When you look at this 1977 Dodge Monaco, does you skin begin to itch? Mine does. This thing is practically the automotive manifestation of a guy in a polyester suit, complete with a comb over and bad pickup lines. The Dodge Monaco is an easily overlooked malaise era car. It didn’t have any particularly innovative features that were unique to the model, didn’t offer any sort of attention grabbing performance capabilities, and certainly didn’t stand out from the crowd design wise. It was yet another bloated Chrysler product that suffered dismal sales numbers due to the 1973 Oil Crisis coinciding with its launch. If customers wanted a big, comfortable, boat-of-a-car, they looked elsewhere.
The Monaco limped along during its final 4 years of production and struggled to find buyers in any of its 3 forms. If someone was actually interested in the car, they could choose from the base Monaco, Monaco Custom or Monaco Brougham. The base model and the Monaco Custom replaced the Polara and Polara Custom, and the top of the line Monaco was renamed the Monaco Brougham. With the latter being a standalone model vs a luxury option package, Dodge officially had a full size luxury car. The trouble was, Dodge didn’t have a luxury image, it had a blue collar image.
They, like so many other brands of the era, struggled from an identity crisis that would ultimately last all the way into the 21st century. If Dodge had stuck to what worked instead of freaking out and spreading themselves too thin, who knows how different the 70s would have been for the Chrysler Corporation overall. One of the things that has always dumfounded me is how much internal competition there was during the Malaise Era. I suppose everyone was just figuring out how things were going to work in the growing global economy, but still, why anyone would think that Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler all needed to be offering similar vehicles is beyond me.
After one year of sub-par sales, Dodge decided to try and attract buyers by adding some class to the vehicles, in name only. The Monaco Custom and Monaco Brougham became the Royal Monaco, and Royal Monaco Brougham respectively. The “Diplomat” specialty package offered for the Royal Monaco Brougham added an oh-so-classy landau vinyl roof, opera windows and wide steel roof band. These cars are quite hard to find, and you’ll need to be prepared to do some restoration work, the few of them that are out there weren’t exactly garage queens. Perhaps they wouldn’t be in such short supply if a 1974 Monaco hadn’t been The Bluesmobile.
That’s right, for all of you that thought you’d never seen a Monaco before, you have if you’ve seen The Blues Brothers. If for some reason you haven’t seen The Blue Brothers, then shame on you, shame. In the 1980 film, Elwood (Dan Akroyd), says to Jake (John Belushi), “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic-inch powerplant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.” He’s right too, Monacos equipped with the 440 V8 were stout performers and many were used as police cars in the real world in addition to often being used as such in films. If you’re serious about getting a Monaco, go after one of these “police powerplant” 440 cars and make sure to educate yourself as much as possible because there are a ton of knockoffs out there. A good site to consult is Bluesmobiles, which has a number of details you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. You’ll quickly realize that for a car that was so unloved during its original sales run, the Monaco has benefitted immensely from its pop culture status. Of course that so many were destroyed over the years in film stunts is unfortunate, but Dodge had to get rid of unsold inventory somehow and bulk sales to film productions were surely just as lucrative as those to police departments.
For 1977/1978, the Monaco name was slapped on Chrylser’s B-Body midsize platform, replacing the Dodge Coronet four door sedan, wagon and Charger coupe. The Coronet Brougham, and Charger Sport coupe were replaced by the Monaco Brougham, making the Charger S.E. the only Charger available and by default, the last remaining link to Dodge’s muscle car glory days. The full size C-Body Royal Monaco remained in production, unchanged, through the end of 1978. With Chrysler facing bankruptcy, changes were made across the board and the Monaco was axed in both B and C Body form, replaced by the St.Regis nameplate. The St.Regis didn’t do much to improve Dodge’s situation, but that is of course a story for another Monday.