Classic Car Watch
Chevrolet Monte Carlo

NOTE: This column displays cars I have found on the Internet. I am not selling them. Please follow the links if you are interest in a car. Be mindful of the date this article was published. For an explanation why I do this read the original column here.

February 4, 2018
By Scott Lewis

This is the first time I have put out a column more than once in a month. That is because I am actually looking at cars. If the price is low ($20K or less) I could probably buy it right now. If it is more than that I have to wait until the end of March to come up with a sufficient down payment. Regardless, I plan to release columns showing my selection process, and telling what I decide about each car from inquiring or even visiting them. I visited the third car listed below, so please read at least that far.

I hope you join me for this ride as I find a classic.

As stated in my last column I am going to try and narrow my focus, tightening up my selection criteria for looking at classic cars. In the past, this column has always been "academic" as I did not have the money to actually go shopping. That has changed. I thought being ready to buy something would have made me more selective, but I seem to find it to be the opposite. I love classic cars and as I try and decide how much to spend I look at more and more cars, not less and less.

My budget is $400/month for any and all car payments. Yes, I said payments... with an S, plural. I have no trouble considering getting more than one car. If I do it will probably  be one classic (older than 1982, likely older than 1974) and one modern car (newer than 1990). I.E., a 2002 Thunderbird or a 1993-1996 Camaro Z-28 are my top choices for the second car. This is making the selection criteria for the classic harder. I look at cars that are close to $20K, so I can afford the second car. I also look at cars up to the mid $30K range in case I want to put all my money on one great classic.

For today I will look at one make/model. I expect to cover others in the very near future, as this is going to occupy my brain heavily over the next few days, weeks & months. We will start with the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, specifically 1970-1972.

Why did I start with the Monte Carlo? I don't know. Looking at the list from my previous column (over and over and over), I realized that I really like nicely optioned Mustangs, Camaros and Monte Carlos the most. Challengers and B-Body Mopars are cool too. Finally, other GM cars (Chevelle, GS, Cutlass & Nova) and of course, Corvettes.

The Monte Carlo is a "personal luxury" car. That term was coined with the Thunderbird, though I am not really sure if it was for the original 55-57 or if it picked up steam with the larger 58 T-Bird. Regardless, GM ran with the idea with the Grand Prix, and the Monte Carlo was Chevrolet's stab at it. I like the lines of the 70-72 Monte Carlo a bit better than the Grand Prix of those years, though I think the Grand Prix did better with the big bumper years of 73-77.

I also had a friend who's dad had a first gen Monte Carlo SS454 when I was in high school. So there is some nostalgia there.

I really like the idea of a nice cruiser classic that I could drive daily. If Mike Musto can do it, why can't I. Granted, I am not sure I want to live with the gas mileage of an SS454 on a near daily basis. I also remember a Popular Hot Rodding Magazine project car Monte Carlo (red with black vinyl roof) where they tried to get the most gas mileage out of a 350 equipped car. I think they were breaking 20 mpg on the highway... in a car that weighed over 4,000 lbs... in the 80's. They didn't even use modern technology like an overdrive transmission or fuel injection. How sweet would it be to use some new school tricks (fuel injection, overdrive, etc.) to make a great daily driver Monte Carlo.

That's is why I am presenting the Monte Carlo first in my search for a classic.

1971 Monte Carlo SS454 - $35,997 (link)

1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Description: Silver with Black over Black, 454 #'s Match, Auto w/ Console & Buckets,  Tach & Gauges, A/C, Florida.

Notes: This car is perfect. Well, almost perfect. Although the car looks great, I kind of wanted a car with color. Silver? Of course, we have to deal with the elephant in the room... gas mileage with a 454 big block. Otherwise this car is perfect. Super clean, SS454, auto with console and the horseshoe shifter. A/C. What more could you want. Oh, and the price. This would have me putting all my money in one basket. I fear that if my financial situation changed and I needed money, I would not be able to sell this car quickly and get my money out of it. As it is, this is the benchmark. I would love it if I could find a 350 powered Monte Carlo as nice as this for under $30K. If you know of one drop me a line.

1972 Monte Carlo - $36,595 (link)

Description: Triple Black, 454 #'s Match, Auto w/ Console, Buckets, Tach & Gauges, A/C, 36K miles.

Notes: All the same comments apply to this gorgeous black Monte Carlo plus the fact it is black. Yikes! I told myself after trading in my 1989 CRX Si that I would not get another black car in Texas. Oops!

We have a conundrum here. Is this car real? When I do research on the Monte Carlo SS454, I find that the SS option did not exist in 1972. You can see this on Wikipedia here. We all know that Wiki is great for getting quick info, but it is not always correct. However, The First Generation Monte Carlo Club has a page about identifying if a Monte Carlo SS454 is real here. They have similar information, there was no SS option in 72. Both also mention a Custom option being available for one year only in 72. This car has Custom emblems next the the Monte Carlo script on the vinyl roof.

So is this an SS454 or a Custom that someone added the SS454 emblems to the rocker panels? Another thing for 1972, engines were reported with Net Power rating  instead of Gross Power. In 1972 the 454 would have 270 horsepower. This car is showing the 71 engine label on its air clearer with the 365 rating from 1971. 1970 saw 360 horsepower.

Reading the description closely, we see that they never call it an SS454. They mention the drop in horsepower to 270. The also state, "This car is one of the few remaining numbers matching 454 cars and the only one documented in the registry." At this point we know they are telling us that this is a rare 1972 Monte Carlo with a 454 (that had emblems added and the air cleaner label changed), not a 72 Monte Carlo SS454.

All of this will be more important below.

1970 Monte Carlo - $19,800 (link)

Description: Green on Black, 400, Auto with Console, A/C (broken), 79K miles.

Notes: This car looks good. The shade of green is appealing, if not perfect for me. At least it does not have a green vinyl roof and green interior. However, there are issues here. The A/C is not functional, so it would need to be repaired (and converted to 134a) or replaced outright with a Vintage Air system. Next, the console does not have the horseshoe shifter (and has been cut for cup holders and gauges). It looks decent, but it would have to be replaced with a proper console/shifter and remove the column shifter. As long I was doing that I would swap in a 4 speed automatic and have the shifter's selector reflect that.

This car is affordable enough to allow me to keep perusing a 1993 Camaro or 2002 Thunderbird. It has the added bonus of being located about 2 hours away, so I could easily drive it home. One thing that is particular to this car, it has a 400 small block. This was a one year only option on the Monte Carlo. It comes with a 2 barrel carb, and only has 265 horsepower (compared to the base 2 barrel 350 that had 250 horsepower). But torque is at 400 (gross). I could see putting on some aluminum heads and a throttle body fuel injection system and make this a serious burnout machine... while trying to get the most mileage possible. Very interesting possibilities here. There are some paint issues that do not show up in the photos in the ad (the owner sent better pictures to me), and those concern me.

UPDATE: I went to see this car in person on 2/4. I like it. I like it a lot. I almost wanted to just buy it. Yes, the very first car I saw in person I wanted to buy.

The car has paint issues. It has clearly been painted before... over the original paint. There is some cracking that is likely from painting directly over the old lacquer based paint. Also, the roof is very hazy. You don't notice it until you are right next to the car. I mentioned it to some people and they say, "a 20 footer?" I reply, more like 5. You have to get right up to it to notice. If I took this to Car & Coffee no one would say, "Dude, you need a paint job." Now... as a driver the paint it a little worse than the 67 Camaro I used to have. But definitely acceptable for a driver. I never wanted a show car.

The rest of the car is outstanding. Solid as a rock. Absolutely rust free. Original body panels, great chrome and trim, super clean interior. It is ready to drive. One weird thing... this car does not have a rear sway bar. That in itself is not the weird part. The weird part is that is has the boxed lower control arms... which hold the factory sway bar. Hmmm.

There are a couple of issues slowing me down. 1) The A/C is not working. This only concerns me in how much will it cost to fix. Not a show stopper. 2) It has a console, but not really. Meaning, the car never came with a console. It is a column shift car and still has the column shifter. I would have to replace the console with one with a proper shifter. 3) Gauges. This car was not equipped with the gauge package from the factory. The previous owner (not the seller) installed the current console and put gauges on it (you can see them a bit in the photo above). Everything works, but those gauges are not easily seen while driving, especially the tach at the very front of the console. When replacing the console I would want to install the factory gauges. Hey... but the clock works!!!

This is a a perfect project/driver. None of the issues matter if it weren't for the next car. It has A/C (though I don't know yet if it is working), a real console with the shifter, and the factory gauge package... plus power windows. I have to go see that car before I make an offer on this one.

1970 Monte Carlo - $19,995 (link)

Description: Triple Green, 350, Auto w/ Console & Buckets, Power Windows, Tach & Gauges, A/C.

Notes: Here is the classic triple green threat. Green exterior, roof and interior. It is still attractive, if not ideal. The dash is black and not fake wood, that gets a demerit in my book. The center console also does not have the fake wood. I have not been able to determine if that is correct or not... yet. I thought all 70-72 Monte Carlos came with the faux wood dash. More research needs to be done.

There is A/C in the photos, but no mention of it in the ad. Does it work? Also, is this a numbers matching car (original engine)? They don't mention it in the ad, so I suspect it is not the original engine. The price allows me to get a second car, so that's a plus. The pictures of this car show it to be a nice driver quality car. This car is located in the Dallas area, so I will need to take a long drive one Saturday, especially to compare it to the green car above.

This car is not perfect (minor paint issues in general). I need to see this in person to know if it is better or worse that the one above. It would be interesting to pit these two against each other. This one has the correct console (though without the fake wood grain). This car has the factory tach and gauge package that is missing from the 400 powered car. This car has... wait for it... power windows!!! The 400 powered car has a 12 bolt rear whereas this car has a 10 bolt. The 400 car has a much cleaner engine bay, but does not have a rear sway bar. It's tit for tat with these two cars. I really need to see both of them to make up my mind.

1972 Monte Carlo - $27,500 (link)

Description: Red over Black, 402 NOM, Auto w/ Console & Buckets, A/C.

Notes: Here is where our long discussion about a 72 Monte Carlo SS comes into play. In the ad they state, "Rare SS Option." Yikes! As we have determined above, that is unlikely, and they would need to prove it (with a build sheet). They show a picture of the warrantee "card." This contained a Protect-o-Plate. If that is in there it might have the info we need to verify what exactly this car is. Clearly it is not an SS454 as the rocker emblems are trying to tell us.

Let's assume for a moment that they are not trying to be disingenuous, and they just made a mistake or took the previous owner's word for it. So, what do we have? It is not an SS (our research shows that). Is it a Custom? We don't know. We would need the build sheet to confirm that. Was the car originally equipped with a 454 engine? They say it has a 402 Big Block, so clearly this is not a #'s matching car.

Let's just cover this car as-is. It is very clean looking, and it does have a big block (assuming I want to live with the gas mileage of a big block). I love the color. And the price is pretty reasonable. I could use the information above to negotiate the price down. Could I get this car for $25K or less? If so, I would seriously consider it. I think I need to open a dialog with this dealer.

1970 Monte Carlo - $18,900 (link)

Description: Green with Black over Black, 350, Auto on Column, Bench, Tach & Gauges.

Notes: Just another Monte Carlo. Is it a numbers matching engine? It's green, but this time with a black roof and black interior. Column shift with a bench seat. Boring. Yet it has the tach and gauge package. Interesting. This is our first car without A/C. Granted, the 400 powered car above has a non-functioning A/C system.

The ad mentions some aftermarket suspension pieces, but does not include any photos underneath the car. I guess we just need more info on this car.

1970 Monte Carlo - $24,995 (link)

Description: Red with Black over Black, 350, Auto w/ Console, Buckets, A/C.

Notes: Why isn't this car #1 on my list? It is my favorite color combination for a 1st Gen Monte. It has a 350 (probably the best choice to try and drive it "almost" daily). It has bucket seats with the console and working A/C. What's up?

Do this... take a quick look at the photo of each car above (not the interior, just the exterior). What does every car above have that this car does not? Yea... BF Goodrich Radial TAs. On no other car in history does the Radial TA make such a difference to the attitude and appearance than the 1st Gen Monte Carlo! That's a fact, you just read it right here on the Internet.

Why not #1? I am not too thrilled that they cut the dash to install a modern stereo. They don't mention if it is a numbers matching car. At this price I find that more important than at $20K or less. This car has the 12 bolt, but no rear sway bar. Overall, this car seems no better or worse than the two green cars above in the $20K range... except this car is red!!! Is that alone worth 5 grand more to me?

1970 Monte Carlo SS - $28,400 (link)

1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Description: Red over Black, 454 #'s Match, Auto w/ Console, A/C, Tach & Gauges, 76K miles.

Notes: Now it's time to really debate a big block vs. small block for a near daily driver. Here we have a red Monte Carlo SS454. Perfect, right? And it's priced below $30K. So what's stopping me? Why isn't this car #1?

First... do I really want an SS454? I am wrestling with this decision more than you can possibly fathom. Right now... in early 2018.. this is literally (and I mean literally as literally, not literally as figuratively like when people say, "I am literally starving to death" prior to a meal) my biggest 1st World Problem.

Getting past that... what else is keeping me from pulling the trigger on this car. Well, I reached out to the owner to get more photos, and higher resolution photos. There are only 6 photos in the ad, and they are only 640 x 400. That is ridiculously low resolution for 2018. The owner said, "I cannot send higher resolution pictures as we do not have a camera for that. We only have a phone camera." So why not send phone camera photos? Phones are way higher resolution than 640x400. I may have to re-ask for photos. Maybe he is naive enough to think what he put in the ad is as high as his camera goes. Likely the web site lowered the resolution of the photos he submitted.

Assuming for a second that better photos are not possible, we still need to get this car inspected, and most inspection services provide high resolution photos. This car is located about 3 hours away from a major metropolitan area, which will make it expensive to get an inspection (they usually charge by the mile after they get outside a specific area).

Finally, at this price I am giving up on getting a second car. That makes the 454 thing even more of an issue, since I might not be able to afford to drive this car almost daily based on gas mileage alone.

Time to get very nerdy. If you look at the link to this car above, you will see that the site it is on has very simple links. Notice that the link ends in the same number as the ad number in it, 79636 in this case. Now look at the link above for the Green 400 powered Monte. Same site, but the ad # is 87377. I remember having saved the link to this red Monte a while ago, but deleted it because I thought my budget was going to be around $18-22K. I saved the link to the green Monte above in May 2017. That means that the ad for this red Monte Carlo SS is at least 9 months old. I don't even know how long the Green car was listed on the site, only when I saved it. So... this car has been for sale for quite a while. That scares me because I might have just as hard a time selling it if I ever need to. However, this does mean I should be able to negotiating on the price. I wonder if he would take $25K?

Let's get even nerdier. It seems the site is up to the 93K range for ad numbers. If we assume I saw ad #87377 close to when it was posted (9 months ago), that means about 625 ads per month. So, we extrapolate backwards for ad #79636 and that's about 21 months. Ouch!

If I decide to go the 454 route, I will reach out again.

1970 Monte Carlo - $19,900 (link)

Description: White with White over Blue, 350, Auto on Column, Bench, A/C.

Notes: This car is the closest car to me. In fact, I pass the dealer everyday on my way to work. I hate the white vinyl roof. I already checked with a friend that owns an auto restoration shop and he said they can easily replace the white vinyl roof with black. Hey... then it will look like Mike Musto's Monte Carlo (well, except Mike's had a black interior and this one has a blue interior). Clearly the color is turning me off a bit. Also, it is a bench seat car, so I will be searching for buckets and a console. However, at this price it does allow me to keep looking for a second car.

The ad mentions it has a date coded 350. I would need to do some research here, but the way they phrased it I get the impression they think it is the original motor, but it may not have a VIN stamped on it to prove it.

It does have a 12 bolt rear, so it is likely a 350 with a 4 barrel. No rear sway bar though. Pretty clean under the hood and under the car. Time to wave my nerd flag again. I first saw this car last year, in February 2017! So it has been with this dealer for a year. I talked with this dealer back in 2003 when I was selling my 1967 Camaro. I know they sell on consignment. I have to assume that is how this car is being sold. I can't imagine they can afford to tie up their own money in a car that long. So, do they have a stubborn seller? Or are they holding out for this price themselves. I have to assume it would worth trying to low ball an offer here.

Oh, I really like the video on the car. I think I will visit the dealer very soon.

1971 Monte Carlo - $32,900 (link)

Jumbo Picture of '71 Monte Carlo - L10H Jumbo Picture of '71 Monte Carlo - L10H

Description: Blue with White over Blue, 402 #'s Matching, Auto w/ Console, A/C.

Notes: Now we are slipping into the cars I should likely start skipping. This car just seems too expensive for what it is. Yes, a #'s matching 402 big block. But if I was going to spend $33K I think I would just go for the silver SS454 above for just a bit more. Of course, we have a white vinyl roof, which I hate. The pictures don't thrill me. The car looks good, but the pictures themselves are not of good quality. Better pictures could definitely help sell this car better.

1971 Monte Carlo - $21,500 (link)

Description: , Blue with White over Blue, 350 #'s Match, 3 Speed MANUAL on COLUMN.

Notes: A Monte Carlo with 3 on the Tree!! Interesting if nothing else.

1971 Monte Carlo - $22,900 (link)

Description: Triple Black, 350, Auto, Bench, A/C, 57K miles.

Notes: Just another triple black Monte. Claimed 57K miles. This car seems very comparable to the triple green car above. That car is $3K cheaper and here is Texas. Oh, and it has buckets and a console where this car has a column shift and bench seat. That puts this car near the bottom of the list.


This exercise helped. I deleted about 6-8 cars creating this list. So I am getting better. However, there are still 12 cars here... for one model. Help!!!

Next up... nope... you have to wait!