Thursday, June 23, 2016

Chevrolet's Last (for now?) Monte Carlo

According to its Wikipedia entry, Chevrolet's Monte Carlo model was introduced for the 1970 model year and went through six generations, the last one for 2000-2005.  It is the subject of this post.

Allow me to admit that I've become somewhat jaded regarding model names that marketers and management dream up.  Consider "Monte Carlo."  A few people might associate it with the Monaco Grand Prix race, even though Chevy Monte Carlos were coupes and not Formula 1 race cars.  If those Chevrolet people were hoping to come up with a name with sporting associations, then more potential buyers might associate "Monte Carlo" with the Monte Carlo Rally, though few, if any, Chevrolet Monte Carlos could be considered serious European rally machines.  Moreover, that event is little-known in the USA.  The Wikipedia link above states that the name simply had to do with Monte Carlo municipality, a part of Monaco.  That would imply a ritzy gestalt of some sort, a common theme for American car models over the years.  Or maybe the name had to do with the Monte Carlo Casino, the famed Côte d'Azur gambling den.  After all, finding a reliable American car during the 1970s when Monte Carlos first appeared was more of a gamble than it is now.

The Monte Carlo launched for the 2000 model year was based on the same platform as Chevrolet's Impala sedan.  It featured a curiously short, cramped-looking passenger compartment and, when viewed from certain angles, a pronounced bustle-back trunk.  I always considered this Monte Carlo variation awkward-looking.


Front three-quarter view.  From this perspective, the passenger cabin seems quite short and the trunk area quite long.

Seen in profile, the can looks better-proportioned, though the rear seat area seems a bit cramped.

Rear three-quarter view.  Compare to the 2000 Impala in the image below.

Both cars had a 110-inch wheelbase, though the Impala's length was two inches (5 cm) longer than the Monte Carlo's.  In these views we can see that aside from the small Monte Carlo greenhouse, the strongest visible differences were in the trunk / rear bumper area and some side stamping details (flatter sides and some character lines for the Monte Carlo).  The doors are longer for rear-seat access, though hinged like the Impala's front doors.  Wheel openings and gas filler lids are the same.

Given General Motors' increasingly precarious financial position around 2000, the tooling differences between the Impala and Monte Carlo seem to me surprisingly large for a car that had been selling at the rate of around 70,000 units per model year.  However,  total production was around 380,000, about the same as for the fifth-generation Monte Carlo, so perhaps tooling costs were amortized over the entire production run.

It will be interesting to see if Chevrolet ever revives the Monte Carlo model name.

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