Car of the Week: 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

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By Brian Earnest

Glenn Kerner says he still stores his 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo the same way his father Bill did when he owned the car.

Bill liked to have the trunk open on his Monte when it wasn’t in use. Glenn could never understand it, but the answer he got was a perfect summary of the way his father cared for the car.

“It was his Sunday car, and he always kept the trunk open after he would take it out for a drive,” says Glenn, a resident of St. Louis. “I finally asked him, ‘Dad, why don’t you close the trunk lid?’ And he said he didn’t want to smash the rubber gasket. Closing the lid would squash that gasket and he didn’t want that.”

That pretty much covers how both father and son have babied the Monte Carlo during their combined ownership. Bill bought the car new in 1977 and put 48,000 miles on it before he died in 2007. Glenn took the keys from there, and he has been perhaps even more particular.

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Glenn says Bill never showed the car when he owned it. It was strictly for his own enjoyment. Glenn knew the car was so perfect and original that was show-worthy, however, and he’s been collecting hardware ever since. The first time he entered the black Monte Carlo in the “Survivor” class at a big show it won, and its collected scores of trophies since then.

“The car has no rock chips, no rust, no nothing. Outside it’s perfect,” says Glenn’s wife, Peggy. “’I’ve been to a lot of car shows with him, and it really does remind people of the past. People are always taking pictures of it and coming up and looking all around the car. It really is nostalgic for people.”

Bill Kerner sold off his old straight eight Dynaflow Buick that had 50,000 miles on it when he decided it was time for a new weekend car in 1977. “That car was even better than the Monte Carlo,” jokes Glenn. “That Buick, the seats had hardly been sat in. It had seat covers and everything in it. My dad was just something else.”

Father and son went out car shopping and began checking out the 1977 Chevrolets. Glenn says his dad liked the Monte Carlos and knew that the 1977 model year was going to be the last for the attractive mid-70s body style. Beginning in 1978, the cars were going to be larger and a little less sporty looking.

Bill found a nice triple-black Monte at Milner Chevrolet in St. Louis and decided that would be his next car. He paid $5,236 for the car, which carried an automatic transmission, 305-cid V-8, tinted glass, bench seat and air conditioning.

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“I said, ‘Why don’t you get a vinyl top on it? And he said, ‘Oh no, water gets under there and they rust out,’” Glenn remembered. “He didn’t want much on the car. He said the more stuff you have, the more there is to break… It’s got roll-up windows, AC/Delco radio, tinted glass, tilt steering wheel, sport mirrors … Rally wheels. The Rally wheels, when I replaced the tires, instead of the little thin whitewalls I put the lettered tires on and it that really sets it off.

“It was like the Buick before that — it was always his backup car. He always had a back-up car … his Sunday car.”

For a fun weekend cruiser and all-around ride, the beautiful Monte Carlo was tough to beat in 1977. The big Monte was in its eight model year as a “personal luxury” coupe by the time the 1977 models came out. They were sleek, roomy, rear-drive two-doors with plenty of amenities and enough cross-over appeal to serve both families and single drivers.

With its 3,852-lb. curb weight, the Monte Carlo’s actually outweighed some of Chevy’s full-size offerings, which had been downsized and now shared the Monte Carlo’s 116-inch wheelbase.

The 305-cid (5.0-liter) V-8 rated at 145-hp returned as the base engine. The 400-cid V-8 was no longer available, but the 350-cid (5.7-liter) V-8 four-barrel with 170 hp was optional. Turbo Hydra-matic was standard with both engines. Other standard equipment also included power steering and brakes, electric clock, hide-away wipers, deluxe wheel covers, heater/defroster, carpeting, lighter, inside hood release, wheel opening moldings, and GR70 × 15 steel-belted radial tires.

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Buyers could choose between the base ‘S’ coupe or the Landau coupe, which added a vinyl roof, dual body-color sport mirrors (left one remote-controlled), pin striping, and Turbine II wheels.

Other than replacing tires and a battery, and doing normal maintenance, Bill Kerner didn’t change a thing on his all-black steed. He apparently liked it just the way it was — clean, and in perfect original condition. “One time he did get a bad tank of gas,” Glenn recalled. “A guy gave him $250 and Dad had to pull the gas tank out of it and drain the gas. That was about it.”

Glenn has treated the car the same way — perhaps even more carefully. “I’ve got four cars, and I treat them all like that. Once you get them clean, it’s easy to keep them that way,” he says. “Dad always brought me up to take care of what you’ve got … I think now I’m [more particular than he was.] It rubbed off on me.”

A big part of the fun over the past 10 years for Glenn has been having conversations with onlookers at car shows who question if the car is truly an unrestored survivor.

“People swear up and down … they don’t think it’s the original paint,” he laughs. “I’ve kept it as nice and original as I can. I put a battery in it last year. Since I’m in the original unrestored classes those judges judge your car closely. They said I gotta get an AC Delco battery, so that’s what I put in it.”

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Kerner hasn’t turned the car entirely into a show pony, however. He has put 3,000 miles on it over the past 10 years while sharing seat time with his other cars. He doesn’t take many long road trips, but he doesn’t trailer it, either. “A guy who took second to me at a show about three years ago, he came up to me afterward and said, ‘As nice as that car is, you out to drive it. You should take it out to California back.’ I said, ‘If I drive it to California and back, it will look like yours.’ He didn’t like that too much.

“But taking it out is fun for me. You get a lot of stories from people who had one or whose friend had one. It brings back memories for people. And it’s all original, and original means something to a lot of people.”
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