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1978 Chevy Vega-Monza Hatchback

Hey All,
I’m new to the forum…I’ve been in search of information about the car I had in high school. It was a yellow 1978 Chevy Monza hatchback. I noticed at the time that the hatch was shaped just like my best friend’s puke green Vega, but mine had the Monza grill and emblem. This was always a mystery to me, because I NEVER saw another Monza like mine, and I drove the car from the time I was 17 until I was nearly finished with grad school at age 24. My fiancé (now husband) declared it unsafe and bought me a VW Rabbit (which had its own issues). But I digress…The “Vega-Monza”, as he dubbed it, had an interesting transmission “glitch”-it very easily became stuck in reverse. This tendency created a sense of adventure each time I drove the car, or loaned it to a friend, or allowed it to be parked by a parking lot attendant in downtown Chicago…you get the picture.

I have found very little historical information on this unique vehicle model, and none on the problems with the gear linkage. My research has led to some hilarious commentaries on this car in general, but I would like to know if any of you have more info and/or experiences similar to mine?


I didn’t know of any Monza/Vega hybrids. But the '78 had a new front end, looked kind of like a Vega:


I’ve worked on a few of those things, know a few people who have owned them in the past, and an acquaintance a few blocks away from still has a '78 Monza that he bought when it was almost new.
The reverse gear glitch is not something that I’ve ever heard of but assuming it’s a manual transmission the cause was more than likely in the gearshift linkage.

There’s few of those cars around anymore and most of them around here have been turned into drag strip runners.
There’s one less now due to a driver getting his Monza crossways at 115 MPH at the lights and hitting the retaining wall hard.

In my years doing body work, I seen cars with odd badges like that. Sometimes with one off grills or trim. These can be cars are company test cars that are drove by mangers to see how they do in the real world. They will put diffrent names, grills or tirm on them to see if people like them. My Uncle worked for Ford testing. He got to bring home cars and trucks like this from time to time. Some do get sold or giffed to workers and end up on the street. I seen F150 trucks front ends that never made it to production. Also odd parts do in up on production cars by mistake.

You had a Monza S, I saw one of those in 1984 in Milwaukee. Only one. I had a couple of Vegas at the time and this Monza caught my eye. 1977 was the last year for the Vega and the Monza S was a cheap carryover.

Bingo we have a winner. Never saw one. Guess the Vega name was a liability by then.

There must have been some pretty interesting corporate thinking going on at the time while discussing the replacement of the tarnished reputation Vega with a car that looked very similar to it…

I owned a '79 Monza Spyder for a short time and it was one of the “305” engine equipped models. It could bury the speedometer needle (80) in first gear. My young wife convinced me that I didn’t need the little beast so I sold it to a friend of mine. I don’t think he ever drove it over 55mph so the 130 horses (yeah right) under the hood were basically sent out to pasture.

I had an Olds Starfire (a version of the Monza). Four divisions had versions; Chevy, Olds, Buick and Pontiac. The Vega was an “H” body while the Monza/Starfire/Skyhawk/Sunfire cars were “H-Specials.” The Special part was the rear suspension and engines which differed from early Vega’s. The range included a 151 cid 4-cyl (Iron Duke), 231 V6 (odd and even fire versions), and 267, 305 and 350 (small block Chevy) V8’s. The Vega aluminum block engine (thankfully!!) was not offered. Early cars had heavy cast iron Saginaw 4 speed manuals with a crappy shifters and later ones got aluminum 5 speeds. Automatics were mostly Turbo 200’s and 250’s. They were pretty nice, balanced cars with V6’s (like mine) but rusted if you whispered “salt” to them.

The Monza lived on in Brazil and Argentina. Five years ago I was in Brazil and saw quite a few; probably not the same chassis. They seem to like them there.

Similar models under different names. I looked at a new Chevy Nova, maybe in 73 or so, and the dashboard said Ventura, Pontiac’s version of the Nova.

Thanks-enjoyed the responses. The gear linkage was the problem with the manual transmission reverse problem, and I would have to crawl underneath the car and give the gear linkage a couple of hard knocks with a wrench to loosen it up.

I read some info on Wiki about GM deciding to take care of an excess of '77 Vegas by grafting the front end of Monzas onto back end of Vegas, thus the different hatch. Limited number of these “produced”…

Wow, that Monzafied Vega is an oddity. I always quite liked the original Monza hatch styling, and even found the coupe acceptably clean-lined. In an era of upright ‘formal’ coupes those slippery little cars really stood out. The Mustang II was so frumpy in comparison.

In the mid seventies,Pontiac had a version of the Vega called the " Astre"(but with an Iron Duke motor)-Kevin

The Astre only had the Iron Duke it’s last year (77). Prior to that it shared the same engine with the Vega (2.3L Aluminum block).

The Manza was the next generation Vega. But the Vega had such a bad reputation for being an extremely unreliable vehicle Chevy changed the name.

I owned 2 Vegas (72 and 73). I rebuilt the engine in one…and when it totaled in an accident I pulled it and put it in another Vega. I rebuilt the engine with steel sleeves. This made the engine very reliable compared to the silicon lined cylinder walls.

The Manza had the Iron Duke or a V6 or even a small V8 (which required you to loosen the engine mounts and raise the engine to replace the rear plugs). Even with the more reliable engine lineup…the vehicle wasn’t very reliable (at least compared to the growing Japanese market). Those were some very dark years for GM.

As I remember, the Monza was also available as a station wagon. I had a colleague who had a Monza that I believe was a station wagon. It was a 1978–the same year as the Oldsmobile Cutlass Salon that I owned.

The Monza wagon was a Vega wagon with a Monza front end. They made it for a few years after the end of the Vega so they could offer a small wagon. The Monza and Vega were so similsr it was straightforward combining the two.