It’s not every day that we hear about a 1970s Chevy econobox that can go wheel-to-wheel with some of the world’s most iconic sports cars.
So when French race car driver Nicolas Grue told us about his Monza, our ears understandably perked up.
Grue races his Monza in the French Saloon Cars Trophy series, where he competes against cars built from the 1960s up until the early 1990s. (“Saloon” is a European designation for a sedan.)
Today, seeing a Monza in the United States is rare enough, so we can only image how European spectators react when they see a rip-snortin’ V8 Chevy storming down a racetrack.
If you’ve never heard of a Chevy Monza, don’t be ashamed. It was a subcompact car introduced in the mid-1970s, It shared its underpinnings with the Chevy Vega and, like the Vega, has been largely relegated to GM obscurity.
But while the Chevy Monza never had the cache of the Camaro or Corvette, it still excelled on the racetrack. Monzas were common sights at IMSA events and gained notoriety at road courses all over the world.
In fact, with help from the Dekon engineering firm and driver Al Holbert, Monzas took back-to-back IMSA GT championships in 1976 and 1977—the last American car to win a championship in that series.
It was lightweight, with a competent chassis, and was homologated under F.I.A. rules with a Chevy 350 c.i.d. V8.
Grue’s Monza competes in the “Group 4” class in the 1970s subdivison, where it earned a first-place class finish (and fifth overall) for the 2017 season.
“I developed the car with the help of many friends, the experience of my father, a former champion, and my knowledge of road racing on European cars,” Grue says, adding “properly tuned, the beast can beat Porsches!”
Grue gave us some fast specs on his Monza’s setup:
The Chevy 350 small block makes well over 400 horsepower. He’s running a Muncie M20 gearbox, and sending power through a stock 7.5″ GM 10-bolt rear end that’s housing a lunchbox locker. He tells us the suspension uses the stock mounting points, but refers to the exact chassis setup as the “chef’s secret recipe.”
Want to see video of it chasing down a vintage C2 Corvette on the racetrack?
Of course you do:
Oh, and here are some pictures of it in front of Porsches.