Did the Dodge Monaco Ever Reach Muscle Car Status?

There is a lot of lore surrounding classic American cars. Sometimes trim levels are discontinued before they can really shine. Other times, whole car models were so brief on this earth they fell by the wayside into obscurity. The Monaco was a full-size sedan and station wagon under the Dodge brand from 1965-1978. Although it may have never officially reached muscle car status, like so many other full-size sedans, the Dodge Monaco had the aggression and presence to eat cars alive at various points of its life.

Dodge Monaco golden years

1966 Dodge Monaco parked outside
1966 Dodge Monaco | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The first generation Dodge Monaco was the 2-door hardtop version of the Dodge Polara and was menacing to look at. A vertical grill perpendicular to miles of engine bay steel to a swept fastback roof over covered rear wheels made the Monaco a beast. It came standard with a 6.2-liter V8 pushing 325 horsepower to the rear wheels, as well as an optional 7.2-liter. Its competition was the Ford Galaxie and Chevrolet Impala, neither of which classified as muscle cars. Despite changes to the exterior virtually every model year, the Dodge Monaco saw sales decline compared to competitors and even other cars in Dodge’s lineup.

Second-generation Dodge Monacos continued to slip

Second-generation Dodge Monaco
Second-generation Dodge Monaco | Wikipedia Commons

The second generation from 1969-1973 sported a new front end with pop-up headlights as part of its 2-door hardtop. Engine choices remained the same, except buyers could get the 383 with a four-barrel carburetor as opposed to a 2-barrel, which upped the horsepower to 330 gross. The 7.2-liter engine at this time produced 375 horsepower. Customers could choose between a manual or automatic transmission. Despite its new style, the Dodge Monaco continued to see smaller and smaller sales numbers, according to How Stuff Works.

Enter the Blues Brothers

Third-generation Dodge Monacos developed some notoriety, partly because of the Blues Brothers movie that came out in 1980. The film depicted a decommissioned 1974 Dodge Monaco squad car with the 7.2-liter. By this time, the Dodge Monaco had become obsolete, due in part to its size. Big vehicles were almost out in the early 1970s, and the Monaco didn’t go on a diet until the 1990s. By then, it had become a neutered front-wheel-drive economy sedan and represented nothing of its heritage.

Is it possible to turn the Dodge Monaco into a proper muscle car?

Since it’s a full-size car, it’s not technically possible to turn the Dodge Monaco into a by-definition muscle car. However, its 440 V8 is more than capable of producing muscle car power. Chrysler 440 V8s of the late 1960s and early 1970s were solid, reliable machines. They used external oil pumps, which makes maintenance extraordinarily simple, and used forged crankshafts. You can find 440 engines in just about anything, from passenger cars to RVs. A set of aluminum heads, a high-profile camshaft, and some fuel injection, could up the output to 400 horsepower at the wheels, which should be plenty to push the Monaco’s 3,600-pound curb weight. 

The Dodge Monaco should be better recognized alongside the Ford Galaxie and Chevrolet Impala for its iconic style and attitude, but since it wasn’t popular enough, the Dodge Monaco doesn’t get much press. However, that makes it easier to purchase.

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