The Gentleman's Chevelle: The First Gen Monte Carlo is the Most Underrated GM Muscle Car
When it comes to restoration, resto-modding pro touring—few models are more popular than the Chevrolet Camaro and Chevrolet Chevelle of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
The price of these cars has come to reflect this popularity, and if you want to fix one up a Camaro, Chevelle or even a Nova you can plan on paying a heavy premium these days, often for a car that'll have a hard time standing out in a crowd when it’s complete.
Prime for Restomodding
But there’s another Chevy from the same era that’s every bit as cool, has all the same potential and is much more affordable than the aforementioned Camaros and Chevelles—the first generation Chevy Monte Carlo.
While the Monte Carlo went through many different iterations during its life, the original might just be the best of the breed, as its basically slightly upmarket version of the Chevelle.
It went on sale for the 1970 model year, riding on a longer wheelbase version of the GM A-Body platform used by the Chevelle, Pontiac GTO, Oldsmobile 442 and others.
Slightly Larger Body, Upmarket Stying
The goal was basically to give Chevy a version of Pontiac’s popular Grand Prix coupe, and the Monte Carlo would slot into Chevy’s lineup as a slightly larger, more expensive version of the Chevelle/Malibu.
Like most cars sold in the early ‘70s, options were abundant and engine choices went from a standard 350 cubic inch small block all the way to a 454ci big block in the Monte Carlo 454 SS. Certain models were even available with a four-speed manual transmission.
The first generation Monte Carlo was sold for two more years, and like the rest of the muscle cars, emissions rules gradually lowered horsepower ratings for 1971 and 1972.
In 1973 the second generation Monte Carlo was introduced with a new body shape and larger dimensions, and the Monte Carlo would go through several more iterations and comebacks into the 2000s.
Blue Collar Budget Examples Still Exist
The original 1970-72 cars though, remain quite underrated. And while Chevelles, Camaros Novas of the early ‘70s have long been in high demand, you can still get a first gen Monte Carlo on a blue collar budget.
As a basic rule of thumb, you can expect to find decent running examples for under $10,000, and a complete but non-running projects for $3,000-$5,000—and that money buys you a lot of car.
While not as iconic as a Chevelle or Camaro, the early Monte Carlos have a handsome look that's made even better with the right stance, and they also look mean when done in a NASCAR style.
And best of all, aftermarket support is nearly equal to the Chevelle which shares most of its underpinnings. That means you can quickly and easily find just about anything you are looking for, original or aftermarket.
Engine options are equally plentiful, whether you want go with the proven and affordable small block Chevy, an old school big block or an LSX motor.
There aren't too many hidden gems from the muscle car era still remaining, but if you've wanted a cool, under the radar project with tons of potential the first generation Chevrolet Monte Carlo is well worth a consideration.
More From Driving Line
- Looking for another under appreciated American machine from the early 1970s? Ford fans should look into the 1971-73 Mustang.