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Injected Big-Block: 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454

Chevrolet released the First Generation Monte Carlo in 1970 as its competitor in the “personal luxury car” market. Its target was the Ford Thunderbird, and if the buyer ticked the right boxes on the Order Form, it could show the T-Bird a clean set of heals when attention turned to the subject of performance. This 1971 Monte Carlo is the relatively rare SS 454 version that presents well for its age. The seller performed some minor mechanical upgrades but includes the removed parts for those preferring originality. They have listed it here on Craigslist in Marine City, Michigan. It could be yours by handing the seller $35,000. I must thank Barn Finder Pat L. for using a finely tuned classic radar to spot this beauty for us.

The supplied photos of this Monte Carlo are limited, but they make a positive impression. It wears Tuxedo Black paint that the seller claims was refreshed thirty years ago. It still presents with a pleasing depth of shine, and any defects are too small to show in the supplied photos. It covers panels that are claimed to be completely original. They are laser straight, with tight and consistent gaps. There is no evidence of previous accident damage or rust repairs, with the floors looking particularly clean. The Black vinyl top is in as-new condition, while the red pinstripe adds a subtle but welcome contrast. The chrome is spotlessly clean, as is the tinted glass. The SS rolls on factory Rally wheels showing no evidence of stains or physical damage.

When it launched the Monte Carlo, Chevrolet had the Thunderbird firmly in its gunsight, making its list of luxury features no surprise. The buyer of this classic receives ice-cold air conditioning, power windows, power locks, cruise control, and a tilt wheel. The original radio has disappeared in favor of a radio/cassette player, but since the installer hasn’t cut the dash, sourcing and installing a factory unit shouldn’t pose a problem. The upholstered surfaces present well for their age. The cloth seatcovers have no appreciable wear, while the vinyl is free from sun damage or other issues. The dash and pad are excellent, and the faux woodgrain inserts have avoided the fading and lifting that often plagues trim of this type. The seller added Dakota Digital RTX gauges in place of the factory items, but they don’t detract from the interior appearance and are difficult to distinguish from the originals.

What made this classic stand out when it was new was what the original owner selected to occupy its engine bay. They chose a 454ci big-block that produced 365hp and 465 ft/lbs of torque. There was no manual transmission option with this motor, meaning the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic undertook shifting duties. Companies like Chevrolet and Ford focused on luxury with vehicles of this type, but performance figures are fascinating. This Monte Carlo would have taken 15.2 seconds to storm the ¼ mile, which is respectable for a car tipping the scales at 3,884lbs. The Thunderbird’s 429ci V8 had to shift an additional 500lbs utilizing a comparable power output. Therefore, it is no surprise that its journey down the ¼ took 16 seconds. If there’s one aspect of this Monte Carlo that may disappoint some purists, it is the news that it is no longer numbers-matching. The engine we see is a date-correct 454 that started life in another ’71 SS, and the owner performed some reversible upgrades that should improve performance and driveability. The engine breathes deeply through throttle-body injection, while an HEI distributor provides the spark to kick things into life. The seller retained the removed engine components that could allow a purist to return the car to its factory specifications. One more significant change is the owner’s decision to ditch the Turbo-Hydramatic in favor of a more efficient 4L60E unit. It is unclear whether they retained the original, but finding one shouldn’t prove a problem if the buyer craves originality. Otherwise, this is a turnkey classic ready for a life of adventure with a new owner behind the wheel.

The First Generation Monte Carlo SS 454 faced hurdles that negatively impacted sales volumes, leading the company to drop the option after two years. In 1970, the company sold 3,823 vehicles, plunging to 1,919 in 1971. The crux of the problem was its price. Fully optioned, it sold for considerably less than the equivalent Ford Thunderbird. However, those with performance leanings could opt for a Chevelle SS 454, with a sticker price that was 10% lower. The Monte Carlo SS disappeared until the 1980s, and it is unclear how many of these First Generation vehicles exist today. The owner performed some changes in this case, but reversing them should be straightforward. The car isn’t perfect, but it would be a tempting proposition for those wishing to combine luxury and performance. The price sits within the ballpark of what you might expect to pay, and it will be fascinating to see how quickly this Monte Carlo finds a new home.


  1. PaulG

    Nice car and should perform better than stock w/ the changes.
    Too bad it’s bench / auto on column, kinda takes away from the SS look.

    Like 16
  2. 19sixty5 Member

    Nice upgrades. I also installed the Dakota RTX in my 70 El Camino SS396 a couple years back, one of my favorite modifications ever!

    Like 4
  3. jwzg

    This is a very wisely updated classic that should provide many miles of trouble-free cruising with a few occasional burnouts. The CAI has to go. That thing is as tasteless as it is useless.

    Like 6
  4. David

    That car has a surprise for ya! Don’t mind the bench, column, and that turbo 400. All you have to do is hold on.

    Like 6
    • John S Dressler

      Absolutely correct David. I have the 70 version of this car with the exception of the fact that mine has the buckets and console. Had the engine rebuilt several years ago to include a Voodoo cam, roller rockers, a 750 Holley double pumper, headers, turbo mufflers and a 342 posi. If you start it up and drive it normally it doesn’t feel much different than the stock engine. Mash down on the go pedal however and my Monte turns into a whole different animal! Have surprised many a Boss Mustang and Cuda with that build. The Camaros and Vettes just leave it alone.

  5. Jay McCarthy

    I have never seen a Monte SS454 with a bench seat

    Like 2
  6. Charles Turner

    Apparently back in the day you order Strato bucket seats & console w/or w/out going for the SS package……….I’ve only seen a handful of SS 454 models set up this way and only a few more that were standard sport coupes w/said setup from the General. All interesting stuff!

    Like 1
  7. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. I’ve always loved this generation of Chevrolet Monte Carlo. If only more pictures were posted. Craigslist hardly seems to post enough pictures. When it comes to advertising a car for sale, you can never have too many pictures.

    Like 2

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