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.