Almost Fast: 1983-1988 Monte Carlo SS

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If you were a kid in high school (or college) during the ’80s – and into fast cars – you probably remember the last full-frame, rear-drive/live axle, carbureted, cast-iron pushrod V-8 muscle car GM ever made:

The ’83-’88 Monte Carlo SS.

It was conceived at a time when memories of the original muscle cars of the 1960s and ’70s still lingered – before rap music, before front-wheel-drive  (and AWD) drive “sport compacts”  took over the hearts and minds of kids looking for a speedy car. When people – especially high school and college-age people – thought about performance cars in the Reagan Years, they thought almost reflexively about Five-Point-O Mustang GTs, Tuned Port Injection IROC-Z Camaros – and the brooding presence that was the SS Monte Carlo.

Its striking Winston Cup bodywork – shovel-nose front end with quad headlights, blacked-out grille, monochromatic paint job, beefy (for the era) Eagle GT tires and rumpety-rump sewer pipe-sized dual exhaust hanging prominently behind the rear axle “pumpkin” – made it an instant hit in 1983, the first year of production. Even better, the SS packed the goods to go with the stock car looks. Under that broad, flat hood sat the same  “L69 HO” 5 liter/305 cubic inch V-8 engine that became optional in the Camaro Z-28 and Pontiac Trans-Am that year. The 5-liter V-8 was small, but it was still old-time muscle –  from its cast iron block and heads to its aluminum medium-riser intake manifold and Rochester Quadrajet 750 CFM 4-barrel carburetor.

To goose output, Chevy fitted this engine with a high-lift L-82 Corvette camshaft, upped the compression to 9.5:1 and added a free-flow exhaust system with Corvette catalytic converter and a low-restriction air cleaner. Though this exact same engine was rated at 190-hp in the  same-year Z-28, the Monte’s version was downrated slightly, to 180-hp — probably to avoid annoying the Camaro faithful.

By modern standards, 180-hp from a 5 liter V-8 may seem weak. It is weak. But in the mid-’80s, it was top-shelf, with only a few high-performance models besting it – and even then, not by very much. The early-mid ’80s Corvette that year, for example, only had about 10-20 more rated horsepower – and it was the most powerful (domestic) car on the market.

A stock Monte Carlo SS was good for mid-15 second quarter mile runs – and 0-60 blasts under 8 seconds – respectable clocking for the era. But what made the car so much hee-haw fun was the easy burnouts (no traction control in those days), tire-chirping 1-2 upshifts through the turbo-hydramatic transmission and the redneck burble of a classic small block V-8.

Flip the air cleaner lid to let the Q-Jet breathe deep, ax the catalytic converter – and you were ready to rumble.

First year sales were decent – but limited by available production capacity. Only 4,714 examples made it through the pipeline at a base MSRP of $10,474 (which was just slightly more expensive than the ’83 Camaro Z-28’s base price of $10,336). 1984 was much better – with sales increasing nearly six-fold to 24,050. This trend continued into 1985, with sales climbing steadily to a production capacity limited 35,484. Chevy could have sold even more Montes if the two plants where they were built in Arlington, Texas and Pontiac, Michigan had been able to bolt more of them together – but overall, the car’s performance on the lot was every bit as solid as its performance on the street.

In ’86, Chevy came out with a limited-edition version of the SS called the Aerocoupe. It was designed with NASCAR competition in mind, just like in the days of the Plymouth Superbird and Charger Daytona.

The Aerocoupe was defined by its unique raised rear glass, which followed the roofline back to the tail to cut aerodynamic drag at high speeds. According to published figures, the swept-back “aero” rear glass reduced the car’s drag coefficient relative to the standard notchback SS by nearly 3 percent – a big deal on the high-speed ovals where race versions of the Monte were running. The glass itself was one of the more complex single pieces of glass to be installed on a production car up to that time.

Aerocoupes also had a unique ducktail spoiler which provided downforce on the car’s rear end – and which added to the heavy-breathing stock car ambiance.

’86 was also the first year for standard gas-charged Delco Bilstein shocks and newly available argent/aluminum 15×7 wheels very similar to the ones used on the ’80-81 Camaro Z-28.

Smoked-glass T-tops became a popular option.

Of the 161,067 SS Monte Carlos produced during the five year run between 1983 and 1988, Aerocoupes are the most rare – 1986 models especially. Just 200 were produced -with another 6,052 built the following year. All were white – with identical options – which would have included the new-for-’86 15×7 aluminum rims with Goodyear Eagle GT tires, F41 sport suspension with high-effort steering and special “SS” decals and stripes.

Base price for the ’87 Aerocoupe was $14,838 vs. $13,463 for the standard notchback SS.

By this time, unfortunately, sales were beginning to droop – down to 16,204. After five years on the market, the Monte SS hadn’t been developed much and still had the same drivetrain, with the same output/performance. Meanwhile, Chevy was pouring the coal to the Camaro and Corvette – which now offered Tuned Port Injection 305s and 350s with 210-plus hp and much improved performance. Buick was selling the killer Regal GS (and GSX), either of which could mop the floor with the Monte.

1988 would be the final year for the Monte Carlo SS – and, sadly, for a rear-drive, V-8 Monte Carlo. Chevy decided the future lay in smaller, front-drive models like the soon-to-be-released Lumina.

The Monte Carlo nameplate would be revived a few years later . And V-8 power would return in 2006 (in a front-drive configuration and with modern engine controls, etc.). But the classic muscle car layout of ’83-’88 was history.  It was too crude for modern tastes; too politically incorrect to pass muster with The Man.

But the sound of an old SS under full steam – Q-jet secondaries opening up, Eagle GT’s skittering on the pavement – is a happy reminder of simpler times; of cheap thrills, of hanging out at McDonald’s on a Friday night…

They may build ’em faster nowadays – but they’ll never build ’em sweeter.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. The Gen-11 ‘F’ bodies were not as light in the rear as the first generation, which were actually quite nose heavy. The Gen-11’s are a more balanced vehicle, comparatively.

    I nearly lost my life, twice, in first gen ‘F’-bodies. The first time in a gal friend’s new 68′ with the 400″. I/We went shopping with her to buy a Firebird, I suggested the nice little Sprint with the OHC six and 4-speed, her boyfriend wanted the 400″, didn’t make any sense, but that is what she bought.
    Later we were on the Washington coast and we left the girls at the motel and went into town for treats and wine, we were driving the Bird in a down pour, my friend made the right turn to the road to town and got on the Firebird, as we approached a small bridge, he grabbed third gear, and the back end went. We went sideways through that narrow bridge unscathed… Kiss the ground.

    The next hairy experience in a Gen-1 ‘F’-body, was a new 69′ Camaro ‘SS’ 396″/375Hp/4-speed. Again I accompanied a friend to the dealership to buy a car. He settled on the Camaro cuzz he thought it might beat my Charger RT/440. It didn’t, so I mentioned that the 65′ Corvette had a 425Hp* version of the 396″ and that I thought that the only difference was the cam, so we bought a cam and headers and installed them. It still didn’t beat the Charger, but it sure went.

    One evening, returning to town with a car load of pretty girls, we were being held up by a long line of cars on a long straight, my friend decides to pass all of these cars, some 19-or 20. The car reached scary speeds under the conditions, and then oncoming traffic was encountered, the first ones pulled over to the side of the road, but then, just as we reached the end of the vehicles in our lane, one didn’t,

    My friend jerked the Camaro back into our lane and it went sideways at at least 130MPH plus. Time froze, the gal sitting in my lap squeezed my arm so hard it bruised. Physics allowed the car to go straight down the road sideways for a ways past the oncoming traffic, and then as it slowed, it spun violently several times and went off the road. It didn’t roll and it didn’t hit anything, and we managed to get back up on the highway and drive home.

    I don’t think any of the gals said anything during or after the incident, but muted goodbyes when dropped off. The knew how close they had come to dying and how lucky they were to be alive. A lot of other local young people had died in the last few years in the fast factory hot rods of the day.

    There was a lot of stuff, gravel and organic material, jammed up in the engine bay and under trunk area, and along the exhaust, and even between the rims and tires. A lot of clean-up, but we were alive. The last time I saw the car it was banged up sitting out in a field at my friend’s place in Eastern Washington. Wonder what ever became of it.

    As an interesting side note, a recent acquaintance of mine who’s dad owned the local Chevy/Olds/Buick/Cadillac dealership here in town, and who himself was a big trader of Corvettes on the West Coast in the 60’s, and 70’s, on hearing about this Camaro and what we did to it to build the horsepower, commented that the two engines were the same, both had 425 Hp, and the same cam. Chevrolet just de-rated the engine for mid-sized and ‘F’ bodies. I checked it out and found it to be so. I had to laugh, we wasted time and money on that cam up grade, but the headers added something, especially at high speeds.

    L-78; Produced 1965-9, had 800 cfm Holley carburetor, 11:1 compression, forged pop-up pistons, aluminum high-rise intake manifold, steel crankshaft, solid lifter cam, rectangular port closed chamber heads, and four-bolt main caps. It was rated at 375 hp in mid-size cars and ‘F’ bodies, and 425 hp in Corvettes.

    Careful what you think you know.

    • Great stories (as always) Deuce!

      I’ve got a few, too.

      There was the night back in ’87 when I was headed home from a big party. Driving my ’78 Z28, which had a pretty worked 350 – but of course, I hadn’t spent money on the rest of the car. Including the tires. Which were bald. And it was a wet night. Now add liquor – and the Need for Speed. On a straight section of road, I punched it – and promptly lost it as the rear tires broke traction and the car went into a fatal (to it) spin. I hit a telephone pole sideways, on the passenger’s side. It bent the car visibly in half. T-Tops flew into the field. Somehow, all I received in terms of injuries were a cracked rib and a strange puncture wound through my right cheek. I still have the scar.

      It was very quiet immediately after the wreck. Just light rain and darkness. At first I thought I was dead. When I realized I was very much alive, I got my drunk self out of that car PDQ – realizing the cops would be there any minute – unscrewed my plates, tucked ’em under my arm and trucked off into the woods. Made my way home on foot, then slept it off.

      Next day I returned to the scene. I discovered I’d also taken out a section of someone’s fence. I knocked on the door of the house adjacent and ‘fessed up. Old dude was very cool. I offered to fix the damage and he was fine with that. He even let me keep the wreck on his land for a couple weeks until I figured out a way to haul the hulk to another location for parting out….

      • Yikes!

        Lucky we survived all that ‘Stupid Fun’.

        Tired and slightly intoxicated, I dropped my gal friend off and headed home on a country road towards the freeway. You know those old roads that followed the property lines with their constant 90 degree turns. I came out of one ninety too hot and right into anothe,r and lost control on the wet high crowned road in my 73′ Opel Manta ‘Blue Max’ special.

        I spun sideways and left the road, went through the ditch up on the margin between the ditch and the fence and slid sideways in the grass at a high rate of speed towards a telephone pole on the drivers side. I watched that pole coming right at my door… the car stopped less the six inches from hitting the pole.

        Engine dead, wipers still wiping, headlights spotting cows in the field across the road, I sat there and listened to the rain pounding the roof, the heater fan, and wipers, wiping. I looked at the pole one more time, and started the car and got back on the road headed home, considerably more sober and awake then just a few moments earlier. The bright blue Max and I lived to take a lot more corners at elevated speeds, some sober… some not so.

        It is funny how we will drive some cars at risky limits and others very carefully. At that time, I never risked my Europa ‘JPS’ with, at the edge driving, or drove it in any state, other then being totally sober. Hell, I never even drove it in the rain. I guess it was just too precious.

        Keep the shiny side up, Eric… col!

        • eric, Tre, I was headed home from college one rainy morning on this old state hiway everybody called the Devil’s Backbone due to it’s narrow, very curvy left and right going up and down through many miles of “breaks”. I had new Goodyear Polyglas GT’s on my old ’67 Malibu Sport, real sticky for those days, nothing even came close except I later found out, some good radials but in ’69 they weren’t well known. I’m trying to double all these “recommended” speeds signs for the curves, most said 45mph. I’m just right on the edge of losing it but still doing ok, just the way I liked to do, keep it right on the ragged edge. As I near the end of a curve I see I’m doing 105mph, not bad since it was a 55mph curve but certainly not my record. I’m sure everybody had roads they tested themselves on and this was one of mine. As I start to open it up more, couldn’t nail it in the rain, I was in 3rd gear and just getting in to the real power band when something when click and I saw the hood start to rise. It seemed like forever, real slow mo kind of thing and then it went “wham” and caught on the second latch. My brief life flashed before me in that split second. Had it gone on up, the wreck probably wouldn’t have been discovered for a days due to the extreme angle down to the bottom of the ravine through a very thick old growth cedar and mesquite pasture. I slowed and stopped, reset the hood and vowed I’d never have it happen again. I had a friend who had some various pieces and parts off his ruined car so I bought his hood tie-downs and put them on the next day. What a pucker factor.

          • LMAoff!

            EightSouthMan, all of us of a certain age probably have our hood story or three. I have probably already on this site told mine about my 63′ Sting Ray losing its hood.

            Another more recent one, well, twenty years ago, involves a 69′ Karmann Ghia I had just converted with a front mounted Capri 2.8 V-6, my second conversion of this combo.
            I was test driving the car and was headed into down town Portland over the Fremont Bridge, with the owner when the hood came up at about 85mph, it wrapped itself over firmly over the windshield.

            Blinded, I had a momentary vision of hitting some other car in front of us and launching the light weight Karmann over the rail and down into the Willamette River some 200 feet below. I steadily braked while using the guard rail as a guide for keeping it straight, and got her stopped without further incident.

            It all turned out well and the owner was thrilled with the test ride he will never forget. Oh! And he liked his new Hot Rod Karmann, too.

            Keep the bonnet tied down… all.

        • Tre, we drove and drive those cars for stimulation. Well, that’s stimulating. I always hoped if mine flew up it would rip off like a few people I knew it happened to. Over 100mph, good chance of that.

      • Eric,

        You were very fortunate Johnny Law did not find you. Quick thinking about the plates. Good thing you had the tools to remove them. I am surprised they did not find you through the VIN.

        • After checking for dead and injured, and finding none, and without a complaint from the land owner, it probably went to the bottom of their priority list. The utility company was certainly interested in contacting him, if the pole had suffered any damage.

          Years ago, a friend’s car jumped a guard rail at very high speeds and took out a freeway light pole. His estate was charged for the guard rail repair and the light pole.

          With the vehicle on private property, the police can’t even order a tow.

  2. “Fixed” Hey! That’s not fair.

    I could deliver the big Poncho. Split the fuel with you if it is going anywhere near Texas, or Arizona. Lets see, 2,500 miles divided by 12 MPG times $3.50 a gallon equals $729.00 divide by two…Not bad a car for $1,364.58…Yahoo! COL!

  3. We all have those… I sold a 68′ L-88 in 71′. Didn’t realize what I had, but then nobody else did either. Bought it when I was buying and trading in Corvettes. Didn’t realize the true nature of the car. The original owner hated it, and it was a beast to keep running.
    And so it goes…..col!

    • If that were local, I’d go look… but I am willing to bet that it has extensive rust. Probably structural rust. It’s either that or the seller has no clue what he’s selling. Since it sounds like he does – and here I mean he does in the sense that he’s aware of the serious rust issues – the price is right. More than fair, actually – for the 428 alone. Finding a rebuildable 428/455 block (and crank) these days will usually mean parting with about…. $1,000!

      • This isn’t rust country, Eric. SW Oregon and Northern California are very dry. People drive their Customs and Hot Rods, and ride their $50,000 bikes, year round, around here.

        I bought a 65′ Jaguar MK-11 last Summer, cars that are noted for their rust, and its only damage was from the sun. Best one I have ever seen and it had sat outside uncovered for the past 16 years.

        The price is pretty good compared to the car in the last link posted.

          • “Definitely worth restoring. I’d – – – to see it picked over for parts and then thrown away…”

            See, we need and ‘Edit’ feature..col!

            • Argghh!

              Fixed – thanks!

              PS: I’ve had two major missed opportunities, car-wise, in my life:

              1970 LT-1 Corvette; original. Good “driver” condition. $7,500 (circa 1985).

              1974 SD-455 Trans-Am; needed work but all there and still operable. $4,000 “OBO” – circa 1993.

              In both cases, I didn’t have the cash and feared borrowing the sum.

              Kick me now. Please.

  4. Reg; “One the great things about both these cars is how much easily accessed potential they had. A set of headers and true duals with no cats plus a power tune really woke them up. In the case of the TA (I speak from personal experience) you could mid-low 14s this way without a cam change or other major work.”

    That would be my recommendation, also. Plus it would achieve better MPG, driven efficiently, and sound great. V-8 with Duals! Pure motor music.

    Never ran the GN in the quarter, but my stock SVO ran 15.7’s, and when tweaked(Boost and air filter, only) ran mid 14’s. It had one significant thing over the 3 GM sporty coupes…Mileage. Up to and over 30 MPG, even after it was tweaked.

    For ‘SS’ restorers/Owners GM ‘Resto Pak’

    Call 800-222-1020 (GM) and ask for a “restoration packet” for your car.

    Have your VIN number and mailing address ready.
    It is FREE in the continental US.
    Hours are: 8am – 5:30pm M-F (EST)
    Unfortunately, for most other areas, this service is NOT free…

    What you get is copies of original GM/Chevy ordering and specification booklets as well as a large restoration parts listing. It contains a tremendous amount of information about your vehicle and its the right price.

    • Actually there were 4 GM intermediate Sporty Coupes, the Pontiac ‘GP’ was the other. To much of a character car for my tastes, of the four, the Monte had the styling about right.

      • Correct, sir!

        I’m ashamed (as a Pontiac) guy that I left the GP out.

        The older versions, speaking of which, were immensely cool. Especially the SSJs with 428s and 455s. It’s said they were John Z’s favorite – a sort of executive muscle car.

        • Morning Eric,

          While I don’t has an ‘SSJ’, as I have mentioned before, I do have a 72′ Pontiac ‘SJ’.

          Never could figure why ‘SSJ’s could also come with the 400″ motor when ‘SJ’s were all equipped with the 455″. Mine has the ‘HO’ engine, as I recall one of only 89 vehicles to have that option that were not Trans Am’s. Apparently two wagons also got the engine. I wonder where they are now?

          • You dawg!

            A 455 HO GP… dammit! That is a rare car.

            IIRC, the situation with the lower-performance 400 being available was akin to the same deal with the GTO. Pontiac sold “looks tough” (but isn’t really) versions, including a 400 2 BBL GTO in (IIRC) ’67.

            PS: I knew a guy who had a ’70 Hurst GP SSJ. Remember those? White with gold and every option they could throw in the thing – including a TV. You hung the antenna out the window. For real.

    • “For ‘SS’ restorers/Owners GM ‘Resto Pak’”


      If you own a Pontiac, there’s Pontiac Historic Services. For a small fee (it was about $25 when I did it last) they’ll research your particular car’s history, decode options/equipment it had, and so on.

  5. Not a bad car at all. Worth of collecting.

    My cousin inherited his Dad’s new 85′ Monte ‘SS’. On a visit with him and friends in San Juan country North of Seattle in about 85’/86′. Because my reputation precede me, or because I was the only one sober, I had a chance to put some long miles on his SS on a party run to the nearest big town 60 miles away, along one of America’s great roads, the famous or infamous Chuck-a Nut drive. The Monte ‘SS’ comported itself well along that tortured, twisted run of roller coaster tarmac, even with a load of uncontrollably laughing Hyenas masquerading as homo sapiens.

    I had a good baseline for comparison as I had traded my wife’s old Buick Regal ‘Turbo’ coupe, for a new 84′ Buick Regal ‘Turbo’ Coupe with the GN option, so I had plenty of time in the shared GM platform.

    The SS would dig out of the slow corners better then the SS, but mid-range and upper end power were no match for the Buick. And the handling wasn’t on par with the Turbo Coupe, either, but felt controlled and not sloppy. I did make a run with just two of us in it, so it is this lightly loaded run that is used for my comparison of handling.

    Eric, I’m real suspicious of 1/4 mile times in the SS being in the 15 second bracket, seems a little fast.

    1984/85 was my years of turbos, The wifes GN Turbo coupe, and my Kawasaki GPz 750 Turbo, followed the next year with my SVO mustang. I later collected all of the OEM turbo bikes.

    I have a set of those SS ‘Bent Five’ wheels(new take-offs) boxed in the storage loft. Always liked the look of those wheels, especially painted a dark gray with a machined turned rim.

    The 85′ Buick Turbo Coupe had Sequential fuel injection and distributor-less ignition. I ordered the wife’s with the T-tops she had to have, I don’t think she ever took them off, I did on rare occasion. Never liked the damn things.

    The Turbo Kawi was the worlds first 10 second production street bike. Among the many unique features on the bike, was Digital Fuel injection, and it has a lot of different super duty parts the regular GPZ 750 didn’t have, even the frame geometry and construction was different.

    Thanks for posting, Eric.

    • Morning, Deuce!

      Those cars – the SS Monte, the Regal and the Olds Cutlass – represent a type of car now extinct. And I don’t mean just the “muscle” aspect – though that was part of it.

      No one makes an intermediate performance coupe of that type anymore. With real back seats – and bench-style seats up front. If you’re a bigger guy and you haven’t experienced such a car, you don’t know what you’re missing. The new Challenger is kinda-sorta close, but it still has the now-typical sport/performance car “coupe” rather than “two door sedan” silhouette. Fast windshield, low roof – etc. The Monte, et al, were the final iterations of a type of car that was once extremely common but vanished almost overnight. They used to take a big sedan, get rid of the back two doors, tighten up the lines a little and – viola!

      I miss that.

      The L69 305 “HO” was a decent performer in its time and I suspect under-rated, especially in the Monte. It was mechanically identical to the L69 305 used in the same year Z28 – where it was rated 190 hp rather than 180 as in the Monte. The Z had the advantage of being available with a manual transmission though – while the Montes were all automatic. However, you could order a very aggressive 3:73 axle and the automatic was programmed to deliver very firm shifts – enough to bark the tires. IIRC, several magazines got mid-high 15s out of stock Montes – which strikes me as credible. Remember: Though it was a fairly large RWD/V-8 coupe, it only weighed about 3,200 lbs. For some perspective, a new Challenger V-6 weighs 3,834 lbs – about 600 pounds more!

      It seems reasonable to me that a roughly 3,200 lb. car with a 3.73 axle and a 200-ish hp V-8 could run a mid-high 15 second quarter mile.

      And if not, a few simple/cheap mods would definitely get you there!

      • Not to be argumentative, but the numbers hurt it. With a P/W ration of 16-17(?) pounds, it would be hard for it to pull 15 seconds with an automatic. Not saying it isn’t possible. With 4.56/4.88 gears,and some effective tuning, and hitting all the numbers, it would bracket in the 15’s.
        But as delivered without optional gears it is probable a 16′-17′ second car.

        The automatic tranny FRS/BRZ and Miata’s with P/W’s of 14 pounds per, are just barely 15′ sec. cars with automatics that have a lot more gears.

        Bottom Line, Eric, is that they are good looking, desirable, fun cars with a bit of performance and decent handling, and a car worthy of a little attention with your post. I occasionally see them around here fairly cheap, considering.

        Regards … Tre

        • I did a little looking around and found this:

          Stock Specs 1985 (Motortrend) 1985 (Car & Driver)
          0-50mph in 6.0 sec. 0-100mph in 25.6 sec.
          0-60mph in 8.4 sec. 0-60mph in 7.8 sec.
          1/4 mile in 16.1 sec. 1/4 mile in 15.9 sec. @ 86mph
          0.82 g lateral accel. 0.80 g lateral accel.

          Typical Showroom stock Monte SS’s will run 15.9-16.2
          (1983’s slowest, ’87-’88s quickest.)

          This jibes with what I recall.

          • Suspect those are ‘Corrected’ times, but they support both of our contentions, and your suspicion that the HP ratings were down rated. Other wise the numbers just don’t make real world sense. The cars were also in the 3,400_3,500 pound range, which puts their P/W around the 17-19+ range with the as specified HP.

            Here is a contemporary article of the three GM sporty coupes, Olds442/Buick GN/Monte ‘SS’ by C&D .. titled ‘Modern Muscle.

            BRS auto times…> 2013 Scion FR-S (Auto) 0-60 mph 7.9 Quarter Mile 15.9
            P/W of 13.5 pounds per

            • Yup –

              It’d be interesting to dyno test a stock L69 and see what’s what.

              I suspect a 5 liter V-8 with a fairly aggressive cam (the L69 cam was, IIRC, basically the same cam as the L-82 350 Corvette cam) probably put out 210-ish actual hp.

              For perspective, the NHRA factors the W72 (“T/A 6.6”) Pontiac 400 at 260 hp – and it was factory rated at 220 hp.These cars – at about 3,800 lbs. considerably heavier than the SS Monte – were low 15/high14 second cars in stock form. They also had a severely restricted exhaust – using the old-style pellet converter. The Monte had a much better exhaust system – and later models got the freer flowing (modern style) honeycomb lattice cat.

              One the great things about both these cars is how much easily accessed potential they had. A set of headers and true duals with no cats plus a power tune (jet carb, open up the shaker, defeat the emissions controls, curve the distributor, etc.) really woke them up. In the case of the TA (I speak from personal experience) you could get mid-low 14s this way without a cam change or other major work.

  6. the reason to restore is. All you have to do mechanically. Is to change drive train engine and put in a 350 horse 350ci engine and take the 200 trans rebuild it with with b&m shift kit. And now you have that old 60s and 70s muscle. Especially with a dual plane camshaft with about 465/488 lift flow master 40s and long tube headers stock tail pipes. Now you have that big lopey idle. With great low end torque great suspension great rear gear 373. Now let’s go get those guys that say why bother.

    • Hi Mike,


      Of course, I’d happily accept a stone stock L69 305 SS. Might not be the quickest thing going, but they sounded great and were a blast to drive. I know, because I did – brand new, back in the day. I spent a summer in between my freshman and sophomore year of college working at a Chevy dealership and took a few furtive test drives. They’d bark the tires pretty decently on a WOT 1-2 upshift.

      Good times!

      • “furtive test drives. ” Had to laugh at that one, Eric.

        I worked for a Chrysler/Dodge dealer, my first job out of HS. I got to drive all the hot new cars(and slow) cars as part of my job, including a 67′ dual 4-barrel Hemi Charger and the first Road Runner. I worked in the detail shop and part of my job was to run the cars up to the local gas station, where the dealership had an account, to get the cars fueled for delivery, this also included the used cars.

        One day the shop manager told me to take a 64′ Dodge Polara, with a 383″/335Hp engine and 4-speed, up to get fueled. I took it for a bit of a joy ride and ran out of fuel. I had to find a phone booth and call the shop, the boss wasn’t to happy when he found out where I was, well off the normal route to the station. Luckily he understood my need to ‘have a little fun, did ya? Don’t do it again’. And I didn’t. Had that been a new a new car, I would have been looking for a new job.

  7. Eric these things were truley laughable at the time. Back then my friends and I used to beat them with 1/2 throttle or less in our late ’60s muscle cars which were cheap and plentiful…

    And then we would laugh.

    I still chuckle when I see one that’s been restored and wonder; why bother?

    • don’t get me wrong im a proud owner of a 68 chevelle. But my 85 SS Monte is way way faster and they have almost the same motor and trans, of course the engine is no longer the wee little 305 its a 383. My chevelle is a 383 as well but it comes down to weight. The chevelle though more ascetically pleasing is heavy like most early muscle cars the Monte is light( compared to the chevelle anyway) so the small block pushes it a lot better as for restoring one no but hot rodding one hell yes.

      • Hi RW,.

        Yup – and your ’85 SS also has light-years better brakes and suspension, too. But in my eyes, the one that really sets it (and any modern performance car) apart from classic-era muscle cars is driveability. Back in the day, you were forced to put up with a rough idle, a tendency to stall out (and vapor lock). Overheating unless you were moving was a constant worry. The hairier muscle cars did not like stop-and-go driving. And – the big one – they were (typically) very compromised on the highway because of the combination of aggressive final drive ratios and non-overdrive transmissions. If you had a 3.73 or higher axle behind a non-overdrive transmission, your poor engine would be screaming along at 3,500 at 70. Cars with very aggressive axles often had top speeds under 120 – mechanically limited. This is about what a Prius will do today. And the Prius can comfortably hold 75 all day long.

        • Hi! Eric,

          I recently had the opportunity to drive my second 1964 ‘Light Weight’ Galaxie. Like the first, it was a scary experience on surface streets. I had to drive down a popular ’boutique’ street, with a lot of traffic and pedestrians, and the drum brakes were truly scary in that environment, not to mention the Traction -Lock dif kicking the rear a bit side ways as it disengaged.

          The car recently had a rotisserie restoration, so it was in top shape. Those old cars are an adventure after we have become acclimated to the newer vehicles available today.

          Only 25 Manual ‘Light Weights’ made, and I get to drive two in the past four years. Life does occasionally have a special treat for me.

          • Wow, what a treat!

            And – absolutely, on “the experience.”

            People forget how dicey/hairy the old stuff was. Especially brakes/tires/suspensions. I have a friend who owns an original/all stock ’70 RA III Formula 400. The car was ordered for bracket racing and has no options except for the RA III engine and functional hood scoops. No extra gauges (just the basic Firebird Esprit speedo and fuel cluster with idiot lights), 14 inch wheels with dog dish hubcaps; three speed manual (not even a four speed).

            It’s a nose heavy/ass light over-engined animal. Very easy to get it sideways and if you don’t know how to deal with it or are just unlucky, forget about it!

          • Tre, turning a corner in them….pop…..pop…..pop….the old Traction Lock left something to be desired on the street. Ford spent a bundle on those cars.

        • eric, Rough Idle. Ha ha, back in the sixties. EEEEEEEE whhooomp aha ha aha ha ah ah ah ah aha shrompp ah ah ah aha ah ahawhompppf ah ah ah ah ah aha iiiiiii iiiiiiishwhoomp ahaha ha ah aha aha ah. Get out, walk around it. Tailpipes shaking, hood shaking, car shaking. It’s all holding on…barely. Yeah, I remember some “rough” idles. They were a bit rougher with the 3″ “dumps” open on the exhaust. Early one Sunday morning I was mowing, dad was edging this long concrete driveway he had. My car was at the house end of it. He got out his brooms and other stuff to clean the driveway, a fairly lengthy chore. I had a brainstorm. I said Daddy, hold on, I’ll clean it. I scooted up under my car and removed my 3″ plugs on my exhaust. Fired that 11.5-1 fire breather up and backed all the way to the highway. Clean driveway.

          • Reg; ” Ford spent a bundle on those cars.”

            So did the previous owner on the restoration of this ‘LW’ Galaxie, A claimed and believable, $105,000. Bought as an investment and picked up for $85,000. Should bring considerably more then that at auction, after the new owner enjoys having it for a while.

            • I still have trouble getting my head around that the cars I and my friends drove in high school, picked up for a couple thousand bucks (or less) are now in many cases $50,000 (and up) rich men’s “investments”!

      • RW, what did the Chevelle weigh? My ’67, a lighter car, weighed 3480 lbs. The ’68’s looked a lot heavier but I always thought they probably weren’t much more.

        • Hey Eight,

          Check it out: Your ’67 – a V-8 (cast iron V-8) full-frame (and full-sized, by current standards) RWD muscle car weighed about the same as the FWD, aluminum four-cylinder, unibody compact Ford Focus ST I just finished writing up.


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