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1975 Chevrolet Monza Towne Coupe: Vega Brougham or Mini Monte Carlo?

By Thomas Klockau / Hagerty.com

Mention ’70s subcompacts, especially domestic ones, to folks of a certain age, and you’re likely to get all sorts of colorful recollections. Vega, Pinto, Bobcat, Astre. Mention any of those and you’ll likely hear a tale of woe regarding spartan accouterments, rust, breakdowns, more rust, oil leaks and other such things. And it was the ’70s, build quality was nothing compared to today. But I must confess a soft spot for them. Many may have had issues, but I still like them for some reason. And so today we’ll be discussing the Chevy Monza.

What was the Monza? For all intents and purposes, it was a rebodied, more upscale Vega. Beneath the new sheetmetal, the two had a lot in common. Issued in 1975, the Monza came in two versions, the very Ferrari-appearing 2+2 fastback and the Broughamy Towne Coupe notchback.

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The Vega remained in production as the Monzas were marketed as a bit above the Vega, stylewise, equipmentwise, and otherwise. A ’75 Vega hatchback had a base price of $2478 (about $12,515 today), while the Monza 2+2 and Town Coupe went for $2753 and $2675, respectively. Base engine was a 2.3-liter four.

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But one key difference between the Monzas and Vegas was an available V-8. If that four-cylinder mill was too wimpy for you, you could spec out a 262-cubic-inch eight with 110 hp. But today’s featured car is extra special. In 1975 only, and only in California, you could get the much-loved 350-cu-in V-8 with 125 horses. This was due to emissions standards, so California Monzas got the 5.7L instead of the 4.3L V-8. Chevy mechanics were not particularly fond of V-8 Monzas though. Since the V-8 was kind of shoehorned into the engine bay, you could not replace all the spark plugs without first partially lifting the engine from the bay.

GM

The swoopy 2+2 was the show horse, with its smooth flanks and trendy quad rectangular headlamps, but the more formal Towne Coupe actually sold better, 69,238 compared to 57,170.

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The 2+2 was the one that gained Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year award-for whatever that’s worth. A friend in Chicago, Jim Smith, worked at a large Chevy dealer when these were new. As he told me, “I prepped a lot of these back in 1975. The four-cylinder was slow but the 262 V-8 screamed.”

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“Leather front seats were available,” he added. “The only other 1975 Chevrolet that offered leather seating was the Corvette.” I never knew you could get leather in them. But the ’75 brochure confirmed it; it was available in black, dark red, and saddle tan. And it was available both on the 2+2 and the Towne Coupe.

Craigslist

I spotted this remarkably nice example on Craigslist back in April 2020r. Like so many of my ideas for columns, I wanted to write it up immediately, but of course other brighter, shinier objects distracted your author.

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The ad, on Los Angeles Craigslist, is long gone, but here was the text from the ad:

“1975 Chevrolet Monza California Edition 5.7-liter V8 350. This Monza is in great shape. 108,000 original miles. …

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“Automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and freezing cold air conditioning. Runs and drives like a dream. No smoking and no leaks. Everything works except the heater and original radio. All-original car except one repaint in its original blue color. I have the pink slip, and tags are good until December 2020. This is a very rare car in amazing condition for being 45 years old. Asking $7500 OBO or possible trade.”

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It was odd for me to see such a nice one. I remember seeing them on the road when I was a kid, but by the mid- to late-1980s, most of them were pretty bedraggled and rusty. I can count on one hand how many I’ve seen in person since, say, 2005.

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As for the Monza itself, it outlived the Vega, which was discontinued after the 1977 model year. The Vega Kammback station wagon lived on though, with a new nose and Monza badging. Its last year was 1979.

The Monza coupes lasted through an extra-long 1980 model year, as its replacements, the front-wheel-drive J-body cars, were waiting in the wings. The Chevrolet version was renamed Cavalier, and the Monza nameplate was permanently retired from the Chevrolet roster.

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