CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The 1970s may represent Detroit's darkest days to some car enthusiasts, but don't tell Chevrolet.
The division sold 411,000 Monte Carlos in 1977, slightly more than all of Buick's sales in 1998. In fact, that one-year total for the Monte Carlo swamps all sales of the model since 1995, when it was reintroduced on General Motors' W-body front-drive platform.
Those glory days of the Monte Carlo are celebrated with the 2000 model. The new Monte Carlo uses several styling cues from the 1977 sales king.
The fender eyebrows over the wheel wells, for example, evoke the double-humped quarter panels of the original Monte Carlo. The new model also revives badges from the disco era with cursive script and a 'Knight's Crest' nose badge.
Unlike the 1999 Monte Carlo, the 2000 coupe shares no external sheet metal with its four-door sister car, the Chevrolet Impala.
It was a conscious decision to separate the Monte Carlo brand, says Don Parkinson, brand manager for both the Monte Carlo and the Impala.
CLASSY BUT WILD
'People want a car that will get them noticed. The theme we have been using for this vehicle all along is `classy with a wild streak.''
The Monte Carlo's exposure through NASCAR racing made it easier to justify a distinct vehicle, Parkinson adds. An estimated 13 million households watched the telecast of the Coca-Cola 600 here, where the new Monte Carlo made its NASCAR debut as a pace car.
NASCAR teams provided input into the styling, and the new racing version set to debut at the Daytona 500 next February will share its hood, windshield, roof and rear deck lid with the production car.
Street Monte Carlos, including LS and SS versions, will share most of their underbody components with the Impala and the Pontiac Grand Prix. The SS varies from the LS by adding a larger engine, sport suspension, traction control, different alloy wheels and body trim. All Monte Carlos roll down the assembly line with the Impala at GM's Oshawa, Ontario, plant.
Regular production of Monte Carlos began at the end of July. The old model will be built through August to maintain dealer supplies.
The two engine choices are GM's pushrod V-6 standard bearers. The LS uses a 3.4-liter engine making 180 hp. The SS has the 3.8-liter engine generating 200 hp.
Mileage for the LS is 20 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, while the SS achieves 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
ALUMINUM CUTS WEIGHT
The engines are supported by a cradle fabricated from extruded aluminum by Alcoa Inc. Chief engineer George Bellopatrick said he believes it is the first such application of aluminum extrusions in the U.S. auto industry.
Engineers chose the design after running parallel development programs with steel and aluminum. Compared with a typical welded steel cradle, the extrusions cost about $25 more per vehicle but save 22 pounds up front where front-drive platforms tend to be bulky.
'Our weight program was biased toward getting mass out of the front end,' says Bellopatrick.
The savings from the cradle allowed engineers to fit larger front disc brakes and stay within their weight target. The new Monte Carlo's curb vehicle weight is 3,340 pounds.
The Monte Carlo LS has a base price of $19,850, and the SS starts at $22,295, both including a $560 destination charge.