The Dodge Monaco was a full-size automobile built and sold by the Dodge division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1965 to 1978, and 1990 to 1992.
On introduction for 1965, the Dodge Monaco was intended to compete with the Pontiac Grand Prix in what came to be known as the personal luxury market, but ended up filling in for Dodge in the full-size, luxury line instead. Introduced on September 25, 1964, the 1965 Monaco was based on the Custom 880 two-door hardtop coupe body. The Monaco received special badging, different taillight and grille treatment, and a sportier interior with a full-length center console, as well as a 383 cu in (6.28 L) 315 hp (235 kW) V8 engine as standard equipment. Larger, more powerful engines were also available as options. Ford came out with its luxury LTD (the top-of-the-line model in the Galaxie 500 series) at the same time, and both the Monaco and LTD no doubt forced Chevrolet to introduce the luxurious Caprice package for its Impala Sport Sedan later in the model year, and Plymouth to issue a luxurious VIP model for its Fury series (for 1966). These models provided serious competition for mid-priced sedans like Chrysler, Oldsmobile, Buick,and Mercury.
Chrysler Canada Ltd. fielded a Dodge Monaco which was Dodge’s version of the Plymouth Sport Fury in Canada. It was available in hardtop coupe or convertible body styles. However, Canadian Monacos were equipped with Plymouth dashboards in 1965 and 1966. Unlike the American Monaco, the Canadian Monaco could be had with the 318 cu in (5.21 L) V8 or even the slant six.
Taking over for the Custom 880
For 1966, in the U.S., the Monaco replaced the Custom 880 series and the former Monaco became the Monaco 500. The basic Monaco was available in hardtop coupe, 4-door (pillarless) hardtop sedan, conventional 4-door (pillared) sedan, and 4-door station wagon bodystyles. In the U.S., the Monaco 500 was available only as a hardtop coupe. Although there was no convertible in the 1966 US Monaco range, there was in the 1966 Canadian Monaco lineup. The Canadian Dodge hung onto the “Monaco” name for the Sport Fury equivalent and Polara 880 for the Fury III competitor.
For 1967, all full-sized Dodges, the Monaco included, received a significant facelift with all-new exterior sheet metal. Chief designer Elwood Engel‘s work featured generally flat body planes with sharp-edged accent lines. The hardtop coupes got a new semi-fastback roofline with a reverse-slanted trailing edge on the rear quarter window.
In Canada, the Monaco name was applied for ’67 to all of the premium full-sized Dodge cars, replacing the Polara 880 at the top of the Dodge line. Taking the Monaco’s place as a premium full-size model was the Monaco 500, which was available only as a two-door hardtop and convertible.
Changes were minimal for 1968. The Monaco 500 was dropped at the end of the 1968 model year in the United States and at the end of the 1970 model year in Canada.
1966 Dodge Monaco 500 Convertible (Canadian market only)
1966 Dodge Monaco station wagon
For the 1969 model year, the wheelbase of the Monaco was increased from 121 inches to 122 inches, and the length was increased to about 220 inches. Returning for ’69 was the “500” option, which in the U.S. market gave the Monaco front bucket seats and a center armrest. In Canada, the Monaco 500 was a separate series that used the side trim of the Polara 500 sold in the U.S. Canadians could also buy a Monaco convertible; U.S. Dodge full-size convertible shoppers had only the lower-end Polara and Polara 500 to choose from.
All full-sized Dodge cars including the Monaco adopted Chrysler Corporation’s new “fuselage” styling, in which the upper and lower body were melded into a uniformly curved unit. Curved side glass added to the effect, as did the deletion of the “shoulder” along the rear. The look started in the front of the car, with a nearly straight-across bumper—demanded by a Chrysler executive after a Congressional committee attacked him over the seeming inability of car bumpers to protect cars from extensive damage in low-speed collisions—and a five-segment eggcrate grille that surrounded the headlamps. When the cars failed to spark buyers’ interest, Dodge executives demanded a change. By the summer of 1969, the division released new chrome trim for the front fender caps and leading edge of the hood as an option, which gave the appearance of a then-fashionable loop bumper without the tooling expense. At the rear, Dodge’s signature delta-shaped taillamps were presented in a new form that required the top of the bumper to slope downward toward each end.
The standard-equipment engine on the 1969 Monaco was Chrysler’s 290-horsepower (220 kW) B-block 383 cu in (6.3 L) V8 engine with a two-barrel carburetor. Buyers could order the 383 with a four-barrel carburetor that increased power to 330 hp (250 kW), or they could opt for the 375-horsepower (280 kW) 440 cu in (7.2 L) Magnum RB-block engine. Wagon buyers choosing the 440 got a 350 horsepower (260 kW) version.
The 1969 Monaco offered, as a $50 option, the first modern polyellipsoidal (projector) automotive road lamp. Called Super-Lite and mounted in the driver’s side of the grille. This auxiliary headlamp was produced in a joint venture between Chrysler Corporation and Sylvania. It used an 85 watt halogen bulb and was intended as a mid-beam, to extend the reach of the low beams during turnpike travel when low beams alone were inadequate but high beams would produce excessive glare to oncoming drivers.
Available models for 1969 included a two-door hardtop coupe, four-door hardtop sedan, four-door pillared sedan, and four-door station wagons with six- or nine-passenger capacity. A new Brougham option package included a vinyl roof on sedans and hardtops and a split-bench front seat with a reclining mechanism on the passenger side (except on the two-door hardtops). Monaco wagons received woodgrained vinyl trim along their sides and across the dual-action (side- and bottom-hinged) tailgate.
Sales of the Polara and Monaco were down by nearly 20,000 cars compared with 1968, with the Monaco line accounting for 38,566 of the 127,252 full-size cars made by Dodge for the year.
The 1970 models got completely new front and rear styling that included expensive-to-make loop bumpers front and rear. In the front, the new bumper enclosed a new diecast grille and the headlamps. At the rear, the double-loop bumper enclosed the taillamps. Reversing lamps were moved up into the endcaps that terminated the quarter panels, in slotted body-color housings. The designers chose to emphasize the length of the hood this year, which meant that the redesigned front end grew by three inches. However, the new rear end was four inches (102 mm) shorter.
Improvements to the suspension were promoted as the new “Torsion-Quiet” system, which used strategically-placed rubber isolators to reduce road noise and vibrations. The rear wheel track was broadened by nearly three inches as Dodge installed the rear axle previously used only on Wagons on all 1970 Monaco models.
The Brougham and 500 option packages continued, as did the availability of the Super-Lite, but the 440 Magnum V8 was dropped. The 350 horsepower (260 kW) version 440, available only in wagons for ’69, became the new top engine for all Monacos. Despite all of the changes, which cost Chrysler a rather large sum of money, Monaco (and Polara) sales tanked. Only 24,692 Monacos were built for the model year.
The 1971 Monaco got less of a facelift than had been originally planned, but did get a new grille within the bumper that had been used the previous year, and other minor styling changes that were focused mainly at the rear. The Super-Lite was no longer available because of a lack of consumer interest and challenges to its legality in some states. A new single-loop rear bumper and larger taillamps were installed.
The 500 option package was deleted although a stereo cassette player/recorder with microphone was new on the option list. Bucket seats remained available despite the loss of the 500 package, and the Brougham package was also still available for $220, despite the addition of a separate Polara Brougham series.
All available engines had their compression ratio reduced so they could all run satisfactorily on regular-grade gasoline. As a result, the two-barrel 383’s power rating dropped to 275 hp (205 kW), the four-barrel 383 dropped to 300 hp (220 kW), and the 440 dropped to 335 hp (250 kW).
Monaco station wagons, which in 1969 and ’70 had worn their woodgrain trim on the lower bodysides, got completely new woodgrain up high on the sides, even around the windows. The new vinyl decals were translucent, allowing some of the paint color to show through.
Despite the power losses and mild styling change, sales slightly rose. About 900 more Monacos were built for ’71 (approximately 25,544 — an exact number isn’t known).
For the 1972 model year, the full-sized Dodges finally got the all-new sheetmetal that had originally been planned for 1971.
Setting off the new look for the Monaco was a new front end with hidden headlamps set above a completely new bumper-grille assembly. The sides of the car lost their previous plump appearance in favor of a new, lean look with a new feature line that started on the front fenders and ran back through the doors, kicking up ahead of the rear wheels. Sedan and hardtop rooflines were new and more formal-looking. At the rear, there was yet another new loop bumper and full-width taillamp which, like the rest of the car, looked much more expensive and impressive. Station wagons got a new rear appearance, too, with stacked vertical taillamps.
The Monaco got a smaller standard V8 for ’72. The 360 cu in (5.9 L) A-block V8 engine, which had been introduced in ’71 as an option on Polaras, developed 175 horsepower (130 kW), now measured as net instead of gross. Replacing the 383 was a new 400 cu in (6.6 L) B-block V8. The 440 remained available, but it now produced 230 horsepower (170 kW) (net). 1972 sales nearly matched 1969 levels, with 37,013 built for the model year.
For its last year in the fuselage body, the Monaco continued with its 1972 styling, except for another new rear bumper with redesigned taillamps, along with a new decklid and rear-quarter endcaps. Large black rubber guards were added to the bumpers to comply with new Federal five-mile-per-hour impact standards. Hardtop and sedan models gained about 6.5 in (16.5 cm) due mostly to the bumper guards.
Inside, new fire-retardant materials in virtually every visible part of the interior meant added safety. Under the hood, all three available engines gained reliability with the addition of Chrysler’s new electronic ignition system as standard equipment, which extended spark plug life and virtually eliminated periodic ignition system maintenance.
Despite the cars’ improvements, sales dropped again to 29,396.
1973 proved to be the Monaco’s final year as Dodge’s top-of-the-line full-size car. After 14 years, the Polara name was dropped and, for 1974, all big Dodges carried the Monaco name.
The 1974 Dodge was completely redesigned with an all-new unibody platform and all-new sheet metal. Unfortunately, within days of their introduction, the 1973 oil crisis began. Chrysler was excoriated in the media for bringing out huge new cars, and sales suffered accordingly. Many in the automotive press also criticized the car’s new design as being too derivative of what they thought resembled a 3-year-old Buick or Oldsmobile full-size car.
For 1974, the long-running Polara and Polara Custom models were discontinued. They were replaced by a basic Monaco and Monaco Custom respectively. The previous Monaco was renamed Monaco Brougham. The Brougham name had long been used on the luxury option package which was available from 1969 to 1973. The hidden headlamps of the previous models were replaced by fixed headlamps on all Monacos.
For the 1975 model year, changes to the base Monaco were minimal. However, the Monaco Custom was renamed the Royal Monaco, and the Monaco Brougham became the Royal Monaco Brougham. These newly named models featured hidden headlamps. 1975 was the last year the four-door hardtop was available. Some models, depending on equipment and the state they were sold in, received catalytic converters to comply with increasingly strict vehicle emissions control regulations. After the start of the 1975 model year, a limited-production option for Royal Monaco Brougham coupes was introduced: the Diplomat package featured a landau vinyl roof with opera windows and a wide steel roof band. It was available in only 3 colors—Cold Metallic, Silver Cloud Metallic and Maroon Metallic. Engine options were the 400 cu in (6.6 L) with a 2- or 4-barrel carburetor, or a 440 cu in (7.2 L) with a 4-barrel carburetor. The car weighed over 4000 pounds with a top speed of 127 mph.
Exterior changes to the 1976 model were minimal, though Chrysler’s new Lean Burn system was introduced to reduce exhaust emissions. The virtually unchanged 1977 models (except for bumper corner tip radius details) were the last big full-size Dodges. All full-size models were badged Royal Monaco for ’77, as the mid-size Coronet was renamed Monaco.
The 1974–1977 Monacos received star treatment as the Bluesmobile in the 1980 feature film The Blues Brothers, directed by John Landis. In it, a 1974 Monaco which was formerly a Mount Prospect, Illinois police cruiser is purchased by Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) and used as the brothers’ transportation. Jake, just released from prison, disapproves of the vehicle, but Elwood states its technical specifications as “It’s got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before the catalytic converter so it’ll run good on regular gas.” Monacos from 1975 to 1977 are also featured as Illinois State Trooper cars and Chicago city police cars.
The California Highway Patrol cruisers used in the first three seasons of CHiPs were of this generation Monaco.
Also in the 1980 feature film Smokey and the Bandit 2, a world-record automobile jump was captured on film during the “roundup sequence,” when stuntman Buddy Joe Hooker jumped a 1974 Dodge Monaco over 150 feet. Hooker suffered a compressed vertebra as a result of a hard landing.
The title sequence of the 1980s TV-series Hill Street Blues
features three white 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco sedans.
1977–1978 (B platform)
As a lingering result of the 1973-74 energy crisis, Chrysler decided to shift the Monaco nameplate to the mid-size B platform for 1977 while the previous year’s full-size C platform Monaco carried on one more year as the Royal Monaco. The “new” 1977 mid-sized Monaco replaced the previous Coronet 4-door sedan, 4-door station wagon and Charger hardtop coupe. The Monaco Brougham replaced the previous Coronet Brougham 4-door sedan and Charger Sport hardtop coupe, while the Monaco Crestwood station wagon replaced the previous Coronet Crestwood. The Charger S.E., which at this point became the sole Charger still available, continued unchanged.
The “new” Monacos, for all of the marketing hype, were little-changed from the Coronets which had gone before. A revised front end design with stacked rectangular headlamps gave the cars a resemblance to the contemporary Chevrolet Monte Carlo when viewed head-on. With Chrysler Corporation in dire financial straits during these years, there was little that could be done to give the cars a fresh look, so changes had to be minimal and as inexpensive as possible.
The 1977 and 1978 models can be seen as the police vehicles in the 1980–1985 seasons of The Dukes of Hazzard, also the TV Police Drama Hunter (U.S. TV series) as Rick Hunter’s L56 (also known “Lincoln 56”). Large numbers of still-unsold vehicles were bought inexpensively and then suffered ignominious ends, destroyed in stunt crashes but due to the toughness of the design, were often repaired and reused repeatedly.
The Monaco nameplate disappeared at the end of the 1978 model year. Both the mid-sized Monaco and the full-sized Royal Monaco were replaced by the St. Regis for the 1979 model year. While it never came close to matching the Monaco it replaced in sales to the general public, the St. Regis did relatively well as a police car. In fact, after its first year, the vast majority of St. Regis sales were to law enforcement agencies. However, even those sales couldn’t save the car, which, along with its Chrysler and Plymouth siblings, was killed off halfway through the 1981 model year.
Main article: Eagle Premier
|In 1987, Chrysler bought the assets of American Motors, mostly for the Jeep brand. With Jeep came the new Eagle brand of cars, which were a mix of models designed and produced by Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. As part of the purchase, Chrysler agreed to purchase a set number of Renault drivetrains for use in the Eagle Premier.
Chrysler management determined that the Premier alone could not sell in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements of the Renault contract. The solution to fulfill their obligation was to create another model using Premier parts.
With Dodge being the company’s highest-volume division (Though Dodge already had a large front-wheel-drive car in the Dynasty), the new rebadged Premier was designated a Dodge. The Monaco name was revived for the car, which differed from the Premier only in its crosshair grille, different taillights and badging. The car became Dodge’s top-of-the-line model and replaced the rear-wheel drive Diplomat, which was discontinued after the 1989 model year. Chrysler Canada did not replace the Dodge Diplomat as Chrysler was discontinuing all larger Dodge & Plymouth vehicles at the time and moving them to the Chrysler brand.
Fewer Monacos were sold than Premiers. The similarly-sized yet less technically sophisticated K-car based Dynasty, which had been introduced only two years earlier as a 1988 model, outsold the new Monaco. Fleet buyers such as rental companies and government agencies liked the fact that the Dynasty could be equipped with any of three different engines and sold for a lower price. The Monaco, on the other hand, came with only one engine and was more expensive.
The Monaco did not gain wide acceptance from a public that was wary of the reliability of previous French-designed AMC cars. The Premier and Monaco did indeed suffer from significant mechanical and electrical problems related to the mandated Renault-based components.
The Monaco, built at the Brampton, Ontario plant alongside the Premier, was never sold in Canada. At that time, the Dodge Spirit ES was Dodge’s top-line sedan in that market. The Monaco and Premier were discontinued during the 1992 model year. The French-designed platform, its state of the art manufacturing plant, and the key executive from American Motors behind the Premier/Monaco design, Francois Castaing, would lead to the successful and highly rated “cab-forward” LH Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde and Eagle Vision in late 1992 when production resumed at Brampton Assembly.
1990–1992 Dodge Monaco LE