Rare Rides: A Pristine Chevrolet Monte Carlo From 1987, Mid-market Personal Luxury

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a pristine chevrolet monte carlo from 1987 mid market personal luxury

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]

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  • Spookiness Spookiness on Apr 04, 2021

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

  • Lichtronamo Lichtronamo on Apr 05, 2021

    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.

    • Conundrum Conundrum on Apr 06, 2021

      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.

  • Tassos BTW I thought this silly thing was always called the "Wienermobile".
  • Tassos I have a first cousin with same first and last name as my own, 17 years my junior even tho he is the son of my father's older brother, who has a summer home in the same country I do, and has bought a local A3 5-door hatch kinds thing, quite old by now.Last year he told me the thing broke down and he had to do major major repairs, replace the whole engine and other stuff, and had to rent a car for two weeks in a touristy location, and amazingly he paid more for the rental ( Euro1,500, or $1,650-$1,700) than for all the repairs, which of course were not done at the dealer (I doubt there was a dealer there anyway)
  • Tassos VW's EV program losses have already been horrific, and with (guess, Caveman!) the Berlin-Brandenburg Gigafactory growing by leaps and bounds, the future was already quite grim for VW and the VW Group.THis shutdown will not be so temporary.The German Government may have to reach in its deep pockets, no matter how much it hates to spend $, and bail it out."too big to fail"?
  • Billccm I had a 1980 TC3 Horizon and that car was as reliable as the sun. Underappreciated for sure.
  • Inside Looking Out I did not notice, did they mention climate change? How they are going to fight climate change, racism and gender discrimination. I mean collective Big 3.