Home Car Stories One Family 1978 DODGE Monaco Brougham- David
1978 DODGE Monaco Brougham- David PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 17 February 2015 15:23

1978 DODGE Monaco Brougham- David


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

78 dodge monaco brougham david roof logo

As the exotic name suggests, Monaco was chosen to evoke visions of luxury and personal indulgence. Dodge was inspired by the other 'personal luxury' cars such as the Ford Thunderbird and Pontiac Grand Prix to put out an entry of their own for the 1965 model year. The formula was similar: full size car with a full length console, front buckets and potent engine; in this case a 383.

78 dodge monaco brougham david hood ornament

The Monaco caught on and was renamed Monaco 500 for the 1966 model year. The 1969 full size Dodge models were part of the impressive 'fuselage' bodystyle named for the curved lines folding under the car and and in the roofline mimicking an aircraft 'fuselage' shape. In conjunction with the new fuselage bodystyle, the Monaco Brougham package first appeared. The option adding a vinyl roof and split bench seat.

78 dodge monaco brougham david front

The fuel crisis hit the full size Dodges hard right after the 1974 square shaped redesign. Stagnant sales meant that the lower rung Polara was gone leaving Monaco as the only full size Dodge.

In 1977 Chrysler dispersed the full size nameplates over 2 separate bodystyles. What this meant for the Monaco was a shift over to the intermediate platform formerly named the Dodge Coronet. Only the top rung Royal Monaco stayed with the full sized 'C' body. Over at Plymouth the Gran Fury stayed on the C body while the regular Fury dropped onto the Satellite intermediate body.

78 dodge monaco brougham david driver front

Now with the lower echelon of the Monaco based on the intermediate "B' body ironically the Monaco returned to a 'fuselage' design. The intermediates were redesigned as fuselage cars for 1971. The nose and tail had been changed due to 5 MPH bumpers but these were still good looking cars. However they were not as good looking as the earlier Monacos without 5 MPH bumpers. One person who agreed with this assessment was Harold who is the original owner of this 1978 Monaco.

78 dodge monaco brougham david side

Harold retired in 1978 and wanted a new car so he bought himself this 1978 Monaco Brougham. Harold preferred his old 1971 Monaco to the new car he took home in 1978. Harold ended up driving his 1971 Monaco 4 door with 383 far more often than he ever drove the new 1978 Monaco. Harold was a long term Dodge man. Prior to the 1971 Monaco he owned a 1964 Monaco 500 with a 383 engine and 3.23 rear axle. Note that he waited 7 years between new car buys. 1971 minus 1964 is 7 years and 1978 minus 1971 is also 7 years.

Harold was living in Pomona, California when he went into Norman King Dodge Inc. to buy a new Monaco. Norm King was located on famous old Route 66 in Glendora on the outskirts of Los Angeles, California. The remnants of the old Norm King license frame is visible under the clamp holding the front license plate in place.

78 dodge monaco brougham david lice frame

See a story about Norman King Dodge Inc filed under CALIFORNIA/ LOS ANGELES Metro Area in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website.

78 dodge monaco brougham david warranty

As shown above Harold's warranty went into effect May 12, 1978. When Harold took delivery the Monaco showed 3 miles on the odometer. Harold's last name and the final digits of the VIN are removed from the image to preserve owner privacy.

The door tag tells us the car was built 04-78 which means April, 1978.

The first few digits of the VIN decode:

W= Dodge Monaco

H= High price class

41= 4 door sedan

J= 360- 4 Barrel 170 net HP engine (K code is 2 barrel, L code is High Perf, R code is 'Lean Burn')

8= 1978 Model year

A= Lynch Road, Michigan final assembly plant

The final digits of the VIN (the sequence number) are not shown here in order to preserve owner privacy.

78 dodge monaco brougham david build sheet

Harold's new Monaco was well equipped with plenty of options. The build sheet above is complete except that the final digits of the VIN were edited out. Code U24= G78x15 Black sidewall tires. W08= Regular spare tire. The code 000 for the left tail pipe and muffler indicates this is a single exhaust vehicle.

The transmission codes D34= TorqueFlite and D33= A 999 TorqueFlite. A mechanic who worked on the car believed the transmission was an A 727. The A 999 was created by merging the A 727 and the A 904 so the external case may look similar. The A 727 was used with the 360 from 1971 to 1978 so this confusion may simply be due to a code mixup.

Regardless of which transmission is in the car Chrysler introduced the lock-up converter for 1978. On V8 cars the lock up kicks in at 27 MPH as it shifts to 3rd gear under mild throttle pressure. In 1978 the only exceptions to the lock-up program were the 440s, California 225s and high altitude cars. The lock-up reduced engine revs at cruising speed due to elimination of torque converter slip which thus increased MPG.

Another piece of the MPG solution was reflected in Chrysler's adoption of 'highway axles' which let the engine rev at a lower speed at the expense of off the line quickness. This Monaco has axle code D51= 2.71:1 ratio and D82= 8.25" or 8.36" axle.

78 dodge monaco brougham david fender tag

The Monaco has so many options they spill over to a 2nd fender tag. The fender tag is read from left to right starting with the bottom line:

E56= 360-4 Barrel

D33= A 999 Torq Flite automatic transmission

WH41= Monaco, High price class, 4 door sedan

J8A= 360-4 barrel, 1978, Lynch Road final assembly.

The blank spot on the bottom right is the VIN sequence which has been edited out.

The second line begins with the paint color RA2= Pewter Grey Poly

EWA3= Interior

000= Indicates upper door frames are not painted because the car has full door panels

404= Scheduled build date of April 4, 1978

The third line begins with the top color. V1A= Full Vinyl roof

U= Built for USA marketplace

26= 26 inch wide radiator

C15= Special sound insulation package

C57= 60/40 seat with recliner

G11= Tinted glass all

H51= Single air conditioner with heater

L31= Fender mounted turn signal light

L61= Dome light switch, right driver's

M15= Upper driver front molding

M25= Wide sill molding

M44= Hood and fender molding

N88= Automatic speed control (cruise control)

N95= California emissions package

CTD= Continued

On the second fender tag P41= Power door locks

Despite having a well equipped new car, Harold was partial to his old 1971 Monaco. No one else was allowed to drive the 1971 which was his 'special' car, but he was fine with his sons borrowing the 1978 Monaco on occasion. David used it several times to drive to Las Vegas, Nevada. The 1978 Monaco was garaged for its first 12 or 13 years of life and accrued about 4,000 miles a year during Harold's ownership.

Harold passed away in the early 1990s. Harold's son David inherited the Monaco with about 60,000 miles on the odometer. David needed a car. He had previously owned a 1971 Chevelle Malibu which he really liked. It had a powerful good running 350 engine which had one idiosyncrasy. The 350 used a neoprene coating on the timing gear to muffle timing chain noise. At 101,000 miles the car came to a sudden stop when the timing chain fell off due to the neoprene wearing out. The Chevelle had dropped down into 8 MPG territory prior to this so the timing chain had already been messing with the timing before this sudden failure.

David's next car was a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro LT. David's wife worked for General Motors and they were able to score an employee deal. Once they divorced, the Camaro went with the ex wife and the Monaco appeared to fill the gap.

David never intended to keep the Monaco so long. It was a convenient car at a time when he needed transportation. As the Monaco became weathered he figured he would hold onto it as long as it kept passing California smog inspections. Expecting it to fail like most older cars, he didn't put a lot of money into the car. Surprisingly, it has passed smog every year.

Back when David first took possession of the Monaco it looked like it came out of a time capsule. Having always been garaged and traveled low miles the Monaco looked showroom fresh. The car was pristine with the exception of a small patch of discoloration on the driver's fender which appeared after David's brother used it to drive to work.

78 dodge monaco brougham david inner trunk lid

The California sun attacked the car without let up now that the Monaco was parked outside. David relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of the 1990s. The Bay Area has a bit more fog and less brutal sun but the UV rays still chipped away at the Monaco. The shot above of the inner trunk lid shows the original paint color and shiny finish. The exterior paint hasn't faded too badly when compared to this unaffected paint area.

Despite never having a traffic accident the car has experienced some dings. An old lady hit the car in a parking lot leaving a small hole in the front fiberglass passenger side of the nose as a memento of this incident. Another minor parking mishap left one of the hubcaps with a dent.

78 dodge monaco brougham david hubcap

The main exterior area of the Monaco to have suffered is the roof. The vinyl top received a rip when it caught on a garage door. David conscientiously had it properly fixed and reglued but the top began to fade and peel away from that area soon afterwards. Eventually as the top became tattered by sun exposure the entire top peeled off around 2005. The exposed roof formed surface rust.

78 dodge monaco brougham david pass side

Despite having the police follow him home a few times based on the rough appearance of the car it has been ascertained by the authorities to be completely roadworthy. The body is structurally sound having never suffered a traffic accident. The car doesn't leak or rattle and tracks true and straight. The trunk is dry as a bone and doesn't suffer from the typical rear window leaks and rust. The passenger window has recently started to whistle at highway speeds due to deterioration of the rubber weather seals in the relentless sun.

78 dodge monaco brougham david door panel

The light grey interior color unfortunately shows dirt easily and the cloth seats exacerbate this tendency. The driver's door has some wear on the arm rest and the light colors are marred from use. Note the remote control outside rear view mirror. Parking on the street has its hazards. The outside rear view mirror was hit by a kid riding a scooter when the car was parked.

78 dodge monaco brougham david seats

The car now shows 209,378 miles. Note the metric readings including on the inside dial of the speedometer which was downgraded to 100 MPH down from the standard 120 MPH top reading that was the norm in American cars throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Another sign of the times is the 'Unleaded fuel only' warning prominently displayed in the middle of the dashboard.

78 dodge Monaco brougham david speedometer

The windshield wipers in this car have a delay setting in addition to 2 regular speeds. The power door locks still work; however there is a funny idiosyncrasy involving the power door locks. The Monaco is equipped with dual horns and David quickly learned that using the horn would often blow the fuse for the door locks. The last time David was in Reno, Nevada he picked up the car from the valet and discovered that his power door locks weren't working. David quickly remembered that the valet is required to blow the horn as a warning as they exit the valet parking area. The valet had followed protocol and blown the door locks!

78 dodge Monaco brougham david steering wheel

The steering wheel is in surprisingly good condition. Note the cruise control built into the turn signal indicator stalk on the left of the steering column. The push button air conditioning controls are located on the bottom left of the dash where a long time ago Chrysler used to place their push button controls for the transmissions. Aside from a 100 MPH speedometer, the Monaco has a fuel gauge, temperature gauge and alternator gauge. Recently the fuel gauge pointer has stubbornly sat below the full mark even when the tank has been filled.

The AM/ FM radio is on the right bottom side of the dash uses push buttons similar to the A/C unit. The AM/ FM radio still works as does the air conditioning and cruise control. A rubber hose leading through the engine bay from the firewall which connects to the cruise control switch needed replacement but otherwise it has been trouble free.

The inside rear view mirror initiated a 5 year 'tradition' of falling off starting right back when the Monaco was still a new car. In 1980 David was up in Las Vegas in the Monaco when the rear view mirror came unglued from the windshield in the 105 degree F heat. David was driving home when the California Highway Patrol pulled him over having noticed the missing rear view mirror. Since then the mirror gets glued back into the windshield and falls off again at 5 year intervals.

78 dodge monaco brougham david pedals

The pedals show almost no visible wear despite lacking the protective chrome decorative edges. For 209,000 miles these pedals have held up remarkably well.

The 360 4 barrel engine has managed to go all this time and distance without any problems. The only work performed on the engine was a tightening up of the valve cover bolts. Part of the secret is that David drives about 30 miles a day to work including a long stretch on a highway. Thus the engine achieves full operating temperature which cleans out the engine and burns away any byproducts of combustion created during the cold morning start-up.

While the engine held up some of the accessories gave up the ghost. The Monaco has a new alternator and power steering pump.

The commute is a mix of city/ highway driving at moderate pace with no jackrabbit starts. About 90 percent of the commute takes place on highways and nets a surprisingly good 16 MPG using Costco gasoline. Trips to Reno, Nevada at a steady 65 MPH cruise return 18 MPG. The car pulls strongly up grades without losing any speed. This car does NOT have the Chrysler Lean Burn system which adjusted timing in accordance with driving conditions. The Nov 1975 issue of POPULAR SCIENCE discusses this system. The EPA rating for a lean burn 360-2 barrel in 1976 was 20 MPG Hwy while the regular 360-2 engine from 1975 rated a higher EPA of 22 MPG Hwy.

The highway axle and lock-up converter combined with tall radials (215/ 70R15) on 15 inch rims account for this accomplishment despite prodigious weight, wind resisting square lines and a low compression engine. The transmission has been fine except for a leak that has now reached about 2 quarts over the course of a year. Its cheaper to add fluid than it is to pull it and replace the seals. The driveshaft is a one piece unit instead of a split 2 piece item. The U joints finally gave out in 2007 beginning with a rumble and vibration that necessitated replacement.

78 dodge monaco brougham david 360 4 barrel

The car keeps passing the California smog inspections. One of the tests is a 20 minute gas tank pressure test because it has a vented gas tank. The air pump was replaced and a hose leading to the charcoal canister was replaced but otherwise the emission system still works. At one point David questioned the integrity of the fuel pump because the car hesitates when you step on it. Mechanical inspection determined that the original fuel pump is still fine and the hesitation is caused by the emissions equipment.

Because of David's driving style and the presence of a single exhaust system the pipes lasted an astonishing 27 years before the pipe literally broke right off the car in 2005. Single exhaust systems heat up quicker than duals over an equal distance and hence burn away more of the acids which rust the pipes from the inside. Driving 30 miles a day ensures the inside of the pipes stay hot and dry. A new muffler and catalytic converter was installed. As long as David's driving style is unchanged they will likely last until 2032!

Other long lasting components on the Monaco were the radiator and water pump. In 2012 the temperature gauge started climbing in traffic due to leaks in rad and water pump. The radiator and water pump lasted 34 years. David even seems to have good luck with batteries. The Die Hard in the car was initially in an RV and has been in this car for 7 years and is still going strong.

78 dodge monaco brougham david electronic ign

On the firewall, the electronic ignition box started leaking a thick viscious goo. Everything still works and the leak stopped spontaneously. Electronic circuits are protected from moisture, temperature changes, shocks and other hazards by sealing them in a flowable silicone, epoxy, urethane or polyesters. At some point the ignition must have overheated and caused the leak. Even in dry hot California presumably some corrosion will develop inside the box now that the majority of its protection has poured out but so far everything is fine.

The ball joints lasted until 2003 and shocks were done at the same time. Replacement of the ball joints led to some hassles. The alignment done after the new parts were installed left the car out of whack. Thankfully David remembered an old man who worked for the garage in the Sears store in the Hayward, California. Luckily the mechanic was still on the job at this time. He was an old school mechanic who worked on Chryslers back in the day and was able to sort things out. He explained that you can't adjust the torsion bars to book spec and expect good results unless the adjustment is made WHILE THE ENGINE IS RUNNING. This trick solved the problems and the car rides straight. The power brake booster is original but the master cylinder was replaced as were the rotors.

David has a standing offer from a collector to buy the car but for now as long as it keeps passing smog each year, David is still driving it. It is interesting to note that David has followed in his father's footsteps without intentionally setting out to do so. Harold drove a 1964, 1971 and 1978 Monaco as his sole cars between 1964 and the early 1990s which is over of 25 years of Monaco driving. David has been driving the 1978 Monaco for about 25 years now!

78 dodge monaco brougham david rear

Last Updated ( Saturday, 21 May 2016 21:20 )