Some of us need more challenges in life to keep ourselves occupied, and this can be a good thing. It doesn't always make sense, but as long as you have a plan, either now or later, things should turn out fine. Jim McLaughlin of Ontario, Canada, thought it would be a good idea to buy a '71 Monte Carlo. The car had been totaled by someone's insurance company, and in 1993 he hauled it home from a local auto wrecker, hard hits and all.
Remember what I said about challenges? None of this seemed to scare Jim. In fact, he got right to work stripping the car and assessing the damage. Upon removal of the vinyl roof, he discovered major rust holes, so it was time to amputate. The plan now was to make the Monte into a convertible. This wasn't just going to be a car with the top cut off, it was gonna be a REAL convertible. Jim found a '68 Olds Cutlass convertible for $200 and used its parts for the top conversion.
Jim recruited his brother Martin and good friends Dennis Keliher and Peter Brenner to help with the work. After they ensured that the top would fit and function properly, they started the restoration. Jim must have hit the jackpot when he found N.O.S. front fenders, doors, quarter panels, and trim for the project. To get all of the new parts to jive with the remainder of the car, John Deering of Cambridge Leather Upholstery was hired to execute the body and paintwork. Afterwards, the car looked like it was dipped in Vaseline, so it was off to Tom's Upholstery of Brantford, where they stitched a new lid for the modified top bows.
Jim took on another challenge and started building the 0.060-inch over, 454 big-block. He stuffed it with 12.5-to-1 pistons, sealed it off with 1966 closed-chambered heads, and fed it all with an 850-cfm Holley. The oversized Rat breaths through a custom 3-inch exhaust by Elite Stainless in Brantford. This feature on Jim's car seems even more fitting when we find out how things have come full circle. At the 2004 Toronto, Ontario Super Chevy Show, Jim won the Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, which he and Martin later installed into his car. They could hardly wait to stuff the new tranny in, along with an 11-inch GM Motorsports clutch and McLeod hydraulic clutch kit. At the same time, they also installed 12-inch rotors up front with new spindles, hung by Hotchkis upper A-arms. In the back, '99 Camaro disc brakes were adapted to the 12-bolt from a '69 Cutlass with a 3.73 Posi-traction carrier. Rounding out this outstanding car is the perfect mix between the Goodyear rubber and the 18-inch Cragars.
Jim's Monte Carlo took five summers to finish, which isn't bad considering the time taken off in the cold and snowy winters to go snowmobiling, since there is no heat in the garage. Every minute of warm sunshine since then has been spent by Jim and Martin in the "XHARDTOP," seeing much of North America and winning trophies along the way. Not a bad way to go, for sure!