When The Full Monty hit theaters in 1997, it told the story of an unlikely group of male exotic dancers, and also tested the movie-going public's ability to understand a Yorkshire accent. But more importantly, the movie's title itself referred to an idea that's well-known among Chevy enthusiasts: to going all the way, letting it all hang out, to holding nothing back. Which is pretty much the philosophy that Larry Cheffer followed when he decided to build his own full Monte, this black-is-beautiful custom SS.
Kankakee, Illinois, resident Cheffer started with a well-worn, 134,000-mile, rust-ridden '84 SS. Why this car for a foundation? Well, it was there, for one thing. The SS had served a seven-year hitch performing daily driver duties for Larry's wife Chris, and the couple had a strong sentimental attachment to the car. It made Chris sick to see the Monte go downhill, but Larry couldn't get excited about a restoration. Luckily, the inspiration to follow another path was sitting nearby.
Larry is a die-hard NASCAR fan--so much so that he actually owns an '84 Winston Cup Regal, built by Banjo Matthews as a turnkey race car. And that got the mental wheels turning. "Somebody needs to build a car like this," Larry remembers thinking. "A Winston Cup-style street car." And so the transformation began. Of course, that process was helped a great deal by the fact that Larry owns and operates Cheffer's Autobody in Kankakee, giving him better-than-average facilities in which to work. Larry is also a man who enjoys the "creative parts" of bodywork, and the car he envisioned gave him plenty of opportunity to exhibit some old-fashioned craftsmanship.
The main area in need of attention was the Monte's stance. A stock Monte Carlo sits a bit high by most standards; Larry felt that substantial lowering was in order, but was even more critical of the factory bodylines. In his mind, the nose of the car pointed up as opposed to a more aerodynamic, wind-cutting down profile.
Getting the proper stance turned out to be relatively easy. The combination of Air Ride Technologies 'bags up front and an Art Morrison four-bar airbag setup out back lowered the SS by 4 inches all the way around, and gave Larry the streetability he was looking for. Modifying the bodylines was a whole 'nother animal, however. It was here that Larry's dedication to his project was tested. A major chunk of the 3,500 hours he spent laboring away was spent doing custom frame and body work, such as channeling the front core support so the hoodline could be raked to get the look Larry wanted, and reshaping the fenders and hood to match. Add in a hand-fabbed sheetmetal engine compartment, lowered rocker panels, custom brake cooking ducts, and the extended and laid-down spoiler, and it's no wonder Larry calls his creation "a modern custom."
Larry credits the Edelbrock tech guys for their help under the hood, teaming the correct heads and cam ("as radical as possible but still driveable on the street") with the company's RPM Pro Flow EFI system. Larry hasn't had his Monte on the dyno yet, but he told us the injected 355 shredded several torque converters before he installed the current TCI big-block unit, and that his G-body has no problem decorating freeways with long black stripes, even in Third gear. He claims he'll take things a bit easier than that in the future, but we're not sure we believe him.
Larry had one other goal in mind during the three years he spent building his ultimate Monte Carlo, and that was to memorialize Dale Earnhardt "without looking stupid." Bob Thrash came up with just the thing. Explaining the "ZR3" theme, Thrash said, "The ZR1 was the fastest production Corvette, and this is the fastest Monte Carlo built." When Larry started to protest, Thrash said, "Well, who's gonna prove it wrong?"
One thing that's anything but wrong, however, is the end result of Larry Cheffer's hours of hard work. The reconstituted Monte has been making the show rounds, and even took Best of Show and Best Paint at the Charlotte Auto Fair. "I just did the best I could with it, and enjoy it," he tells us. And that, we think, is exactly what should happen when a car builder cuts loose and lets it all hang out.
'84 Monte Carlo
Larry and Chris Cheffer
Type: Chevrolet 350 bored to 355 ci
Block: Four-bolt main, 0.030-inch overbore
Oiling: 7-quart Hamburger oil pan
Crankshaft: Callies forged steel, 3.480-inch stroke, balanced
Connecting rods: Childs & Albert
Pistons: Keith Black forged, 10:1 compression
Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM
Valves: Edelbrock, 2.02/1.65-inch
Camshaft: Edelbrock, 0.488/0.510 at 0.050, 234/244 degrees duration
Timing Set: Edelbrock
Valvetrain: Harlan Sharp 1.5:1 roller rockers, Edelbrock springs, retainers, locks
Induction: Edelbrock Pro Flow RPM EFI System with 1,000-cfm throttle body
Ignition: Edelbrock distributor
Electronic engine control: Edelbrock
Exhaust: Modified Hooker Super Comp headers, 3-inch collectors, 3-inch Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers
Cooling: Griffin aluminum radiator, Viper fan and shroud, Edelbrock water pump
Other: March serpentine-drivebelt system, PowerMaster 140-amp alternator, twin Optima batteries
Machine work and assembly: Albers Automotive, Kankakee, Illinois
Balancing: Bruce Albers and Steve Gagnier
Thanks to: Greg Schultz, Bob Line, John Savorino, wife Chris and daughter Sara
Transmission: Modified Turbo 400 built by Dave Kraft, TCI 10-inch 3,000-stall converter
Rear axle: Strange 9-inch centersection, 3.82:1 gears, Detroit Locker, Art Morrison housing and axles
Driveshaft: Custom-built by Bourbonnais Supply, Bourbonnais, Illinois
Frame: Factory, back halved
Front suspension: Air Ride CoolRide airbags, lowered 2 inches, modified Belltech spindles
Rear suspension: Art Morrison four-bar airbag setup, Panhard bar
Other: PST polyurethane bushings
Brakes: Baer four-wheel disc, 13-inch front, 12-inch rear
Built by: Larry Cheffer
Wheels and Tires
Wheels: Billet Specialties Chicayne, 17x8 front, 11x17 rear
Tires: Michelin XGTZ P275/40ZR17, front; P335/25ZR17, rear
Body and Paint
Body: Front core support channeled; front fenders reshaped; rockers lowered 2 inches; pinch-weld seams removed; shaved door handles, locks, and side marker lights; rear spoiler laid down and extended 6 inches; functional cowl-induction hood; brake cooling ducts in front turn-signal housings and rear quarters; frenched rear license-plate housing; sheetmetal engine compartment, core-support cover, and wheelwells
Paint: PPG Concept Black by Larry Cheffer; "ZR3" graphics by Bob Thrash
Stock dash blanked out and switches removed; "marbleized" panels added to dash and doors; tweed upholstery by Rick Ouster of Riverside Auto Trim and Glass, Kankakee, Ilinois; Billet Specialties Indy steering wheel; Sony CD player with Orion speakers and amps