The concept stuck with me because it resonated on a few different levels. For me it answer the question on What ultimately the car was for GM and especially what it was for Lordstown, Ohio.
And most specifically it shed's a light on why both GM and LOrdstown Ohio, remember the Vega, but seem to have mostly forgotten ( and somewhat mysteriously want to keep forgotten) all 5 years of the Monza and friend's.
I do believe that, on one hand, these cars were very notorious in their day, and at one time, with these cars on every street corner, it was going to be hard to forget them. Many model designs later, time has indeed smoothed out the ripple that was the GM Hspecial, the Monza and sister cars. You can see the same thing with the last of the J body car's. The final 10 years of the J body had a pretty striking design in it's day, especially the Pontiac 'Sunfire'. (J Body platform). But as soon as the Cobalt's started populating the roads.. you know the story.. The J body is now almost extinct, and forgotten, with memories now starting to fade for it's sucessor, the "Cobalt" which is now out of favor for the "Sonic" ( todays Hot Hatch) or the more Nova like Chevy "Cruze".
What we didn't know in the 70's was that the 60's had matured into a prototype decade for the 80's and beyond. And that decade was the 1970's. The prototypes for the new world of compact cars was being developed and offered to the public.
The future was changing directions quick and by the time the Vega was redesigned into the monza and they were cranking down the assembly lines in Canada, they were already doomed to carry on passed 1980 when a new small car technology would be ready for mass consumption... Front Wheel Drive.
The H Body was ready however to blossom into the new redesigned F body, and become the car the V8 monza wished it was... Lower and Wider, with a larger wheelbase /tire space and more suspension travel. Front subframe, and rack and pinion / McPherson strut suspension. And in a new for the 1980's kickin sound system and you had a winner that was adapted and re engineered enough to hide it's H body Torque arm suspension chassis root's forever.
For small sport economy cars...The H body's slick shape lended some design characteristics to the new small car for the 1980's...the Cavalier. But that's all... It was a totally new car that happened to coincide with the ushering in of a whole new era of 'modern technology'.
SO......... Bridging the Gap is really what the Monza line-up was. There was a lot of hoopla for the car in the first 3 years... sales where climbing for all cars, but other trends (like customizing Van's) minimized the new sport subcompact market. The market kicked with accessory products and sales for a little while into the 80's.. But by the 1990's the catalogs were reading 'discontinued' and cool accessories disappeared.
That explains why GM seems to have forgotten about the car... it was a very unique and interesting car at the time. And the sport hatchback was a styling win. ( in this authors humble opinion). It had made sense and was going to be the next greatest thing in late 1973 and by late 1975 it was already being recognized as pending being obsolete by 1979, when Chrysler and Ford would be unleashing their FWD products to the world.
So in a corporate sense, GM gave the Hs body what they could, when they could've. It helped the car reach some impressive sales numbers. Most importantly and it helped the Vega plant in Ohio remain afloat, after the Vega was retired in 77, but the Cavalier wouldn't need the plant re-tooled until well into the 1981 model year.
And this leads me to my 2nd and final "Bridging the gap" point...
The Lordstown Ohio plant seems to have (from my previous perspective) some serious amnesia when it comes to the monza. There are far more pictures circulating today of the Vega time period than the monza.
|Here's a rare one of Monza's (possibly a Sunbird coupe)|
At the recent car show, in all the film strips and and talks, many pictures and comments were shared about the Vega, but not so much the Monza. And while decent and accurate pictures of the Vega were shown, the Monza was pictured in it's basic, round headlight form. I think it was even a Wagon.
(perhaps the sport 2+2 design my have stolen the spotlight from the much more mundane Cruze?)
I think that may have been part of it, but something more clear to me occurred on my ride home..
They made the Vega for 7 years straight... 9, if you include the wagon bodies that turned into the Monza and Sunbird. The Monza cars, trickled in, starting in mid 1977 production, and went full H special in 1978. In just 3 years they would be done with the last one, and ripping out the assembly track as the last unit cleared it's station's. So while the Monza and sister cars, were indeed a cool and memorable car.... That was for gear-headed owner enthusiast's like me, who know a fun and economical automobile when they see one.
For the plant workers, that meant steady work and a fast paced line of boring everyday monotonis work. Here today Gone tomorrow. New fangled Cavalier's? Let's build 'em!!
And possibly not a tear shed... the tear I'll get at the mere mention of the assembly line being ripped up and all that H body history going to get melted down. The RWD fun of the 70's. Being phased out for the bean counter and government approved FWD technology. Ushering a whole new era of planned obsolescence in every mass consumable item.
For the plant worker's of that day... the tears were still fresh from the day the last Impala or perhaps the last Firebird rolled down the line. So when the H body line went after the 3 year monza stretch to the finish line, most probably felt the same way I would feel hearing about the J body stuff getting torn up for the Delta platform car's. Sorry J body fans. I had one of those too.
So once again. the Monza simply bridged the gap from the; 70's to the 80's,... for Chevrolet as a growing car company, and for the massive and state of the art Lordstown, Ohio Assembly plant / UAW 1112.
Here today...(mostly) gone tomorrow!...
"One for tomorrow, one just for today" ~Jim Morrison.