Solid Californian: 1976 Chevrolet Monza Spyder V8

There is no disputing the fact that this 1976 Monza Spyder is bright. It isn’t clear whether the car is wearing its original color, but there’s no doubt that it would stand out in a crowd. Barn Finder Taylor W spotted the Monza for us to look at, so thank you for that Taylor. The Monza is located in Los Angeles, California, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $7,500 for the Monza.

Both the photos and the seller’s description of the Monza are lacking a bit, and we don’t know exactly how solid the underside of the car actually is. If it has been a California car all of its life, this should augur well in that department. Looking around the exterior of the car, there are certainly no indications that the next owner will have any rust issues to deal with. The car has undergone a repaint at some point, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the Bright Yellow paint wasn’t applied with a lot of care. So this might be a car where the paint will need to be stripped off to get it back to its best. There are also a few minor trim pieces missing, so the search will certainly be on to source replacement pieces.

Before we get onto mechanical details here, you can see what I mean about the lack of care and attention when it comes to applying the paint. Perhaps somebody just ran out of masking tape at some point. Anyway, under the hood is a 305ci V8, backed by a 3-speed automatic transmission. Now normally, this combination would promise some pretty entertaining performance in a car that tips the scales at just under 3,100lbs. However, this was the mid-1970s, and car companies were still trying to extract respectable performance from engines that had been strangled by emissions regulations. As a result, the 305 in the Monza produces 140hp. This meant that the 0-60mph time was 9.8 seconds, while a ┬╝ mile was covered in 17.2 seconds. The good news with this engine is that it recently received a rebuild, and should be good for plenty of miles yet. The owner doesn’t provide any information on how well the Monza runs or drives, so we’re definitely in the dark on this one. The Spyder package did bring some notable suspension and handling upgrades to the Monza, so even if it wasn’t a jet in a straight line, it was at least a competent handler thanks to the inclusion of larger front and rear stabilizer bars, along with better shocks and tires.

In broad terms, the interior of the Monza isn’t bad, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work required to bring it back to its best. Starting with the most obvious, the front seats don’t match. They look like they are both Monza seats, but the covers are different colors. The driver’s seat is showing some seam separations, so maybe the next owner will choose to replace both covers to keep them matching. The rear seat and remaining trim look quite good, although the dash pad is cracked in a couple of spots. The factory radio is missing, but thankfully, it doesn’t look like anyone has cut the dash to fit an aftermarket stereo at any point.

From my perspective, I think that the Monza is quite an attractive looking car. It’s greatest failing was really its timing entering the market. If it had been released a few years earlier before engine performances were so drastically impacted, there is every possibility that it would have been an instant and enduring hit. Had it been released a few years later when manufacturers were beginning to learn how to better extract engine performance without compromising emission standards, the same would have potentially been true. Sadly, the vast majority of Monzas have now found their way to the crusher, and it isn’t clear just how many of the 2,333 Monza Spyders that were built in 1976 survive today. There are still plenty of enthusiasts out there who love these little cars, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them grabs this one and returns it to its best once again.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    Adam, my mother had the Pontiac Sunbird version of this car — in Southern California, by the way — only with the V6/four-speed drivetrain, and by the mid-1980s it was showing considerable rust around the edges, especially at the base of the C-pillars. There was some bubbling at the bottom of the fenders and in the wheelarches, too. The car was never within 20 miles of the beach, by the way, and never saw snow….

    My memory tells me the factory yellow paint was more of a pastel shade, and neither the bumpers nor brake booster were body color. I should also note — in my opinion, anyway — the quality of the interior (both in design and materials) was subpar.

    But there’s always a bright side: at least with the V6, changing the rearmost spark plugs was not so difficult!

    3
    • DON

      My buddy had a Sunbird just like your mothers and you’re right ; the factory yellow was more pastel looking- this yellow is too garish IMHO

  2. poseur Member

    looks too bright for factory yellow shade.
    the four lug four spoke Cragars are silly but that’s what we had available then.
    this first year Spyder was before the flashy graphics & giant spyder on the hood were adhered.
    decent car compared to the alternatives from the other big two in our bicentennial year but sure looks lame in retrospect.

    4
  3. healeydays

    V8 Monza’s were a quick little car for their day. Tough to find a good one now adays.

    5
  4. TinCanSailor

    A friend had one in college and last I heard, it was still in his possession… In 1980, I volunteered to do a tune-up on it for him, which wasn’t too bad, until I got to the last spark plug. To this day, I think the #7 cylinder still has the factory spark plug in it! :)

    6
  5. Tony Primo

    The curbweight of a Monza is closer to 2,800 pounds. It is basically a factory V-8 Vega and Chevrolet has done all of the work for you. One of the biggest, smokiest burnouts that I have ever done was in a Monza. My passenger had to bail out because the smoke was so thick. John Force would be proud. Juvenile yes, but good clean fun back in the day.

    12
  6. Don H

    Should have a little more power with the aftermarket intake­čĺ¬

    4
  7. DHOLLER

    Clearly a repaint look at the master cylinder. Neat little car though.

  8. Paul L Windish

    I bought a ’75 Monza 2+2 new back in the day, maroon car was equipped with the 262 V8. I enjoyed the car which did not have ac so I had a pop up sunroof installed which did provide plenty of air movement through the cabin. The 262 was quick but a pain in the — for doing a spark plug change as either the motor had to be raised or a contortionist had to change a rear plug. Traded it in, buying a new’79 Chevy pickup with the 350 diesel engine, but that’s another story of aggravation.

    3
    • 86_Vette_Convertible

      I thought that was the one. Had a co-worker that once had a V8 Monza and as I remember he had to have the engine lifted to get to the plugs to do a tuneup. It was a fairly quick car for the time but the maintenance issues overshadowed the performance available at the time.

      1
  9. Lynn Dockey

    My bud had the mirage package. 13 inch radials 70 series tires with an open rear. Laid a lot of rubber.

    3
  10. charlie

    Now, with platinum tipped spark plugs, you would only have to replace #7 once! A woman I dated a bit had the Buick version, it was a very solid car compared to a Vega “wagon” I also drove a lot.

    1
  11. Andrew Franks

    I owned a Monza, not a Spyder, purchased from the Chevrolet dealer in Monterey California. It was a V-8, Power Steering and all the other toys. It was fast and delightful, but too small for a large person and a pain to service and tune. I sold it and bought something larger.

    2
  12. fred

    I had a 1977 Monza Spyder, 305 4 speed.

    I bought it for $100 with a cracked windshield and fairly new Hurst shifter. Someone added a Quadrajet before I got it.

    I still have the scar from taking out the windshield, which cracked in the same place within a few days and a few clutch dumps……

    I never changed the spark plugs either…..

    Pretty fast, but couldn’t turn with those tiny 13″ tires.

    1
    • JOHN

      Couldn’t turn the tires with a 4 speed… 3500 RPM and dump the clutch, they’ll turn!

      6
  13. stillrunners

    Liked this offering in the mid-70’s…were never sure if they had a LT-1 under the hood or…..some will get it……..

  14. Capriest Member

    My crazy uncle had a forest green one with the 262 4 speed back in the mid 80’s. He would get wasted and terrorize the neighborhood doing burnouts everywhere! First car I recall doing that as a child. Brakes caught on fire one night racing a Z28, and he always complained about that spark plug lol. He had a sky blue that he rolled for parts as well. Don’t know how he survived that unscathed.

    1
  15. Steve Bush

    I owned a 1977 Monza Mirage in the mid 1980s. It looked cool but had so-so performance, gas mileage and build quality. The driver’s side floor rusted through and I think I got $450 for it. As for the 1976 Monza Spyder here, I think you’d be crazy to pay more than perhaps half the asking price. it’s way too rough and needs a ton of work to make it right.

    1
  16. Miguel Member

    When I went to work at a Chevy dealer in 1987 the mechanics told me about these cars. They said shortly after they were sold, the motor mounts would break and the engine ended up sitting on the chassis. They were the tune up mechanics, so you can see why they would have hated these cars.

    This car needs just about everything so I think the price is way out of line. I doubt one of these has ever sold for $7500.00 no matter the condition.

    3
  17. Dave

    V8 Yay! 305 Boo!

  18. schooner

    I had a 75 with the 262 and 4 speed. I put a 350 in it. Great burnouts, the worst vehicle ever in sloppy conditions but I went back to school and commuting 40 miles one way ended that for the mileage alone, much less winter.

  19. Claudio

    Many many years ago i saw a convertible one in downtown montreal , tried, realy tried to catch up to it but the lights and the traffic were against me ! A convertible , who made them ? Or was it a hack job ?

  20. Monzo

    It’s was the #3 plug that was a little tricky as sold stock, but with a few minor mods, and or a modded box end wrench, its the same as any other car, and not nearly as bad as a 4.0 liter ford aerostar when those were around, and or any early V6 FWD car (rear 3).

  21. monzo

    Also, Kudos to the author. -Finally- a well written article from someone who seems to actually have a clue about these cars…Thanks!

  22. Marco Giglio

    Lots of mis-information here in the comment section. I bet a lot of it is from people who havent ever owned one. Just a freind of a friend type information. I’ve had over 20 since 1990. I still drive 2. and own 3. All spent their lives in the NY Rust belt and are still mostly rust free…it’s all in how you take care of them. Most people dont pamper their cars, especially the cheaper ones. My spyder is a warmed over 305 that pulls like a 350… and my other is a Sunbird with the 4 banger. Yes its slow, af. but I don’t need it to be fast, I want the Bullet proof reliability of the mail-truck inspired Iron duke engine. Knowing I can shoe horn a v8 in when I want to.

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