and you were stuck with carb voodoo.

    I had a chance to drive a TBI 4.3L V6 Caprice about a decade and it felt stronger than any Olds 307. NVH wasn’t great but for an aged V6 didn’t seem like a deal breaker. Never driven a carbureted 305 to compare though.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Would take a TBI 4.3 over a carbureted 305 every day for drivability, although fuel economy (like power) wouldn’t be much different.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Even the TBI 305 sucked. I still can’t imagine what made GM decide to make it the base engine for the IROC Camaro. Although it was the only way you could get a manual IROC. How stupid!

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          The TBI 305 in something like a Caprice was fine.

          I’m not sure what you’re talking about with the Camaro. A TBI V8 was standard on the IROC from ’88-’92 but I don’t see any year where it was the only V8 available with a manual.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            If you saw a manual IROC, it was (or is) probably the 305. IIRC the 5.7 was auto only.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            It’ll very likely be a 305, but not necessarily a TBI 305. In ’85 and ’86 a manual IROC was offered with the L69 (which was a 4bbl) and from ’87 onward a manual was offered with a port-injected 305.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Have personally driven a manual ’86 Z28 and can confirm it was carbureted, not TBI.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Thanks, that’s news to me. The 305 was the bigger problem, no matter how it was squirted

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Have to agree that I always found the 305 to be a somewhat disappointing engine.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Ah, the PLC. Being a teenager in the 80’s meant that most of our beater cars were 70’s PLCs. I had a ’72 Cutlass, a ’76 Monaco 2-door, and a ’79 Diplomat 2-door.
    The truth is, this automotive design concept was pretty impractical and I’m not surprised it’s gone.

    • 0 avatar
      chris13

      My first car (in 1987) was a 1980 Pontiac Grand Prix Agree on the design concept It weighed 2 tons, could fit two people, got poor gas milage while not having greet handling or acceleration and after 7 years was not very reliable anymore. On the plus side it did have a huge fake wood grain dashboard with many gauges, including a clock that never worked. It was also great if owners of nice expensive cars tried to cut me off.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I had a 1963 Chrysler Newport with several side dents and a big crease in the front bumper: a previous owner must have knocke a freight car off the tracks – thosse bumpers were plate steel stamped with a million psi press.

        It was the ultimate stay-away car, massive, ugly, and menacing. Even girls in Corollas didn’t dare to cut me off in local traffic. On the freeway, I picked a lane and had plenty of room all around.

        It was a serene experience enjoyed only by drivers of semi’s and dump trucks, but it was much faster, adding to the intimidation. The only downsides were tight parking spaces and 12 MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Remember the demographics of that era. Lots of single boomers. And disposable income except during the periodic crisis (OPEC embargo, and massive interest rates) was generally pretty good.

      Couple that with the fact that emission controls strangled the ‘muscle car’ market and the PLC was a natural progression. Something that combined the muscle car coupe style with the ‘luxury’ of high end sedans (at least for the 2 front seat occupants).

      As for the ‘roll down’ windows on this particular vehicle, nothing ‘strange’ about that. What I find disconcerting is a ‘bench seat’ on a PLC. That almost defeats the purpose of this design.

      The Grand Prixs of the 70’s/early 80s had among the nicest instrument panels of any vehicle. And were about as reliable as any domestic.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 1990 I purchased a 81 Monte Carlo for $1200. It was moderately optioned in brown with a tan landau top, a tan vinyl bench seat crank windows and rally wheels. The 229 Chevrolet V6 managed to get out of its own way fine. I don’t think the Buick 231 was offered though there was a Monte Carlo turbo available with the turbo V6, obligatory hood bulge and turbo emblems. The first Chevrolet turbo since the Corvair.
    At the time I looked into performance upgrades for the 229 but there weren’t any available just a bevy for the 231. I got four years out of it with few issues and minimal maintenance.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I had a 78 Mailbu coupe, same chassis, same interior, different body (much better looking in my opinion). I had the 305 with 4-speed and sport suspension option. But, with 135HP and a 2.72 diff there’s not much in it. I upgraded shocks and anti-sway bars and tires, which improved handling response. My big mistake was rebuilding the 305 with shaved heads a different cam and a 4bbl, I could have simply swapped a 350 into it with more torque, also turned down a free 3.42 diff because of ‘fuel economy’ haha! The A/G bodies were nice cars though, despite being from GM during the crappiest era in cars.

  • avatar

    I did not experience that period and know these cars only from history books. But while Monte Carlo on the top picture looks attractive the real one on sale looks like chimera – 80s period GM front clip slapped on 70s period coupe. No wonder Taurus wiped out all these cars. If you ask mw PLC from 80s it would be Audi 80. It is not a coupe but it is similarly impractical so you call it 4 door coupe.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Third paragraph correction: the corresponding Buick PLC of the era was Regal not Skylark.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Is the 1981 really a new generation from the 78-80? Its the same platform, doors, greenhouse, roof, and interior – only the front and rear clips look different.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      I wonder about that as well, but not enough to look it up. The ’78 was a blight on the landscape to behold; this one is mildly better. My business partner had an ’83 which by 1995 had had its frame rewelded twice due to rust — there was a local business which prospered on being specialists in that aspect of old A-body work, and they were busy. That’s because the last body-on-frame intermediate seemed to hold hypnotic power over its owners. Never understood why, just accepted it. Having spent many a mile as a front seat passenger in that Monte Carlo, my impressions were of an underdamped bobbing up and down ride, crap small interior, and that curious corkscrew motion the front end made as whatever passed for suspension underneath did its thing. Other than that it was smooth, completely gutless with the 305 and useless in snow and drank unleaded passionately. So much to recommend! No wonder they were popular.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • VWGolfGuy: Ugly rear end. Vehicle style will not age well.
  • EBFlex: Hopefully FaceBook and Twitter follow suit.
  • kcflyer: “All that 1A says is that the government can’t punish a person for speaking against the government....
  • Matt Posky: It does when they fall under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and there are tons of...
  • Rick T.: Does anybody know of any studies that show the raw materials, manufacturing facilities, and electricity are...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber