Genuine SS 454! 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

In the Spring of 1971, I went on a tour of Chevrolet’s Broening Highway (Baltimore) assembly plant. I was a car-obsessed teen and B.H. was one of several plants that assembled Chevelles, El Caminos, and Monte Carlos. As we walked along the assembly line with the tour director, I pointed to a Monte Carlo SS and called it out to a friend who was accompanying me. The tour director asked me what I was referencing and I said, “There goes a Monte Carlo SS”. He asked me why I thought that was an SS model, one he didn’t know was being assembled right under his own nose. I said, “Look at the rocker panel, see the SS454 badge”? It was an educating moment for him I guess. And now, half a century later, we’re going to look at another Monte Carlo SS454 in the form of this 1971 example. Our subject car (built at GM’s Van Nuys, CA plant) is located in Oakland, Oregon and is available, here on eBay for a starting bid of $8,500.

I don’t know if that tour director was new or just not familiar with his plant’s product line-up but the SS454 was in its second year of Monte Carlo guise. If you wanted a 454 engine in your ’70 or ’71 Monte Carlo, the SS was the only avenue. In ’72, the SS454 option was dropped and the big motor was now available as an option in any MC.

And speaking of the engine, it was a 365 gross HP, stump puller. Interestingly, the ’70 version was rated at 360 gross HP and operated with a high compression ratio (10.25:1). For ’71, GM CEO Ed Cole issued an edict that all GM cars would run on low-lead or no-lead fuel as the beginning of emission control pursuit, in earnest, was on. The new 454 engine utilized an 8.5:1 ratio but the power was rated five higher. Regarding this big “rat” motor, the seller states, “The motor is a factory warranty engine code (CE261848) that has been rebuilt and sounds great“. It is often assumed that the “CE” engine code means “Counter Exchange” but a deep dig into the bowels of Chevrolet trivia pursuit claims that it really stood for “Chevrolet Engine”. Regardless, it’s the correct spec, but not the original mill and unfortunately, it has since quit running due to what the seller thinks is a fuel problem.  A Turbo-Hydramatic 400, three-speed automatic transmission backs up the motor. Interestingly, a four-speed manual transmission was Monte Carlo available, but not with the 454 engine. Of note, the engine has no fan attached so it may have sounded great, but it won’t for long with that important item missing.

Monte Carlos of this generation are built on GM’s A-Body platform, specifically a 116″ wheelbase Chevelle four-door/station wagon/El Camino chassis. The frame, somewhere in front of the firewall, however, was stretched another four inches to provide support for the Monte’s runway length hood. In some circles, the platform was referred to as the “A-Special” due to the extra stretch. Nevertheless, Monte Carlos rust just like their lesser siblings but the seller states, “The dark green paint (Antique Green) is the factory original. The body is super straight with minimal rust holes. The only rust found is in the bottoms of front fenders, would be an easy fix. There was some rust around the back glass that was already professionally replaced and looks great“.  That pretty well sums it up though there is plenty of visible surface rust too and hopefully it hasn’t reached an invasive state.

The interior appears to have originally been sandalwood but it’s hard to tell as the bench seat has a cover over it, the driver’s door panel is black and the carpet is missing. The floors are claimed to be solid, so that’s good to know. Note the size of that Delco radio taking up residence on the passenger-side floor. I can tell you from experience that they are as heavy as they look – it’s amazing how that technology has evolved over the last 50 years.

Cachet of an SS454 Chevelle? Nope, not even close and that’s unfortunate as there are a lot of similarities between both cars. This Chevy is definitely a project, it looks like a good base from which to start but the devil’s always in the details, right?

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Comments

  1. Stan

    The big Monte’s and Gran Prix cars are awesome.

    Like 15
  2. Bick Banter

    The Monte never got the love that the Chevelle did. I think for $8,500 you would end up deep underwater if you did it right. But good luck finding a Chevelle SS454 for anything close to this price.

    Like 12
  3. CCFisher

    The Monte Carlo’s wheelbase is the same as the Chevelle sedans and wagons, but the chassis is not the same. Monte Carlo’s extra length is ahead of the cowl, while the sedan chassis is stretched aft of the cowl.

    Like 4
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Actually, it’s both, behind and in front of the cowl, compared to a Chevelle two-door. The Chevelle four-door sedan rides on a 116″ wheelbase, stretched behind the cowl, (the two-door hardtop/convertible is 112″). The M/C uses the sedan’s 116″ wheelbase and then has additional length, as you stated, up front but beyond the plane of the front axle (note the huge amount of room between the engine and radiator). The result?

      Chevelle two-door length: 197″
      Chevelle four-door length: 201″ (4″ more – 112″ vs. 116″ wheelbase)
      M/C length: 206.5″ (another 5+” over the four-door Chevelle)

      JO

      Like 9
      • Al

        All that room under the hood makes that engine look pretty small lol!

      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        Agreed! Ever see the fan shroud for one of these? It looks like a sideways barrel.

        JO

        Like 2
      • John S Dressler

        It does make the engine look smaller, but that big fan shroud really comes in handy if you are going to work on the engine. Remove the shroud, swing your legs over the radiator and you can literally stand on the ground between the radiator and the engine. Makes replacing fan clutches, water pumps, fuel pumps, alternators or anything else on that 454 engine a breeze. It’s a lot easier on old backs instead of trying to reach what you need by bending yourself in half over the fenders or the radiator!

        Like 4
  4. Jamie

    I’ve heard of CE being counter engine, crate engine, Chevrolet engine, etc. I’ve always referred to them as crate engines. Personal preference I guess.

    • bill

      Actually CE denotes Counter exchange which was a replacement engine under warranty.. Much different from a crate engine.

      Like 1
  5. George Mattar

    Bick Banter is right. As scarce as true SS 454 Montes, Chevelles are the big money cars. Why is beyond me. I have owned two Montes, 76 with swivel buckets and an 88 loaded SS t top car. Two of most comfortable cars I ever owned. Miss them dearly.

    Like 4
  6. Glen

    Perhaps an aftermarket electric fan(s) was installed?

    Speaking of missing equipment… where’s the AC compressor and related pieces? I see the RPO G67 air tank is still present… what about the associated hardware (valve and lines)?

    As far as the replacement (CE) block… if there’s a paper trail showing this block was indeed a replacement for the original CPD suffix’d block, it shouldn’t hurt the value too much. And being that it’s Van Nuys built, there is a very strong likelihood of at least one build sheet remaining somewhere in that car.

    If the rest of the drive train and major components are indeed original, definitely not a bad buy at $8500.

    Like 1
  7. Al

    Without swivel buckets, a 4sp & console, it’s just another boat with a big engine.

    • Bob-O

      Swivel buckets weren’t available in Monte Carlo’s until 1973.

      Like 4
  8. Jeff

    Not counter engine, or crate engine.

    Beginning in 1968 replacement Chevy engine or partial engine assemblies were stamped with the CE code which meant “Chevrolet Engine”. Replacement Chevy transmissions were stamped with CT which meant “Chevrolet Transmission”

    A replacement Pontiac engine or partial engine assembly was stamped with PE, and a replacement Pontiac transmission was stamped PT. And so forth.

    All this is specifically set forth in a Chevrolet Dealer service bulletin issued during the 1969 model year.

    Like 1
  9. Paul

    hated when people remove all the A/C equipment when it stop working and the bench seat with a colmun shift a rarity

  10. Rex B Schaefer

    Junk-This forum should be called “junk finds”!

    • John S Dressler

      Rex, while this Monte may not be your cup of tea, let’s not forget that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The selection of cars on this site is very diverse which I very much enjoy. You can learn more by reading the comments of other knowledgeable classic car owners on this site who have learned things you didn’t know about the cars being highlighted than any other site I’m aware of. So look, read, learn, and enjoy!

      If you love First Gen Montes, as I and many others do, you would do whatever it takes to make it look like it just came off the showroom floor again. What looks like a pile of junk to one man becomes a labor of love for another man (or woman!). There’s a knowledgeable Cadillac Diva on this site who comments on Cadillacs periodically.

      Like 2
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        John:

        Thank you for the kind Barn Finds comment. Writing continual reviews of a wide variety of diverse cars and trucks is our goal!

        JO

        Like 1
  11. Glen

    I agree with Mr. Dressler.

    And when you factor in that there were only 1,919 ‘71 SS’s made, they are indeed quite rare. And 1970 was the only other year Chevy made First Gen SS’s (3,823 of ‘em).

    So now do the math (5,742 total SS’s) and figure how many might actually be left after 50+ years. Not many.

    So truly a rare car, and I hope someone picks it up to restore her to her original glory.

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