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The Chevy Monza was born at just the wrong time, but fans keep the flame alive


#1

What a difference a few years can make. In the early 1970s, a rear-wheel-drive American sport coupe with a slick, Ferrari-flavored design, small-block V-8, and racing pedigree had a pretty good shot at becoming a future collectible. That car, the second-generation Camaro that debuted in 1970, has long been a staple of the collector market. But another Chevy coupe from just a few years after checked many of the same boxes—the 1975–80 Monza. Somehow it became a throwaway, with most of the nearly 800,000 built doomed to the nation’s scrap yards and metal shredders.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/04/10/history-of-the-chevy-monza

#2

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


#3

I owned a 1979 Monza 2+2 fastback. The four rectangular headlights across the front were particularly attractive to me…I don’t know why. Mine was the “Iron Duke” four cylinder with a 4 speed. I drove the wheels off the car owning it for many years. I drove it year round and it never, not once, let me down. I owned newer cars and trucks but when the wife and I would go someplace I’d head for the little blue Monza, only stopping my beeline when the missus said she wanted us to take the new car. I managed to fight off NE Ohio’s rust machine for close to two decades before I found myself losing the battle and felt the car had served me well since new for 20 years. Salvaging what I could I then hauled the car to the salvage yard and sadly witnessed it placed in a pile along with other abandoned vehicles. I always felt I failed the car in its final days.


#4

I’m very happy that Hagerty has recognized “Our” beloved H-Bodies !! As an H-owner of nearly 10 years, (Hagerty insures one of my two W-66 Sunbirds), “They” and other Classic Car Enthusiasts are realizing that it has taken a while but finally the H is becoming more desirable and I’ve always maintained that they are going to become popular and finally are more sought after as ever ! With their low vehicle weight and ability to house a powerplant with true Horse Power, these little Machines offer the G-forces and thrills worthy of recognition of any road huggers…that being said, the Car enthusiasts and collectors and general public at any of the events I attend, have always loved reminiscing whenever they look at H-Bodies! They are becoming increasingly popular and miraculously reappearing out of barn finds and as though (tongue in cheek) people feeling guilty somehow by keeping an H-Body around the place, even in horrible condition, hoping of it’s impending reincarnation in the future! They were always ahead of their time design and looks wise and as some of us know, they were designed with Ferrari in mind. The sleek and somewhat subtle lines give off that “track” look and invite the driver to show off a little especially when you’ve installed a small and even big block mill and with it’s low curb weight as I mentioned, impressed the 10 sec. crowd ! It’s even more exhilarating when you watch the tracks being eaten up by the IMSA models,( Porsche owners don’t likey…) Thanks as well to my Good H-Buddy Bryan for helping keep our Labour of LOVE alive by hosting yet another, 13th Annual MONZA-QUE at his property this year in August. in Codrington Ontario ! Bryan has contributed for many years to research and fact finding to aid H-Body owners in registering and rebuilding, restoring and saving our Monzas, Sunbirds, Skyhawk and Roadhawk, Vegas, Astres, Olds Starfires, Firenzas, etc. Hoping for an extraordinary turnout in attendance this year and maybe, just maybe this article will generate some more cars and enthusiasm ! I for one will be there with the Silver Bird and would love to see new faces and our H-Buddies from the U.S. again !!


#5

My first car was a 1979 Monza Towne Coupe. I was lucky enough to get this in 1980 when I was a senior in high school. It had a 4-cylinder, everything was manual, and I will admit it wasn’t engineered very well, but I loved that car. I didn’t treat it like I loved it though, I was always dumping the clutch and I put 4 clutches in it by the time it reached a hundred and forty thousand miles. It was tough to put up with me. I finally had to get rid of it when the rest just got too bad, but I still think about it often.


#6

Horst Kwech & Lee Dykstra built the DeKon Monzas at Ausca Racing’s shop in Libertyville, IL. I was involved (in very minor ways). The car were very quick right from its debut at Road Atlanta when it was crashed by Horst lapping a backmarker early in the race. Mike Keyser, racer, film maker, etc put together an efforr with Horst & Eddie Wachs to run a Monza at the LeMans 24 hours race. Al Holbert was very successful with his DeKon Monza . Porsche lobbyed IMSA to limit Monza performance & effectively ended the DeKon Monzas success. The cars are competing in several vintage series today.