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Monte Carlo Coupe Buyer's Guide

Finding a good clean Monte Carlo SS is usually not a problem if you look hard enough; most are usually well-taken care of (which of course, you will usually pay for, but it is worth it). Finding clean Coupes is another story entirely. Most Coupes are used as daily drivers and are not often thought as having any particular aesthetic value like SS cars. (I happen to think that personally they are loaded with personality!)  However, the good part about them is that, opposed to an SS car, a clean Coupe is relatively inexpensive to obtain. A good, relatively flawless example will on average run between $2000-4000. A flawless SS can run $6500 and up. And contrary to opinions, a Coupe has just as much performance potential as an SS car; Exterior-wise, it is physically identical from the front fenders back (minus the spoiler, of course)!

Monte Carlo Coupes are dependable and long-lasting vehicles, and are very easy to become familiar with from the driver's point of view. While they are not as tight-handling as an SS, they do, for the most part, have impeccable road manners and are enjoyable to cruise in. They're not as likely to be stolen as an SS because they are typically "plain". If left with their stock engines, (the 3.8l or 4.3l V6's depending on year), Monte Coupes get fairly good gas mileage - with 200,000 miles, my own '82 was clocking 22-24 mpg on the highway and 14 mpg in the city.

How much should you pay for a Monte Carlo Sport Coupe?

What you pay for a car depends a lot on what area of the country you live in, what year the car is, and what condition the car is in. Expect to pay more for a low-mileage or restored car than you will for an all-original car that has highway miles.  Also expect to pay more for a car that has been modified in some way (generally this will be under the hood) than you will for an unmolested version.

I've listed the values for 1981-1986 Monte Carlo Coupes. 1986 was the last year for the "plain" Coupe body style, as it was phased out by the Monte Carlo LS. The values I've listed below are according to the Standard Catalog of Chevrolets and are merely meant to be a guide. You may want to check with Kelley Blue Book for the current value of a car with specific equipment. I would say from experience that the average prices are what's listed between "Good" and "Very Good" condition.

1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(First column lists V-6 equipped cars, the second V8-equipped)
Note: Landau cars run approximately $100-200 more.

Excellent
Fine
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$5500
$3850
$2200
$1100
$660
$200
$5900
$4130
$2350
$1200
$720
$200

1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(First column lists V6-equipped cars; the second V8-equipped)

Excellent
Fine 
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$5700
$3990
$2300
$1150
$685
$200
$6100
$4270
$2450
$1250
$730
$200

1983 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(First column lists V6-equipped cars, the second V8-equipped)

Excellent
Fine
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$5800
$4060
$2300
$1200
$670
$200
$6200
$4340
$2500
$1250
$745
$200

1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(deduct 15% for V6-equipped cars)

Excellent
Fine
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$6000
$4200
$2400
$1200
$720
$200

1985 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(deduct 20% for V6-equipped cars)

Excellent
Fine
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$6100
$4270
$2450
$1250
$730
$200

1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe Approximate Values
(deduct 20% for V6-equipped cars)

Excellent
Fine
Very Good
Good
Restorable
Parts Car
$6500
$4550
$2600
$1300
$780
$350

An example of a very clean Monte Carlo Sport Coupe would be this '81. This is the kind of car that you can expect to pay $4000+/- for.

This car is not all original (it has a 350 under the hood, aftermarket wheels, CD sound system, and a front end mask) - but it is extremely clean and has been kept in great shape for 18 years. While this car is atypical of the average that is out there, there are cars like this around. You just have to be persistent and know what you're looking for. Originality is a personal issue; there are people who love numbers-matching cars where nothing's ever been replaced, and there are those who enjoy something that's been modified a little (or a lot!). No matter what you are considering purchasing, remember this: Always make sure that what you're seeing is really what you're getting. Need an example? Look at the picture below. Pretty nice Monte SS, right?

Wrong. This is a 1982 Sport Coupe which has been treated to some Monte SS "upgrades". While this is a pretty good fake (straight down to the black trim around the windows) - it is not an SS. Do not pay an extravagant amount for a car like this - no matter what, it is still a Coupe. When in doubt about a particular car, check the VIN. A 305-equipped Coupe will bear "H" as the eigth letter of the VIN; "K" , "9", or "Z" signifies a V6 car. Please refer to my RPO codes page for more VIN info.

The previously mentioned 1981 Coupe is also an example of getting carried away with an asking price, which is something that is rampant in the used-car world. How much is too much, do you ask? $10,500. Yikes! More than what this car cost as new from the factory! While the owner has restored the car to original condition and completed an engine swap, there is no real justification for such an asking price. Monte Carlo Coupes don't tend to hold their values as well as SS Monte Carlos (which I've seen also at the outrageous price of $20,000+); there is really no reason, in my opinion, to pay more than $6000 for one at this point in time.

What to look out for - Common problems:

Obviously, when looking at a car, you want to find the straightest, cleanest example for the money that you can afford to pay. Since a great deal of Monte Carlo Sport Coupes are used as daily drivers - and not often maintained the way that they should be, there are a few things that you should be careful of when looking at a prospective car. Things such as sagging doors to me are a nuisance item - door hinges can be replaced. Things like accident damage, however, can make a car completely unsafe to drive.

Rust:

Monte Carlos tend to rust in a few particular places.  You should take note of this when looking at a car, especially when looking at a car from the Northeast or the Upper Midwest U.S. (Florida cars should also be inspected if they have lived a lot of their life near the coast). The first place would be the undersides of the doors. Open the doors and take a good look (and feel) around the edges, especially the bottom rear edge.  Check the underside of the decklid for rust, particularly at the lower edge.  Take a good look around the molding that keeps the water out of the trunk, and around the windshield and backlight trim. I've also seen a few cars with rotted trunk floors, including my own car - pull the trunk mat up and double check, especially in areas where the rear wheels can throw road salt up into this area. An even more important place to check is the rear frame rails, from the rear axle mounts all the way to the bumper mounts - they are notorious for rusting on G-bodied cars, especially cars that are in wet climates or places where there is a lot of road salt in the winter. If you find a car that has this problem, forget about it. It's not roadworthy, and there really is no way to economically repair this kind of damage. A car with this type of damage is, however, useful for a parts car.

Engine Leaks:

I am not too certain if this applies to 305 Monte Coupes as I haven't seen very many, but almost every 1981-1984
229 cid (3.8l) V6-equipped Monte that I've seen has had a problem with engine leaks, most commonly with valve cover gaskets. If the owner of the car is willing to let you look under the hood (if he isn't, you might want to consider walking away), check the valve covers on either side and make certain that there isn't any oil running out from underneath them. If there is a great deal of oil (eg. the entire engine is soaking with it), you may want to reconsider the car as there may be more than valve cover gaskets at fault. The design of the valve covers on the 229 V6 and the way that the gaskets seal isn't the greatest and they are very prone to leaking. Small leaks are common on cars with high mileage; if you are planning on replacing the original motor, then they shouldn't cause you too much concern as long as the rest of the car is sound. If you are purchasing a car with high mileage, some kind of leaks will be unavoidable. Generally, the cost to repair valve cover gaskets is relatively inexpensive (I paid $120 to have it done on my '82). It will boil down to how much you want the car, and how much you are willing to spend on repairs.  If you can get underneath the car (which may not be possible), also check the rear main seal of the engine for leaks; earlier Coupes had a 2-piece rear seal which is not as good as the later-model 1-piece seal. Rear seal leaks are fairly labor-intensive; a car with a massive rear seal leak may eat quite a hole in your wallet! Less common are transmission leaks (almost always the pan gasket).

Front End Problems:

Monte Carlo Coupes are usually driven many miles and their front ends suffer because of it, particularly in places where the roads are less than desireable. Most commonly, the lower ball joints fail, as well as the tie rod ends. While this isn't necessarily something that should keep you from purchasing an otherwise straight car, it is worth noting as it could cause a dangerous situation (eg. losing a wheel). When test-driving a prospective Monte, take a few turns; if there is a popping noise, it could be possible that the ball joints are failing. Another point to consider is to let go of the wheel while the car is traveling in a straight line - see if it wanders to either side. It could be in need of a wheel alignment. Bushings also tend to wear out after a lot of years on the road; this makes for a rather nasty/sloppy ride. Thankfully there are a lot of places (such as PST ) that sell complete kits that will cover all of the bushings on the front end. Check your Monte's shocks and springs; if the car sits a little too low and you know that it hasn't been lowered, there's a good chance the springs could be bad. Monte Carlo Coupes are not flawless-handling; one with suspension problems can be a nightmare to drive. Purchasing one with no front end problems will make your driving experience a lot more pleasant.

Brake Problems:

Most G-body cars are notorious for having weak stock brakes. To put it simply:  too little brakes and too much car. While there are some that have escaped this problem (our 1983 Olds Cutlass Supreme stops on a dime), it is something that you should be aware of. Again, while test driving the car, see how it stops - does it feel grabby or pull to one side? It shouldn't. Pay attention to how the pedal feels under your foot, as your prospective purchase could have a power brake booster problem. A more common cause of brake problems in Monte Carlos is the front brake hoses; they are rubber and are prone to bursting unexpectedly. (Yes, I have had this happen to me!) Look at them yourself or have someone check them out for you - if they are swollen or cracked they need to be replaced immediately.

Carburetor Problems:

While I know 4bbl Q-jets that have had problems, it is the 2bbl  Dual-Jet on the 229 V6 that is known for having fits. Things such as stalling, poor idle, and racing when started are all things that can be traced back to the carburetor. Most common is that the choke mechanism fails somewhere along the way - with my own car, it was the choke pull-off that was malfunctioning. I find that this problem is more prevalent in colder weather; and from personal experience, an improperly working carburetor could leave you stuck on the side of the road in 20-degree weather!

Paint:

Some 1980's GM cars had a problem with their paint; It is commonly known as "Peeling Paint Syndrome". It is easily recognizable by large areas of the top color coat actually peeling off and showing the primer underneath. Therefore, a lot of cars were repainted (including my own). If originality is important to you, it is crucial that you know whether it is the correct factory color. There is only one foolproof way to tell if your car is its original color - and that is to look at the cowl tag and read the paint code. (Please refer to my RPO Codes page for more info)

A good example of original paint vs. non-original paint would be the following cars:
 

Both cars are 1982 Monte Carlo Sport Coupes. The car on the left is wearing the correct shade of factory Light Blue; the car on the right is not. Again, your feelings about the importance of a car's originality are the issue. The color of a car has nothing to do with what is under the hood! :-)

T-Tops/Sunroofs:

While T-tops look nice on a Monte Carlo, there are a few things that you should be aware of when looking at a car that has them. Inspect all of the weatherstripping for cracks - T-top weatherstripping is heinously expensive to purchase, not to mention install.  Bad T-top seals can leak in rainy weather, create wind noise, and in general, not look too pleasant. Also be aware of aftermarket sun/moonroofs. It doesn't matter how nice they look; they weaken the structure of the roof of the car - to a point where now, reputable shops will NOT install them. An aftermarket sunroof can cause a lot of flex in the roof area of the car, and if the car does roll over in an accident, a weakened roof can be dangerous.

A nice example of an '82 with T-tops. The only thing that is not original on the exterior of this car is the Black paint; Black was not available in 1982.

Bumper Covers:

Monte Carlos have urethane bumper covers; while this saves some weight as opposed to the metal ones on say, a Caprice, this also can pose some problems. While this is a strictly cosmetic issue and you can always purchase new bumper covers, there are a few things you should look for. A repainted car may reveal itself through cracks in the finish on the bumper covers - places such as Maaco do NOT utilize the special flex additive to the paint that they use over the bumper covers. They simply use what they use on the rest of the car. Urethane has a lot of flex to it - this creates cracks over time and, eventually, the paint starts flaking off. (big yellow spots on the front or rear bumper covers are a dead giveaway - that's the urethane underneath!) Another thing I have found on Coupes is a lot of the bumper covers crack or break  where the front marker lights are - leaving you with a floppy piece of plastic dangling from the front of the car. (for an example, check out my "Oops" picture - while this was an accident that caused this, it is similar damage) The front bumper covers are also notorious for coming loose, especially on cars that see a lot of bad roads - on my car you could pull the entire cover upwards!

On a parting note, Car Craft magazine (September 1999) has an interesting article about purchasing your first street machine. It covers a lot of the more basic issues about buying a car that I haven't included here. When I have the chance, I may scan some of the more relevant items, so stay tuned! :)

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