Bowtie Boneyard

Monte Carlos, Great and Small

By Steve Magnante – Photography by the Author

Personal luxury is what the Monte Carlo was all about. Unlike a full-dress Caprice, which was based on the comparatively huge Impala chassis or the Corvette, that though “personal” was far from luxurious, the Monte Carlo was perfectly sized with just two doors and enough plush upholstery to satisfy any fur coat salesman.

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Below the “A” in the “Awesome Don” driver side door window graphics, part of the multi-point rollbar is visible. The hood wasn’t open—and we don’t touch other folks’ stuff—but we’d guess a typical 400hp small-block saw duty and this machine ran in the mid 12-second bracket.

It’s often forgotten, but the Monte Carlo grew from the fertile mind of John Z. DeLorean. Yes, Johnny Z. may be best remembered for the ’64 Pontiac GTO, the gullwing door Back To The Future DMC-12 exoticar and a messy hotel room encounter with DEA agents—for which he was acquitted (see, he really was “a legitimate businessman”)—but without him the Monte wouldn’t be.

As the 58 class win stickers hint, “Awesome Don” lived up to his name. Englishtown Raceway Park was opened on July 4, 1965 by Vinny Napp and continued to operate for 53 consecutive years, playing host to thousands of historic drag racing moments and hosting the NHRA Summernationals for many years.

That’s because before he became president of Chevrolet on February 15, 1969, DeLorean was head of Pontiac Motor Division where he masterminded the creation of the all-new redesign of the Pontiac Grand Prix for 1969. You know the ’69 Grand Prix, it’s the car with the 6-foot-long hood.

White paint calls out the 12-bolt axle’s aftermarket aluminum inspection cover with carrier bearing preload screws. The frame has typical northeast rust flakes. The battery ground cable at the top of the picture is part of the trunk-mounted battery and NHRA mandated external kill switch.

Knowing GM bean counters wouldn’t approve, the Grand Prix’s unique two-door-only “Special A” body shell for use on a Pontiac model alone (where sales volume wouldn’t repay development costs quickly enough), he convinced Pete Estes (then-president of Chevrolet) to build a similar model … which would become the ’70 Monte Carlo. Between Pontiac and Chevrolet the “Special A” two-doors would amortize the unique development costs and tooling in a jiffy.

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The long wheel studs probably retained a wider set of Centerline wheels and sticky tires. The stock axle shafts are a surprise on this bracket killer. Unless C-clip eliminators are in place, “Awesome Don” either ran D.O.T.-approved “street” tires or was good friends with the tech inspectors. That said, since Raceway Park closed for good in 2019, this Monte Carlo’s sanctioned drag racing days are over.

As the name implies, the “Special A” body is an evolution of the midsized A-body platform that underpinned the Pontiac Tempest and Chevy Chevelle beginning in 1964. But for the refreshed ’69 Grand Prix project (which began way back in late 1966), DeLorean specified an extra 6 inches of wheelbase (versus ’69 GTO, Chevelle, and so on) to give it the long-hood, short-decklid proportions of European sports cars like the Jaguar E-Type and best Ferrari coupes.

A decade later, the “downsized” ’78 Monte Carlo rode on a 108-inch wheelbase but retained echoes of the long hood effect. This ’80 Monte Carlo packs a turbocharged surprise. If the red carburetor airbox, flexible plastic feed hose, and canister air cleaner are familiar to ’78-’83 Buick Regal owners, don’t forget that Chevrolet offered the 3.8L Turbo V-6 in Monte Carlos (but never Malibus or Monte Carlos) in 1980 and 1981. We discovered this original paint gem in an Idaho stash.

But here’s the rub. While the new ’69 Pontiac Grand Prix got the 118-inch wheelbase and that wild 6-foot-long hood, its Monte Carlo twin of 1970 “only” rode on a 116-inch wheelbase, still 4 inches longer than the 112-inch Chevelle two-door wheelbase. Chevelle four-doors and wagons also rode on 116-inch wheelbases but their 4 inches of extra length were found behind the driver seat, not ahead of the firewall as on the Monte Carlo (and Grand Prix). As such, Chevelle four-door and wagon frames cannot be used under Monte Carlos.

Though Chevrolet also offered its 229ci (3.8L) V-6 in the Monte Carlo with natural aspiration and a mere 115 hp, the turbo version used Buick’s totally different 231ci bent six. Output was 170 hp with 265 lb-ft of torque—both numbers greater than the optional LG4 305 Chevy small-block’s 245 hp and 245 lb-ft. The Turbo V-6 option cost $550 and 13,839 sold in 1980 plus another 3,027 in 1981, when the option price rose from $550 to $750. At the bottom, the base 90-degree, 200ci V-6 delivered a depressing 94 hp.

In this installment of Bowtie Boneyard, lets’ examine some Monte Carlo relics, great and small.

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