WESTON, Mo. - You could almost hear Dinah Shore warbling away on some love ballad. This is Missouri, Middle America – corn as high as an elephant’s eye, an ice cream parlor with twisted iron chairs … even a company-league baseball series playing itself out on four diamonds. Our Lumina felt as home here as in a Norman Rockwell painting.
The Lumina came along in 1988 as an ’89 model, when the rear-drive platforms were dropped. Beginning with the ’95 model year, the Monte Carlo name was attached to what had been the Lumina Coupe. Monte Carlo had been a solid one for Chevrolet, having been affixed to a line of luxury performance coupes that first appeared in 1970 and ran through 1988, when the Lumina arrived.
Lumina's rocky launch
Even GM admits that the Lumina had one of the most difficult start-ups in company history. Chevy built only four-door Luminas when the model was introduced. They were followed by the Lumina Coupe about eight months later. And despite the success of the NASCAR model with the same name (and a racing movie featuring Tom Cruise cruising in a Lumina), they cost more to make than their sale proceeds generated.
When the Lumina was introduced, it did no better than the Celebrity - the model it replaced - against the likes of market leaders such as the Taurus, Accord and Camry. It badly trailed all three in sales. In fact, the two-door was seventh in that segment.
This was clearly disappointing for Chevrolet, since Lumina always has been a solid car, only needing some feature refinement and marketing to turn it around. When it was re-worked two years ago and the Monte Carlo model added, the old magic started to come back. Now the Monte Carlo Coupe is No. 1 in its market, having passed Thunderbird before Ford dropped it last year.