Home » The Final Chevrolet Monte Carlo Looked Faster Than It Was: GM Hit Or Miss

The Final Chevrolet Monte Carlo Looked Faster Than It Was: GM Hit Or Miss

2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Topshot
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The Pontiac Vibe was brilliant, right? Practical, well-priced, and generally reliable, it was a joy to cover for the last GM Hit or Miss. There’s just one problem — it’s really a Toyota underneath. So, let’s get back on track with something as GM as a Chevrolet with a bigass number three on the side. Yep, it’s the final Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Welcome back to GM Hit or Miss, where we jump in the pool of GM’s pre-bankruptcy product planning in an attempt to find a spot where the temperature’s just dandy.

1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

When it was first launched for 1970, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo was the peak of American personal luxury. It was long, potent, and poised for the open highway. Over the next 16 model years, the Monte Carlo would continue to be a strong seller in the marketplace, trading on traditional body-on-frame rear-wheel-drive construction and a balance between comfort and muscle. It was Chevrolet’s NASCAR Winston Cup entry, and it carried a distinct vibe of win on Sunday, sell on Monday. By 1987 though, the G-Body platform underneath the Monte Carlo had grown long in the tooth and was due for replacement. After a few years of essentially nothingness, out of the ether came a downsized, front-wheel-drive everyday family coupe. Its name? Lumina.

Lumina Z34

Alright, so Lumina isn’t the most evocative name in the automotive kingdom, but the Lumina coupe was a reasonably attractive car, especially in Z34 form. More importantly, it was built on GM’s W-Body platform, with advanced technologies like transverse leaf spring rear suspension, unibody construction, and available anti-lock brakes. Okay, so that does make it sound like America was living in the dark ages for a while, but the fuel crisis Malaise hangover was Four Loko-levels of potent. While the Lumina silhouette kept racing in NASCAR and cars kept rolling out of showrooms, something was missing: Brand equity.

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1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

In 1994, Chevrolet announced that it was bringing the Monte Carlo name back from the dead for what was effectively the second-generation Lumina coupe. It was a great use of brand equity that sold well enough, but something about it was always missing in my eyes. While the Lumina was angular and rakish, the Monte Carlo that immediately followed was bloated and blobby. The high-output 3.4-liter LQ1 V6 was a rev-happy marvel for the time, but the car as a whole felt largely forgettable, and that’s not what a Monte Carlo should be. For the next round, things were different.

2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 1

The people in charge of the final Monte Carlo took hefty swigs of Budweiser and issued a directive: Make it look like a goddamn NASCAR. With that directive in mind, Wayne Cherry and his team sculpted a roof, hood, and decklid so cup car-like that the actual race cars used street car sheetmetal, then carved out some Scalloped fenders as a throwback to the Colonnade cars. When the 2000 Monte Carlo rolled onto the auto show floor, it looked like it was ready for ‘Dega.

2000 Monte Carlo Ls Profile

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However, the bits underneath were geared more for bingo than for wheel-to-wheel brawling. Base models came with the 3.4-liter LA1 V6 from a Chevrolet Venture minivan churning up Dexron through a 4T65E four-speed automatic gearbox. Except it wasn’t exactly the same V6 as in the corporate minivan because the Venture was more powerful, making 185 horsepower and 215 lb.-ft. of torque to the Monte Carlo’s 180 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. Yep. Needless to say, the base model wasn’t quick.

2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss 1

[Editor’s Note: These headlights always reminded me of Kermit the Frog‘s pupils. – JT]

Stepping up to the SS model swapped that weedy 3.4 out for a 3.8-liter naturally aspirated V6 making 200 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft. of torque. That seems alright in a vacuum, but then you learn that Car And Driver was only able to pull a zero-to-60 time of 8.6 seconds out of it. This means that the quickest original version of Chevrolet’s early-aughts racing-look coupe could be out-dragged to 60 mph by *checks notes* a Toyota Echo. Ever seen a badger bully a lion before?

2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Lineup

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Perhaps Car And Driver’s test car was a dog as other publications managed better figures, but that doesn’t mean that other outlets didn’t want more under the hood. In October 1999, Automobile magazine wrote that “with its legendary name and its strong NASCAR association, the Monte Carlo deserves better.”

2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss 3

 

While it’s initial straight-line deficit was disheartening, maybe the Monte Carlo made up for it in other ways. Perhaps the relative rigidity of the W-body platform compared to many other mass-market large coupes of the time paid off in handling or something. Nope. As Car And Driver put it during a three-car comparison test with the Dodge Stratus coupe and Ford Mustang GT:

Comfortable? Yes. Roomy? Yes, tops in this group. Solid? No question, arguably the best in this threesome. But sporty? Sorry. This car is as frisky and fun-loving as an Arthur Andersen accountant.

It’s a shame because the old rear-wheel-drive Monte Carlo SS models were willing to indulge in hooliganism. In fact, Car And Driver described the 1985 Monte Carlo SS as a vehicle that “offers its driver a nicely balanced portfolio of acceleration, braking and handling, and NASCAR style.” It’s easy to see why, given how that 1985 model dashed to 60 mph eight-tenths of a second quicker than the front-wheel-drive SS and carried an armpit hair more lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Still, that didn’t stop Chevrolet from building special edition Monte Carlos with explicit ties to NASCAR drivers.

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2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss Dale Earnhardt Signature Edition

First came the 2002 Dale Earnhardt Signature Edition with its contrasting lip kit, Intimidator badges, and number 3 on each side. As corny as that sounds, it united America in a time of crisis, much like Creed at the 2001 Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving halftime show. Following this up would be no easy task, but the 2003 Jeff Gordon Signature Edition holds a certain appeal of its own, with blue ghost flames saying everything you really need to know about the early 2000s.

1997 Pontiac Grand Prix Gtp

The naturally-aspirated 3800’s status as the top engine felt even more insulting when you realize that Pontiac had a supercharged 240-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 in its Grand Prix GTP for years, and that thing was a scorcher. Motor Trend ran zero-to-60 in 6.6 seconds in a 1997 Grand Prix GTP and described it as having “the surplus power of a Titan IV booster.” The supercharged 3800 was a sledgehammer of a V6, but it took its sweet time to arrive in the Monte Carlo. In fact, the supercharged motor wouldn’t show up until 2004, at which point the family-sized speed war had kicked into high gear. If that supercharged motor had rocketry in reserve, the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE was packing a scramjet, vaporizing its front tires in pursuit of a sub-six-second zero-to-60 time.

2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 1

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For 2006, things got weirder and better. The Monte Carlo gained the headlights and hood from the then-new ninth-generation Chevrolet Impala, a new front bumper cover, and new fenders blending everything together. Look, it wasn’t the prettiest facelift of all time, but what laid under the skin was more important.

2008 Impala 3.5 L Engine With Cover

The weedy 3.4-liter base V6 was replaced by a 3.5-liter unit that took output up to 211 horsepower and 214 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more horsepower than the naturally-aspirated 3.8-liter V6 made, so a 3.9-liter V6 with 242 horsepower and 242 lb.-ft. of torque was next up in the 2006 lineup. Once again, that’s more horsepower than the old supercharged 3800 V6 made (but less torque) without the complexity of a blower, which meant that GM needed something special as a range-topper. How about a V8?

2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss

Yes, six model years into its production run, the final Monte Carlo got its muscle back. The 5.3-liter LS4 V8 in the 2006 SS model pumped out 303 horsepower and 323 lb.-ft. of torque, leaning on a set of W-rated Goodyear tires to dash from zero-to-60 in six seconds flat during Motorweek testing. It also may have been a little too much muscle for the 4T65E-HD gearbox, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

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2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss 2

Unfortunately, the V8-powered Monte Carlo SS’ lifespan was cut short when Chevrolet pulled the plug on the entire Monte Carlo nameplate after the 2007 model year. After all, Chevrolet had a new coupe coming and this town wasn’t big enough for both a front-wheel-drive Monte Carlo and the Zeta platform fifth-generation Camaro.

2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Ss Rear

As underwhelming as the final Monte Carlo was, I can’t hate it completely. It gave NASCAR parents something to be excited about, a little slice of Dale for their Monday-through-Friday commutes. It also marked the absolute end of the personal luxury coupe, even if there wasn’t anything massively luxurious about the final Monte Carlo. Despite mostly being a sheep in wolf’s clothing, it was a hit, and proof that sometimes people will sacrifice a little bit of practicality for a whole lot of style. Sadly, it’s also a case of Joni Mitchell’s age-old tale: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Looking around at the automotive landscape in 2023, semi-practical mass-market large coupes are basically gone. No more Accord Coupe, no more Camry Solara, definitely no Monte Carlo, and even the Dodge Challenger is living on borrowed time. Oh well, the way the winds of change shift and all that.

(Photo credits: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Mecum, VX1NG – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Vee
Vee
1 year ago

The final generation had a rear fascia that was quite something to look at, smoothing out the vertical taillight design that really only disappeared with the rebadged Lumina. But my god has the Monte Carlo had a long history of poor or downright ugly front ends. The only times they weren’t bad were with the ’83 and up SS and Aerocoupe G-body variants, but the base models switched from oddly placed quad sealed beams to awful looking Celebrity headlights starting in 1987. And the final generation got hit the worst; first with the odd “I subdivided the Chevrolet logo twice” headlights, and then with the Impala front end that looked out of place because it was meant for a taller sedan with a higher ass. The proportions have also always been odd, with the rebadged Lumina having the best but still looking too narrow, and the final generation having the worst with that long ass that made the stretched wheelbase look even more exaggerated.

This last Monte Carlo’s looks didn’t suggest speed at all. It suggested a languid cruise on the Interstate at ten over the speed limit while listening to Foreigner and smoking Sonoma Light 100s.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Vee

I loved the Monte Carlo’s rear ends over the years, but the front ends all had a “give me the cheapest sedan you have” at Thrifty vibe to them.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago

A friend of mine had one of these with the 3.8. I was his mechanic, so I got to drive it on occasion. It seemed like a decent successor to the big malaise-era boulevard-bombers. Just something to cruise around comfortably in.

The NASCAR editions would have been more fun if they had kept Dupont’s “Rainbow Warrior” paint scheme from Jeff Gordon’s earlier ride.

Last edited 1 year ago by Boulevard_Yachtsman
Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

I rented an early 2000’s Monte Carlo for an Interstate trip and was quite happy with it except for the steering. In an attempt to make it feel sporty the power steering was very heavy. At the end of a day my arms actually ached a little. Still love the first generation. Wasn’t the hood like 6 feet long?

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
1 year ago

Not it didn’t look that fast.

As the song goes, It has a big butt that you can’t deny…

Sledgehammer
Sledgehammer
1 year ago

Monte Carlo was a dud.

Surely this is where the Pontiac GTO should have landed. It was considered too boring to be a GTO but would have fitted here. The original concept was released in 99 in production in 01 and based on a 4 door from 1998 so not terrible timing. Came with the 3800 or the LS1.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
1 year ago
Reply to  Sledgehammer

I remember looking at these (and collecting those dealer brochures) at the Chevy dealer when my dad was getting his truck serviced. Personal luxury coupes were so dated and lame feeling at the time and the Nascar themed ones made me cringe. I couldn’t imagine who these were for, at least as a socal jr high skater kid.

I really enjoy this series, takes me back

Last edited 1 year ago by Rabob Rabob
Crab People
Crab People
1 year ago

I never understood who bought these, other than NASCAR fans. The size of a sedan, but with only two doors! It never seemed any sportier than a Lumina. Bring it back though. Put it on the same platform as the Camaro, but tune it for comfort rather than sportiness, and call it a GT car.

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
1 year ago
Reply to  Crab People

The rumor is the Camaro is going to be turned into an electric sport sedan, but naming it Monte Carlo or Chevelle makes more sense

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago

Pop had one, possibly a 2004. He was an old-school guy and to him it was the best available of the dying breed of the American PLC.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

For the love of Jesus can I get an answer about a subject that pops its head up everyday and never gets answered?
Now if i am driving a broken wreck or my car was put out of commission and i need a car or just want reliable cheap. There are many new cars on old platforms ala Dodge, toyota, what have you. Everyone here bitches about cars aren’t updated often enough. Me i dont care my problem is these new old platform cars keep being priced higher due to new year. Why arent these old platforms getting cheaper every year? R&D is paid off. If i get a decent brand new 2010 car today at half price of other new cars sell me two.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I think older platforms do lower costs, it’s just that perhaps all the new non-platform stuff that’s added due to demand swamps the effect. So we don’t see an overall decrease in price despite the one constant.

Nearly every year there’s more tech going into vehicles, both active and passive. And plenty of non-tech things are constantly being refined and updated to match market tastes. We used to be fine with large amounts of plastic and vinyl in cars, but now, it’s considered terrible, even on lower end stuff.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

You should move someplace where you can buy a Dacia.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

The Dodge charger and challenger, one of the Nissan trucks, and maybe the land cruiser, are on old platforms.

Scoutdude
Scoutdude
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

There are a number of reasons.

#1 retail prices aren’t based on what it costs to produce, they are based on what the market will bear. That means that they make good money on some vehicles, barely brake even on others and loose money on some.

#2 a big reason that cars hang around on a platform w/o updates is that the tooling and development costs are not yet fully amortized, or worn out. Lower volume vehicles take longer to fully amortize and thus have to have a longer life span, particularlly if sales volumes or sales prices are lower than initially predicted.

VermonsterDad
VermonsterDad
1 year ago

I prefer the 1995-1999 model over the NASCAR generation that followed. I drove a friend’s with the 3.4 V6, was a great road trip car.

Also, yes to bringing back the semi-practical mass-market large coupes. While we are at it, if any automotive exec want to green light my niche requests, can we bring back 1980’s buick seats. . .you know the ones that look and fell like your living room lazy boy? I am getting old and want those to make a come back.

Mike B
Mike B
1 year ago
Reply to  VermonsterDad

I agree on the seats! I don’t know why carmakers are obsessed with firm seats. Same with the ride. In the late 90’s my buddy drove an ’88 Towncar, that thing was like sitting and riding in a cloud.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 year ago

I sometimes see this dude with an immaculate Dale Edition. Like the thing looks brand new. It’s honestly really impressive. But, he always parks the thing in the very back of whatever big box store he’s at, mainly Petco. No idea why he’s always there. Probably for all the pets he needed to replace his spouse after she left him for parking his Dale car in ass-end of nowhere three miles from the entrance. For that one dude in Maine this car was a major hit. For the rest of us, these things look like white water rafts. Raise Hell Praise Dale.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 year ago

Searched for a pristine Dale edition someone “collected”, instead found a Tony Stewart (?) edition I didn’t even know existed. $30k!
https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/7d61122a-c185-424a-b80e-d8c1bc9527bd/

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
1 year ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

I knew they did a Dale Jr version. Didn’t know they did Tony too! Now I’m disappointed there is no Gordon version. Just imagine this lifeboat in dark blue w/ flames.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 year ago

There is a Gordon edition out there. Here is one someone treated with the respect of a rare exotic back in 2003. Only 17k miles. Does have ghost flames.

https://www.nsclassics.com/2003-chevrolet-monte-carlo—super-sport—jeff-gordon-edition—low-miles—see-video-c-4867/

Goof
Goof
1 year ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

Holy moly, actual first review under that listing:

My sun was accident air bags did not deploy he passed away seat belt broak and he was eject as the result he passed away

Seatbelts fail, airbags don’t deploy, son dies — but Mom still gives it a 2.4 out of 5!

Last edited 1 year ago by Goof
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Goof

Coincidentally 2.4 was her GPA in English class

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
1 year ago

I raced one of these at a Lemons race years ago, with the base model 3.4l. And yeah, these aren’t sporty cars. But they are roomy cars and they do tend to be cockroaches of the road like many of GM’s offerings.

Kevin B Rhodes
Kevin B Rhodes
1 year ago

They don’t look even slightly fast, so that is depressing.

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

Worked with a woman who bought 3 of these when they were discontinued, one to drive and the others for later, no idea what happened to them

Steve Schriefer
Steve Schriefer
1 year ago

I got one of the last generation as a rental car and was shocked at the tiny interior space. I hated every day of driving that week and never made the mistake of getting one again. Honestly, how can a car that long have an interior that makes you feel claustrophobic?

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 year ago

Interesting. I found the interior to be cavernous in my 2001. I went on multiple road trips with tall friends and it was never an issue. I wonder if the facelifted ones got worse?

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

Not to discount the durability part WRT the LS4 W-bodies, but the Lucerne getting the Northstar was more about it being a quick and easy job, since the platform was already set up for the Northstar, since it was related to the DTS (and the defunct GXP Bonneville from the prior gen).

Last edited 1 year ago by GreatFallsGreen
Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
1 year ago

Those were H/C-body cars. The W-body didn’t have the room to fit a Northstar. The reason they went to the 60* V6’s in place of the 90* Buick V6 was packaging. Those 3800’s barely fit. The LS4 was somehow worse.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

I know – I wasn’t saying anything about the packaging, just the Lucerne got the Northstar because the platform & powertrain was ready to go, not because it was necessarily a more durable powertrain. Popping the LS4 into the Lucerne would have taken more work.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

I actually liked the 95-99 Monte, much more than the final gen – not exciting, but trim and inoffensive.

8.5s to 60 isn’t too bad for the time given its size but seems slow against other NA 3800 W-bodies. C/D clocked a Regal to 60 in 8.1 and I just watched Motorweek’s ’97 Grand Prix retro review last night, which clocked that at 7.7.

Rippstik
Rippstik
1 year ago

This means that the quickest original version of Chevrolet’s early-aughts racing-look coupe could be out-dragged to 60 mph by *checks notes* a Toyota Echo.” bwhahaha, ooooof. As a previous owner of an Echo, this hits home about how absolutely sluggish the Monte Carlo is.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago

My vote for the ugliest vehicle to ever come out of Detroit. Hideous.

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

While I agree with your general intention and agree, I think you may have forgotten about the Aztek. I would also nominate The Uplander van and clones when GM tried to tack a CUV front end on them; atrocious.

Vic Vinegar
Vic Vinegar
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Except the Aztek was designed to be utilitarian. It could be ugly and still offer value. I can discount it on the vans too…are they still doing their jobs as vans? So what if they are ugly, no one buys a van to look cool.

The Monte Carlo is supposed to look good while you are cruising in it. With no looks and no performance, it offers nothing.

Doctor Nine
Doctor Nine
1 year ago
Reply to  Vic Vinegar

Indeed. I could not have said it better.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago
Reply to  Doctor Nine

That’s not even close to reality, unfortunately.

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
1 year ago

I want a Last Gen Monte Carlo SS with the V8 for reasons

Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
Carbon Fiber Sasquatch
1 year ago
Reply to  Scott Ross

Saaaame. I wish the Dale version came in the V8

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

In fairness, it did outlast its competitor & my personal favorite, the T-bird coupe.

While I did like the retrobird, I really liked the 9th and 10th gen coupes of the ’80s and ’90s for their presence and daily usability. Which the Monte Carlo always had and stuck with.

Clark B
Clark B
1 year ago

The proportions on this car always looked off to me. I know they were going for the NASCAR look, but the rear end of that car somehow looks too big. There’s a joke here, and my brain is too tired to make one.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Clark B

It’s the ratio of side window to B pillar size that does it I think…too much metal makes the rear look bulbous.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 year ago

They were comfortable for those wide of shoulder and long of leg. And it had the 3800. What’s not to love?

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago

Things will break, but not the things that make it start and make it go.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 year ago

A car so ugly only a NASCAR fan could love it.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

1st thing that came to mind RoadKill’s NasCarlo
I also like the Monte Carlo in general

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