When people hear the words SUPER CHEVY magazine, the first things they think of are tricked-out, wickedly fast, performance machines. And it's no doubt, we do have a fair share of Camaros, Chevelles, Novas, and Tri-Fives--those conventional American muscle machines--filling the pages of this magazine. But every now and then something will come along that totally blows our mind and we just have to run it. Even if it's a Corvair, Vega, station wagon, truck or family sedan, if it's done right and hits us like a ton of bricks, then we make space for it.
Going even further, we primarily run older cars that emphasize our hands-on approach. Not that there isn't an occasional late-model, high-tech install, mind you, but for the most part we stick with machines built between the years of '55-72. But no matter what, a cool car, is a cool car, is a cool car! Regardless of whether or not it's old, new, popular, and so on. And lets face it, this '03 Monte Carlo SS is one heck of a cool car.
Now before you go throwing out the possibility of ever considering this a heat ride, hear me out. This alleged "family car" is going to flat out whoop the pants off a lot of cars out there. Not to mention the looks of it are pretty awesome. Think about it, there are not too many late-model, full-size machines out there performing better than many of the new breed of import sports cars, and compete in the looks category, as well. Sure, we would gave preferred it if the General had installed an LS1 backed by a six-speed, and of course, rear-wheel drive, but let us just say for the record, we were definitely impressed by this attempt to outdo the import crowd with a true-blue Chevrolet.
The Rytek Projectz-built '03 Monte Carlo isn't exactly something grandma is going to pick you up in after school. No, no, this bad boy was built to get down and dirty among the youthful cruiser crowd. The crew at Rytek went to great lengths to make this car perform, look, and handle. In fact they were so confident that they would not disappoint they were up to the challenge of letting us take it and give it a whirl. And we're not just talking about a Sunday drive, but full-on track testing where the numbers don't lie. You can only imagine we were up to it.
Before we get to the performance test, here's a little about the ride and who built it. Rytek Projectz is a company that has concentrated on designing and constructing one-off, late-model performers for about 10 years. We've seen their cars before, both in the magazine and at events such as the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Rytek calls their concept, "Total Performance Tuning," with three objectives: synergy, stability and styling. To us, that's the same as mixing the correct components to make a car run and perform as a unit--in addition to providing the driver with a good experience while controlling the machine. With this Monte Carlo, Rytek set out not to unseat the big-block Chevelles and Camaros as the king of muscle machines, but to blend all the practical performance that today's drivers expect from a car. The first thing that can be said about the Monte is that it has a NASCAR-inspired flare. While the on-track cousin is a basic skin surrounding a plethora of performance components linked by a tube chassis, the Rytek car comes complete with supple leather interior appointments to go along with the Wilwood 14-inch, six-piston caliper brakes. The company that Rytek used for most of the visual appeal of the Monte was SLP. SLP, who readers recognize as a leader in the late-model Camaro and Corvette industry, provided virtually all of the interior pieces such as the entire carbon fiber dash coverings, as well as the cool rear spoiler and aerodynamic body kit. Showing off those big four-wheel disk brakes is an awesome set of HRE 540 Series blacked-out center 20-inch wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes 245/35 rubber.
As noted above, though, the look of this Monte is only the beginning. In addition to the sleek silhouette and awesome stopping power, there also is some under hood performance to get excited about. SLP upped the ante of the proven 3800 V-6. While not the same as a power-throbbing big-inch LS1, reliable 60-degree six-banger churns out enough ponies to move this big car through the quarter-mile traps in the 15-second range, while still getting pretty good gas mileage, to boot. Added to the stock package are headers, a free-flowing catalytic converter, cold air intake package and sweet-sounding Borla dual outlet, 2 1/2-inch stainless steel exhaust system. Internal engine upgrades include rocker arms and pushrods from SLP and one of their new upgraded computer systems.
While the look and level of performance are all that some people want (or need) in a cool street ride, there is the creature comforts that some must have. A good sound system is one of those things that today's sophisticated hot rodder looks out for. The Rytek Monte features a stock A/C Delco source unit that is improved by components (speakers and amps) from Focal and Audisson. Rytek even supplied a custom billet aluminum amp rack and all the components are connected via Monster Cable hardware. Needless to say, the tunes round out the car's complete package persona.
As for the seat of the pants reaction, my personal first impression upon climbing behind the wheel was I was the designated driver in the Dale Earnhardt Jr., Budweiser commercials' Monte Carlo. I'm not sure why though, considering the fact it looks nothing like it. It only took about 200 feet and a right turn to realize this car wasn't playing.
The host of upgraded suspension components from BMR Fabrication (sway bars, front and rear strut braces, lat links and trailing arms) coupled with the Eibach lowering springs made this car seem like it was on rails. With the aforementioned 20 inches of tires and wheels, cornering is precise and controllable. Traction is not a problem either, despite the power going to the wrong end of the car.
What was almost as startling as the handling of this car was its stopping power. With Wilwood six-piston calipers clamping on crossed drilled and slotted rotors up front and four-piston crossed drilled and slotted in the rear, a touch of the pedal is all you need to scrub off speed. The SLP headers and Borla exhaust does make the 3800 Series II V-6 more pleasant to listen to, however, my only complaint with the car is the lack of power. Although the car is relatively quick, I wouldn't go as far as to say its fast. But the handling and stopping are more than enough to make up for the lack of power in terms of excitement to drive. And throw in its stellar good looks and you can bet to see a few of these replicas poking up at the car shows around town.
Another cool aspect I especially appreciated was the attention to detail given this project. Rytek deserves a great deal of applause for making the most of this car and doing it well. If you'll notice the passenger side is equipped with black calipers and the left is equipped with red. Although the main reason is because the car was destined for SEMA, it still gives the car a uniquely cool look. Rytek also only put decals on one side and not the other. The inside of the car, equipped with those high-tech carbon fiber dash inserts and matching silver inserts, gives a sense of upscale European styling coupled with good 'ol American performance. Just enough, in this writer's opinion.
Finally, the car's complete Focal audio system really cranks out the tunes with tons of power. Add the fact that the numbers we pulled from this cruiser at the race track weren't too far off those baseline stats from our '02 Z28 test ride; it's easy to call this Monte one bad late-model. I'm just hoping the car is slated to receive some sort of power enhancement or replacement under the hood soon.