Classic Car Watch
Local 1970 Monte Carlo vs. Local 1970 Grand Prix

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 16, 2018
By Scott Lewis

Today we will take an in-depth look at two cars I have visited in person. I have driven each of them, and can tell you whether that visit keeps the cars under consideration or eliminates them from my search.

This is big news. Up until this point much of the elimination process has been  academic, or purely done by price/specs. Now I know if I want something or not. I know if it is worth it to me.

It is an elimination contest between two similar cars at similar prices.

1970 Chevy Monte Carlo
   1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo    

TH350 Auto
12 Bolt Limited Slip
Column Shift
A/C Not Working

    1970 Pontiac Grand Prix      
TH400 Auto
12 Bold Limited Slip
Console Shift
A/C Blows Cold
Power Windows

Monte Carlo - This car drove excellent. Yes, it drives like a 48 year old car, but it is tight for a 48 year old car. These were large, luxury cruisers. The steering is extremely light and there is absolutely no feedback, as it was back in the day.

There was surprisingly little play in the steering. It would be absolutely no trouble driving this car on the highway and keeping it in its lane. In fact, I thought it was easier to keep in its lane than a Jeep SUV I recently had to drive to/from Houston. Granted, I might change my mind about if I drove this car 400 miles round trip. You can only tell so much in a short drive.

My biggest concerns for this car is the paint, and a couple of options. First, the paint has issues. Standing next to it it looks fine. But get really close and you can see the roof is very hazy with lots of swirl marks. It seems like they have been trying too hard to fix the paint and made it worse instead of better. It is hard to see, but there is some banding on the roof as well, as if the person that painted it way back when did not do a good job overlapping his passes.

If I buy this car I will show it to a restoration shop owner and get his opinion, but I don't think the paint can be fixed. This car ultimately needs a paint job. However, I am looking for a driver. One that looks good to the average person, and I can be proud to take to Cars & Coffee.

As for options, this car has a column shift automatic... and a console. The console was added later in its life. Two cup holders were put into the console and several gauges. All this would have to be undone. A proper console with the horseshoe shifter would need to be installed. And then I would want all the factory style gauges in the dash. So this car needs some attention beyond the paint.

Finally, the A/C does not work. The owner mentioned he tried charging it up and it got cold... to a point. Meaning the lines were cold going into the large box on the firewall, but no cold air was blowing on the inside. Hopefully it won't be an expensive repair.

Grand Prix - This car is in very, very good condition. The paint is in excellent shape, much better than the Monte Carlo. In fact, this car needs nothing to take to local car shows and win some 2nd or 3rd place trophies. It looks that good.

On the test drive, the steering on this car was very sloppy. It was difficult to keep in its lane, especially above 60 mph. This is exactly the issue I would expect in a car of this era, which makes the Monte Carlo above a pleasant surprise.

I do not blame the owner. This 84 year old man bought the car from the original owner's wife 3 years after he past... because he remembered it from car shows and club meetings they attended together. Now he is getting too old to care for it properly.

This car needs a suspension rebuild. New bushings everywhere, shocks, tie rod ends, etc. The steering box might need to be rebuilt or replaced.

The car does not creek or rattle as it drives, but it is just too soft. It does not feel like a Muscle Car. It feels like a 70's era GM car that loafs down the road.

The interior needs a bit more than just detailing. The lenses over the gauges are very hazy. Maybe they can be polished, maybe not. It carries over to the controls. The shifter is very stiff, in a car that should have a very smooth shifter since it just needs to go from park to reverse to drive and back. The A/C vents look like they are about to break from being old and brittle, but the A/C blows nice and cold!!!

The power windows need help. The driver's windows goes up and down well. The right rear window does not move, though it does groan as it tries to move. The other two move very slowly. Since you can hear everything working (or trying to work) it likely would not be too much effort to get the windows working better.

The engine seems outstanding. The car started immediately on the first crank... by me. I had no special instructions, and started it just like a modern car... not pressing on the gas pedal. Nice!

It seems to have plenty of power and cruised at 70+ mph will no trouble. Granted, I am not going to abuse a car with the 84 year old owner in the passenger seat. So no burnouts. I have no doubt in the power of the 455. But I would need to get into the throttle more to see if it really lives up to its legend. That would have to happen after buying it.


And the winner is... 1970 Monte Carlo.

The Monte Carlo drove so much better I would rather buy it and live with the paint issues than buy the Grand Prix and put a fair amount of work into making the interior a pleasant place to be and the car a safer car to drive on a regular basis.

As a quick note... the Monte Carlo has 15 inch wheels with 235/70 tires, while the Grand Prix has 14 inch wheels with 205/70 tires. Wow, this Grand Prix needs a serious wheel/tire upgrade to go with that 455 engine.

This leads to a subjective item... The Monte Carlo looks cooler! The Grand Prix looks like a nice, clean old car. It does not look special. The Monte Carlo's Rallye wheels with BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires looks bas ass. This car looks and feels like a Muscle Car. The owner showed me how the car can chirp the tires going into second gear. It has a nice, tight transmission.

For a near daily driver that I can jump in and drive without worry, the Monte Carlo fits that bill perfectly. Bottom line... if something better (price/features wise) does not come along by end of March or April, I will go back and buy this 1970 Monte Carlo.

But wait... there's more...

If you read my article on my visit to A&E Classic Cars, you will see I was quite taken with a 1972 Camaro RS. That car is currently vying strongly for my money... even over this Monte Carlo. I just have to decide if I really want to spend $30K instead of $20K.