The Chevrolet Monte Carlo is dead now. Nobody can hurt it anymore, and it can’t hurt me. But dammit, the last generations of Monte Carlo were sad front-wheel drive pretenders and it still makes me mad and I can’t get over it.
(The pictures here show, primarily, the next-to-last Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The final years got an extremely sad facelift. I hate them deeply, but I spent most of my intense years of Monte Carlo disappointment facing the blobby-headlight ones seen here.)
Growing up, I was a hopeless nostalgic. I probably still am, but when it came to cars I was absolutely stuck in the past. I longed to drive a first-gen Monte Carlo, big V8 and super clean styling. I’d see one every so often roll through my town, thanks to rust being largely non-present in the Central Valley.
Every time I saw an old Monte Carlo, I would dream of myself behind the wheel, doing a burnout that would take me clear over the Sierra Nevadas, off to somewhere, something else.
Every time I saw a then-new Monte Carlo, that old dream would break. There would be no giant, endless burnouts with smoke drifting behind me. There would be angry, aimless front-wheel-drive burnouts, with smoke pouring into my face. The dream me would cough. The real me would get mad.
Now, I know that it’s not new to complain about NASCAR not actually being stock car racing, but this is all dredging old feelings and dammit god dammit this Monte Carlo isn’t even rear-wheel drive it’s not like the race car just uargh why is America like this why can’t we make something like back in the day.
I wouldn’t even have minded the car so much if it didn’t actively remind me how much better it could be. The name alone was a callback to a better car, and the roaring, custom-chassis, V8, rear-drive stock car Chevy raced in NASCAR didn’t promote the Monte so much as constantly point out at me that the ones I’d see on the street would never be cool. The SS ones. The Intimidator versions! How dare they.
It felt like the cars were trolling me. Me! Me personally. It wasn’t even GM that I was mad at. I was mad at each individual front-drive Monte Carlo. They knew, in their mechanical hearts, that I liked old cars, and these sadsack new era GMers taunted me parading a vintage name on a soppy it-could-have-been-called-a-Lumina.
I know now that a W-Body Monte Carlo (as all the Monte Carlos were from 1994 to the end at 2007) was probably a better-built and better-handling vehicle than those first, wallowy Monte Carlos ever were. I’ve come around to front-wheel drive in the years since my first thoughts about cars. I even kind of like the idea of getting my hands on one of the final 2006-2007 SSes that came with a LS V8, 303 horsepower, mounted sideways in the car. An overpowered front-wheel drive boat is more fun than the young me would have ever imagined.
I could have cast the past aside. I could have become this guy. I could have stopped caring, let my heart cool.
But those years and years and years of front-drive Montes felt like a crushing weigh and disappointment about America as a whole, sad and unambitious and just loping along, without the spark of more fiery early days. What a bastard.