The first generation Monte Carlo was introduced in 1968 as a 2-door hardtop with a 116” long wheelbase (4 inches longer than Chevy’s ‘policy’ length of 112 inches). Known as the A body Special, the layout evolved into the G-platform. Monte Carlo was first dubbed “Concours” during development, strutting a sleek profile, long front end, and short tapered rear deck. Although it was intended to include the 2-door, 4-door, and rag top models in its line-up, the 2-door hardtop was the only available style by 1970.
The standard engine was a 350 cubic inch displacement (CID) Turbo Fire small block V8 with a 2 barrel carburetor rated for 250 horsepower, 3-speed manual Synchro-Mesh transmission mounted on the steering column. Optional engines were the 350 CID Turbo Fire small block V8 with 4 barrel carburetor; the Turbo Fire 400 with 2 barrel carburetor; and the Turbo Jet 400 with 4 barrel carburetor. Optional transmissions were the 2 speed Powerglide automatic transmission (available only on the 350 CID engine); 3 speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission; and the 4 speed manual transmission. Available accessories were the variable ratio power steering; power windows; power seats; Four Season A/C; rally/rallye wheels; and Strato bucket seats on which the back folded forward to provide access to the rear passenger seat.
The 70 model SS 454 was undoubtedly the sportiest and most powerful of the Monte Carlos. It bore the Turbo-Jet 454 CID engine with 4 barrel carb rated at 360 horsepower; heavy duty suspension, wide tires, automatic load-leveling rear suspension, and the Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission which became the official transmission for the SS future models.
1971 came with very slight changes to both body styling and mechanics. The Turbo Fire 400 engine with 2 barrel carb was dropped from the list of options while the remaining engines had the compression ratio lowered so that the future owner could switch between leaded, low-lead, and unleaded gasolines. This lowered the horsepower ratings across the board with the exception of the SS 454. The SS 454 saw its horsepower rating raised to 365 by using the camshaft from the 390 454 from the 1970 Corvette. Alas, 1971 brought an end to the SS 454 although the engine was still an available option until 1975.
1972 saw an increase in production due to heavy brand advertising on Chevy’s part. Monte Carlo was fully marketed as a luxury 2-door coupe (part of the reason for dropping the SS 454 badging). The 4 speed manual transmission was dropped entirely although the 3 speed manual transmission and 2 speed automatic were still available. Plus variable-ratio power steering, once an option, became a part of the standard package.
Interestingly enough, the Monte Carlo’s reputation as a performance car garnered popularity on the race track. The “other two” of the Big Three auto manufacturers phased out their factory-backed support in the racing arena, making Chevy autos more affordable as well as available to independent stock car racing teams and sponsors. But it was the Monte Carlo that was most popular 71 through 89 due to its long (116”) wheelbase and elongated front end.