I owned a 350-powered Monza 2+2, brand new, in 1975…as a high school senior, and through my college years.
I street raced it all over Southern California, in those days. It would eat late-model Camaros, Firebirds and even the occasional Vette, no problem.
I built-up the car dollar-by-dollar, in those lean days, and got it to run quick enough to beat many big-block Camaros and several other muscle car era regulars, much to the shock and chagrin of their drivers.
The car cruised Van Nuys Blvd every week. Canyon raced up and down the Malibu hills. Drag raced at famed Orange County International Raceway too. My pal, Phil Burgess (who later became the Editor of NHRA’s National Dragster, and is still at that post today) and I went wherever the car action was. We kept a logbook of the races we had.
I loved the car, but it had its share of engineering problems:
Horrible brakes straight off the Vega.
Undersized cooling system that overheated easly.
A weak front end structure for a V8 (it ate control arm bushings and finally broke a control arm entirely.)
A typical two-hour spark plug change that necessitated skinny hands and three universal joints on a cut-away socket.
The most it ever got on a set of tires was 7000 miles, but that was my fault, more than anything. It would smoke the rears if you even breathed on the throttle.
But I really loved the car’s sleek looks, and its super-sleeper image. With the tall 2.29 rear-end gears it would make the 1-2 shift at about 60 mph and chirp the tires hard (thanks to a B&M Shift Kit.) That always surprised the driver of the other car I was racing. It would top out at about 125 mph.
Not bad for a 1975 economy car.
I kept on modifying the engine, and finally sold the car after about 7 years and 85,000 miles, and bought a ’68 Shelby GT500KR with a transplanted 427 side-oiler, when I joined the staff of Popular Hot Rodding magazine in 1982. That was definitely an improvement in daily driving, but I really miss that lil’ blue Monza to this very day.
Thanks for the article!
C. Van Tune