1983-1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS – Chevrolet’s Last Muscle Car

During the 1980s there was a big revival of the American performance car and one of the cars that led the movement was the 1983-1988 Monte Carlo SS. It was a rear-wheel drive 2-door performance car with a powerful for its era V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor. It was a modern 1980s muscle car with all the good things muscle cars from the original golden era had. The Monte Carlo SS also had a free flow dual outlet exhaust system which produced that familiar deep resonance V8 sound that was music to any muscle car fan’s ears.

The performance versions of the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird during the 1980s were popular but weren’t true muscle cars, they were modern pony cars which had smaller interior space with only room for 4 people. However the Monte Carlo SS was just like the original muscle cars because it had lot of trunk space and had plenty of headroom and legroom for 6 people when ordered without the front center console and 5 people when ordered with the front center console. Once you looked past the poor gas mileage, most traditional muscle cars were practical and could be used to commute to work and for day-to-day family duties. The same was true with the 1983-1988 Monte Carlo SS.

The Monte Carlo SS was built on GM’s rear wheel drive mid-size G-body platform. It was the perfect size for a muscle car and had a length of 202.4 inches, a width of 71.8 inches, and a wheelbase of 108 inches. In today’s car market it would be considered a full-size car. However it was considerably smaller than it’s golden era predecessor, the 1970-1971 Monte Carlo SS.

The Monte Carlo SS may have been a retro muscle car back in the 1980s with sporty exterior decal stripes however its exterior styling was very modern for its day with blacked out trim and a rear trunk spoiler. It was only available as 2-door model and also had a very aerodynamic front bumper nose which was part of the SS package so it could be qualified to be used on Monte Carlo NASCAR race cars. Its overall exterior styling was very attractive yet it had a tough very series look. For 1986 and 1987 the Monte Carlo SS could be equipped in a new “Aerocoupe” version which added a sleek aerodynamic rear glass window which was another item that was used on Monte Carlo NASCAR race cars to improve aerodynamics. Chevrolet produced only 200 Aerocoupes for 1986 and 6,000 for 1987. The SS’s interior was modern and sporty but fell somewhere in-between utilitarian and luxurious. It really looked the part of a modern muscle car when equipped with optional front bucket seats and a front center console.

The Monte Carlo SS was powered by Chevrolet’s 5.0 liter High Output small-block V8. For 1983 this engine in the Monte Carlo SS produced 175 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque and from 1984-1988 these ratings increased to 180 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Earlier production Monte Carlo SS’s had a 3-speed automatic transmission and later versions were equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Never-the-less its performance was very good for its era, Hot Rod magazine in its March 1984 issue ran a stock 1984 Monte Carlo SS down the quarter-mile in 15.39 seconds at 90 MPH. This would have been a respectable performance time during the original muscle car golden era proving the Monte Carlo SS was indeed a true muscle car. The SS’s Handling, steering, and braking were very good for its era. The only downside was the SS was mandatory with front disc and rear drum brakes. Standard were 15×7-inch steel or aluminum wheels and P215-65R15 Goodyear Eagle GT performance tires.

The Monte Carlo SS started off production only available in a white exterior color, by the next model year more colors were offered. The Monte Carlo SS was a bigger sales success than Chevrolet had anticipated with 161,067 being produced over six model years. For 1983 with a March 1983 introduction only 4,714 units were produced which was 4.9% of total 1983 Monte Carlo production. Monte Carlo SS production increased tenfold by 1987 its highest production model year, 39,251 were produced which was 54% of all 1987 Monte Carlo production. The same was true for its last model year, 1988, around 54% of all Monte Carlos produced were SS models. Even during its last year the Monte Carlo SS was very popular. GM permanently shutdown rear-wheel drive G-body car production only a few months into the 1988 model year to focus exclusively on its replacement, the front-wheel drive W-body. Never-the-less 1988 Monte Carlo SS production was still a very strong 16,204 units. When Chevrolet ended rear-wheel drive Monte Carlo SS production it was truly an end to an era. Chevrolet would never again produce an authentic traditional rear-wheel drive 2-door muscle car.


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