Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Today we feature a slowpoke that coulda been a contender!

2 + 2 = YAWN
I was canvassing the area below Prospect Park for hoopties when I encountered this little footnote of the malaise era; a 1980 Chevrolet Monza 2+2 Coupe. Now don't laugh too hard when you read the next line, but there was a Sport model available too! For some reason the Sport had 4 square headlights and a grill that looked more like a hockey mask than what we have here.
These cars are now almost completely forgotten but for a short while in the late '70s they sold well. They were originally designed to take over where the Vega left off, and were built from 1975 through 1980. If the original plans came to fruition this would've been a much cooler car as  it was supposed to be powered by a Wankel Rotary engine! Unfortunately they built the car before admitting defeat with their overly thirsty and unreliable rotary, so a 4 cylinder off the shelf was used instead.
This little frumper has a polyurethane front end which in this instance looks to have come from a blue car originally. If you drive a Monza and need a body part you take what you can get!
For those of you encountering one of these in the wild, you can discern the '80 by it's front turn signals that seem to be missing. They are hidden behind the black grill slats out of sight. In '79 they were in the same spot but bright orange and highly visible.
There is a cool if somewhat dated look to the design of this ride. I am fond of the tapered oval window opening, and the overall proportions are actually pretty good. My opinion is colored by the only one I've ever ridden in; my friend Pat had a brown one in high school with an automatic. Since every time you drive anywhere in high school you fill the car with people I remember this thing as being woefully underpowered, loud, and as frumpy as can be. To top it off it was not only brown, but BROWN! Inside, outside, the kind of brown you could only get 34 years ago. It was so brown it looked like you could stir marshmallows into it and drink it on a cold day. If only they'd figured out the rotary engine these would be collected and raced to this day like the Mazda RX-7.
Well the rear fascia is polyurethane too and it looks like they weren't so lucky with a replacement. On full display here we have some safety-mandated large orange reflectors and a huge-for-the-car bumper. The 2+2 Coupe referred to this fastback body style as opposed to the Towne Coupe which had a formal roofline and tiny trunk lid. This is by far the superior look in my opinion, but the Towne Coupe could be done up in full '70s style with a padded landau roof, luggage rack on the trunk, and pop-up sunroof.
Again, I think this car looks pretty darn good from the side and the back. The lightly flared fenders are a sporty touch without going overboard, and the fact that the side trim doesn't extend beyond the wheels shows restraint in an era that was all about gaudiness.
The Buick Skyhawk, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird of this era shared many components and most body parts with the Monza. Collectively they were known as the H-body platform. The Citation came hot on the heels of the Monza with its new X-platform.
The front still maintains the basic Vega roots in shape and scale.
Well there we have it; an H-body Chevy in decent shape to trigger your narcolepsy. As with almost anything over 30 years old I would happily drive this thing around given the chance, but the memory of that slow brown Monza from my past would probably persist.
As ridiculous as it may seem you could order a 305 V8 and even briefly a 350 in the Monza before it was discontinued, but these heavy engines would weigh down the front of the car considerably, making handling an afterthought. In addition, those V8s of the late '70s/early '80s were so starved for power and strangled by emissions equipment that I would rather have the 4.

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