Home / Car News / Cold Start: Meet Chevy’s First Quad Rectangular Headlight Car, The Monza 2+2

Cold Start: Meet Chevy’s First Quad Rectangular Headlight Car, The Monza 2+2

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I know I mentions headlights in the, well, headline, and here I am showing the rear, but I just loved this old brochure-painting too much, with what’s-her-name over there and her sassy canary yellow duffel bag and that belt that looks like it could act as a tow strap, in a pinch.

Also, I always liked the look of these Monzas, this one from 1975, which sort of fit in the same general category of American hatchbacks like the Pinto and the Pacer; they all shared some odd proportions and detail choices from the rear, and I kinda like them: wide butts, rectangular taillights, clean lines, minimal detail, big windows–you get it.

I also really like some of the other details of the car that were chosen to be highlighted in the brochure:

Those rectangular headlights, of course, which were hot shit in 1975, and, yes, this was the first time Chevy (well, in America, at least) attempted to deliver four of them per car. Could Americans handle it? We just didn’t know, but we did know those rubber impact strips were cushiony.

Honestly, making a point that cabin air “exits through a new place for American cars” is just kinda weird. Were Americans clamoring for new places for their air to exit?

So the steering wheel is “a nifty size?” Oh, okay, thanks for that, nifty steering wheel sizing was at the very top of my list of requirements for a new car. I may have settled for a keen-sized or even neat-sized wheel, but I’m glad I won’t have to.

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52 Responses

  1. Did I realize the first car I drove – ‘borrowed’ from the garage after my Grandpa went to sleep, after Ma went off to the night shift at the hospital – had the POWER and BRILLIANCE of twin-quad headlamps?
    I did not.
    Always thought Gramps was super-cool – now I know for sure.
    Also very comfy car to drive two-to-three blocks at a time, diving to the curb to park whenever headlights showed up on the road ahead! Oh what passed for excitement when you’re 13 in upstate NY! :ps:

  2. So many questions….
    What was the first dual-rectangular headlight Chevy that got the privilege of exclusivity before this Monza? (And in which market)
    What years was that horizontal Pepsi-ish Chevy logo used? And was it on the entire lineup (sans Corvette, but I’m guessing other models also had their specific badging)
    Why Monza in fact? Seems they could’ve gone with something more “Riviera” than “Corse”, considering its shitbox status.
    These were sold up north, right? Pretty sure I never saw one. They definitely didn’t make it past 10-12 winters if they did.
    A soft resilient urethane skin that looks like metal .. did it really though?
    What’s with the yellow roof? Or is it vinyl stripes? Still, same inquiry.
    Why isn’t he smoking? I didn’t think a spokesman was credible in the 70s if he didn’t exhale seriousness.
    And really, what’s in the duffel bag?

  3. The Monza may have been a malaise-addled piece of shit, but it was an attractive malaise-addled piece of shit.

    Also, what other cars on this planet have an ammeter instead of a voltmeter? At the very least, it feels like a missed opportunity to include instrumentation beyond the letter T. At most, it would be a very useful thing to troubleshoot the inevitable short circuit on your malaise-era piece of shit.

    1. Pretty much every Chrysler (well those that rated gauges) well into the late 70s. This was mostly fine when charging systems were less than 40As but became more problematic as outputs increased. Most weren’t shunted so a heavy gauge wire was routed though the firewall, twice (in and out), to place the meter between alternator and battery. This used to burn up the harness connector at the firewall and the occasional gauge cluster. Swapping to a voltmeter to indicate charging status was a pretty big reliability win even if less useful for diagnostic purposes.

  4. I remember these being such junkie little cars. They made a big deal of the few minor amenities it had because that was really all you got. Chevy sure had a way of reminding you that you bought the cheap and basic ride. Maybe, if you work really hard you’ll be able to move up to a Malibu, but for now it’s the cheap seats for you, kid 🙁

      1. My grandfather had the same Malibu. When he got it my dad was so upset, “Dad, why did you buy a pea-green Malibu?”. Grandpa, “Because it was the only one on the lot”. Dad, “There’s a reason for that, don’t you think?” 🙂

  5. Given how disgusting the air quality was in a lot of US cities in the 1970s, i wouldn’t think that pulling in outside air would have been a selling point. But hey, at least the Monza wouldn’t suffocate/poison you like the Peel P-50, amirite? Seriously though, I always loved the mid-1970’s Monzas and Sunbirds when I was a kid. And they could have been so much “niftier”, in addition to that color-matched steering wheel, if GM had gone through with plans to power them with a Wankel engine.

    1. The Monza was likely the closest any other manufacturer came to entering the rotary foray. It’s fun to play “what if?” when it comes to a major manufacturer putting a lot of development into the rotary.

      1. Wasn’t the Pacer also supposed to have a rotary? I remember reading they had changed plans because the manufacturer providing the engine backed out. I’m guessing we’re talking about the same GM engine, which brings me to this question…

        How common was it for one of the big 3 to supply engines to a smaller domestic manufacturer? (AMC, Nash, stud, etc. Not counting binationals like Cobras or DeTomasos) Wasn’t their whole deal to crush them till they died so they’d never try again? Wouldn’t selling them engines go against that goal?
        (Let’s keep it post-war..)

        1. Yes, American Motors was contributing some funding toward GM’s rotary engine development program, and would have purchased the engines from GM once they were ready (American Motors had also purchased their own, separate license on the Wankel patents, and was planning to build their own rotary in-house, eventually, as the second phase of the program -remember, in the early ’70s, a lot of people thought rotaries were going to become the new default standard for internal combustion eventually).

          When GM scrapped the rotary program after the first OPEC oil embargo, American Motors couldn’t afford to complete development on their own, and so resorted to shoe-horning their straight six into the Pacer, since that was the smallest engine they had available. Why it didn’t occur to them until well into the 1980s they they could chop two cylinders off and build a 4 with the same tooling, I have no idea. They did it eventually, just too late for the Pacer.

        2. The Pacer originally would have had rotary engines from Curtiss-Wright, the aviation company. The most memorable thing Curtiss-Wright ever put a rotary in was a Mustang. Then AMC switched to GM engines, but obviously it never happened.

    1. It’s like that for everyone these days, not just GM. The oversimplified reason is that it’s a result of beefing up the A/B/C-pillars to meet newer crash safety standards. And since blind-spot monitoring and backup cameras are now ubiquitous/required, there’s no reason to even try to make them smaller anymore.

      1. Way back in 2001 Volvo had a concept car that was all about safety, it had things like advanced collision detection, lane departure warnings and many other techno safety features that are common today.

        However, it had one thing that I have yet to see anywhere which is surprising. It’s a-pillar was a lattice work structural columns with windows in-between each space allowing you to see through the thick a-pillar. A great solution, I can only assume it isn’t cost effective though.

  6. When the Monza first came out I really liked it. Then Road&Track magazine told me I wanted one with the V-8, 5spd, dual exhausts, etc . I then hied down to the Army PX new car salesmen and sought out the GM rep. A few hours later I had ordered mine in black over red with every upgrade and accessory checked off. Money changed hands and I was promised it would be waiting for me in New York when I returned stateside. Oh joy and anticipation.

    Fast forward three months and SFC Carriker, his wife, and small son are now are in a taxi headed to the docks where a dealer rep. was waiting. We were laden with two suitcases a small duffle and a carryon bag. Also the family cat. We arrive and release the taxi. A typical car salesman approached us. I didn’t like him. He escorted us to a warehouse, failing to offer to help with the luggage.

    The grand unveiling was a sad sad event. Under the glare of warehouse lights sat a light blue base Chevy Monza sedan. It was filthy. It was obviously something that hadn’t sold and was “hand selected” just for me.

    I won’t go into a lot of other details except to say it finally ended up with us living in a cheap hotel for three days while I fought with the dealership. I finally got my down payment and deposit back. No apologies. No courtesy, no help making arrangements. Remember this was pre-computer, no cell phones.

    Ended up renting a Chevy Caprice from Hertz (They paid me! to deliver it to St. Louis) and driving home to my parents. The next week my Dad and I went to his local Chevy dealer and I inked a deal for a brand new ’78 Chevy Monte Carlo with a 350 and a four speed. Next day converted to true duals with “Smitty” glass packs. This was in pre-historic Missouri when you could do such things on the spur of the moment. Turned out a pretty good deal after all.

  7. I had the 1976 Oldsmobile Starfire version of this as my first car. Automatic. Blue. 6 Cyl. Heavy doors sagged to the point where they eventually wouldn’t shut correctly. It wasn’t a particularly memorable car but wasn’t bad as a first ride. I discovered Datsun/Nissan Z Cars soon after and the rest is history.

  8. As somebody who owns aV8 75 Monza (and it’s completely restored), the long list of comments like cutting holes to change spark plugs, ECT make me realize how many keyboard mechanics there are on sites like this.
    Most of these tools and I’m referring to the people, not the spark plug sockets, probably wouldn’t know how to change a spark plug on a Briggs & Stratton without 3 hours of YouTube videos.

  9. V-8 equipped/option: To change the all the spark plugs, didn’t it require dropping the engine for access? Or cut a hole in the passenger firewall as a shortcut? I remember our neighbor shouting at the car when I was a kid. Maybe the vents were clogged ..

  10. A Monza 2+2 was my first car. Black with a red strip at the bottom. It had rear louvers on the window and a spoiler and a red velour interior. Mine had a 3.8 V6, but I don’t think it was original to the car. That car was a complete piece of shit, but I loved it with every ounce of my soul.

  11. This was actually THE first American-market car to come to market with square headlights as part of its’ design concept – the other GM ’75s with quad square headlights were all facelifts of the 1971-generation full size cars (Pontiac Grand Ville/Bonneville, Olds 98, Buick Electra and Riviera and all Cadillacs) or the Buick-Olds badge engineered versions of this car. The Cadillac Seville didn’t appear until midyear, quad square headlights were GM-exclusive that first year of so and single squares didn’t appear until ’78.

  12. These were GREAT cars! /s Had a 19 yr old girl friend who bought one new with the V8. Lasted barely 3 years. Seems the oil pans could be flattened up into the crank shaft if one hit a speed bump over 3 mph. Overall a great car, especially compared to the Chevette.

  13. I had the Buick version which was the Skyhawk. I thought they were a pretty slick looking car in their day. Mine was a 1977, bought it in 1981 when I was 19 as a commuter car to community college. It was a 3.8 odd fire v6, 4 speed with the f41 suspension package with 40,000 miles. I added the Monza Spyder spoilers to it. The interior quality was horrible, the vinyl seats cracked across the stitching shortly after I got it, the arm rest/door pulls all broke (I’d scrounge the junkyards for replacements but they were all broken). The plastic in the rear deteriorated from the sun. The hatchback was handy as I could haul my bike, cars parts for other projects, etc, made it much more versatile. I would squirt oil in the lower panel drain holes during winter (in Michigan), the body held up amazingly well. Drove it until spring 89 when I bought a new F150. It still looked good then although it started to rust through at the cowl by the windshield and on the C-pilar. The brakes could have been bigger and the cable clutch was crappy. The last winter I drove it, the foam seals in the heater deteriorated and rained black flakes of foam inside when you used the defroster.

  14. That Monza’s ventilation system sounds like an ancestor of Astro Ventilation when GM exhausted cabin air through slots in the trunk lid. I guess the Monza was the Chevy recovery plan for having foisted the Vega on the buying public.

  15. Mistake me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me cabin air exhaust blowers were a selling point to exhaust the cabin air due to how prevalent smoking was. I’d much rather have outside air than bask in a cigarette hot box.

  16. If I recall the 75 Monte Carlo had quad rectangular headlights. Two stacked on each side. An obtuse look.

    I suppose the Monza was to compete with the Mustang II. A gilded Vega, not very impressive. Then again the mid 70s was largely the automotive dark ages….

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