There is no better-kept Chevrolet performance secret than the G-body. One of the last of the full-frame Chevy cars, and with V-8 power and a rear-wheel-drive layout, these rides are ripe for the picking. Dan Howe, the owner of the NASCAR-inspired Monte you see before you, caught onto the trend early and teamed up with Schwartz Performance to create one of the most competitive 1984 Monte Carlo’s we’ve seen yet. The car joined us at the Streets of Willow Springs Raceway for the 2015 Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenge presented by Falken Tires, where it went toe-to-toe with our 2015 Camaro SS 1LE test mule.
The car battled it out on the road course, the slalom and the skidpad, where it did things the original engineers at Chevy would have never thought possible.
The upgrades to Dan’s Monte are extensive to say the least, the biggest being a Schwartz Performance G-machine chassis. Yup, that means, the heavy and antiquated factory frame said its goodbyes and left the building. The new piece offers 200 percent less torsional flex, is 119 pounds lighter, and offers much improved suspension geometry with a Schwartz tubular front suspension and triangulated four-link rear suspension. It also incorporates modern rack-and-pinion steering, a big departure from the standard issue steering box and drag links of yore.
“All of our suspension components are designed around the chassis, they are not parts that just bolt on,” said Jeff Schwartz about the G-machine chassis. Everything has been engineered to work together and with very specific needs in mind.
“We use longer shock absorbers, 16.5 inches in the front and 14.5 inches rear,” said Schwartz. “This gives the car more suspension travel than many other suspension systems.” From the user’s standpoint, the car can be set at a low ride height, but will still have plenty of suspension travel left before the shock bottoms out. “With our setup, you can have your cake and eat it, too,” added Schwartz.
Suspension systems designed with a smooth, flat racetrack in mind, often have minimal travel and rock-hard spring rates. That isn’t the case here.
“Ninety-five percent of our customers will never do an autocross, so even though my background is in road racing, I like a car that rides smooth,” said Schwartz. “You hit a dip in the road, the car isn’t going to be bottoming out and jarring you.”
By engineering the chassis to accept a longer shock, it allows for outstanding handling but also gives a smooth ride.
The rear suspension of the car utilizes a Schwartz-designed triangulated four link to locate the full-floating Moser 9-inch rear axle. Rather than polyurethane or rubber bushings, the system is set up for spherical rod ends, which Schwartz notes work very well on the street.
“A common misconception is that rod ends are not good for street use,” said Schwartz. “That comes from cheap rod ends that were sold in ’80s ladder bar kits. The ball on the rod end would rattle back and forth right out of the package, they were cheap and made tons of noise. We use nylon-lined rod ends. The advantage they give is freedom of movement and a smoother ride. We also use thrust and needle bearings in our control arms. That, paired with the RideTech shocks we use creates a ride quality that is simply amazing.”
Underhood, a warmed over LS1 stroked to 383 inches is backed by a T-56 transmission. An LS7 clutch sends power to an aluminum driveshaft from Sadler Driveline and, lastly, to the Moser 9-inch. Inside that axle spins 3.50 cogs, and an Eaton Detroit TruTrac limited slip helps the big 315mm rear tires find added grip.
To fully evaluate this Monte Carlo missile, we handed the keys over to our driving ringer, Mary Pozzi. Mary took the car out for a lapping session on the Streets of Willow track for a solid lapping session and came back thoroughly impressed with the big Monte. Below is what she had to say about the experience.
Mary Pozzi from the Driver’s Seat
“You gotta admit that this car attracts more attention than Dale Jr. mopping up syrup at a Waffle House.”
As part of my pre-drive interview, I asked Dan about that “one thing,” and he replied it was when Kerry Earnhardt, Dale Jr.’s older brother, first saw the now-repainted Monte, and drove it. Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Dale Jr.’s older sister, also saw the G-body and loved it, too. Kerry had a few tears when he reminisced about how this car relived a past, and it was a huge “feel good” moment for all.
I easily felt what Dan described, as during my track drive on Streets of Willow, the Monte Carlo came to life. One issue I noted before ever planting a butt in the seat was the possible propensity for understeer, as the car was fitted with the standard front tire size of yore, 275, and 315s in the rear. No matter, I never felt any hint of such on track!
Power was immediate, with perfect linear throttle response. This car had great acceleration for such a large beast. On the other hand, slight countersteer was needed on track-out for an unexplained lateral “jump” which, at times, was a bit unsettling. Once felt, it was easily worked with as a movement was captured, then released, allowing me to drive it right up to the limit and move the car along the driving line. Steering was a tad slow, producing a delayed response to steering wheel rotation; this made it harder to isolate a turn angle and I found myself constantly readjusting to keep forward momentum. The Wilwood brakes hauled the big car down well, with no fade ever noted.
This is a car meant to test and push. Treat it like one and this giant killer has the right stuff in it to accomplish this. My overall impression has me loving this car and the build; Schwartz Performance has knocked one out of the park and proved they’re a serious contender in the aftermarket suspension product arena.
What Makes It Handle
Suspension: Schwartz Performance G-machine chassis
Front Suspension: Schwartz Performance spindles, RideTech shocks, Schwartz Performance tubular control arms, splined and adjustable sway bar
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch disc brakes front and rear
Rear Suspension: Moser full-floating 9-inch with Schwartz Performance triangulated four-link and RideTech coilovers. Splined and adjustable sway bar
Tires: Falken Azenis RT615K 275/35/18 front, 315/30/18 rear
Wheels: XXR 18x8 front, 18x12 rear
|How'd it Stack Up?|
|Slalom Average Sped||Skidpad Lateral g’s||Road Course Lap Time|
|1984 Chevy Monte Carlo: 3,349 pounds||46.2 mph||0.98 g||01:53.1|
|2015 Camaro SS 1LE: 3,866 pounds||47.2 mph||0.96 g||01:53.7|
|We put the Schwartz-built Monte through the wringer on the 420-foot slalom course, the Streets of Willow Springs road course and the skidpad. And, because some of those numbers are a little ambiguous for those not familiar with the slalom or road course, we paired the car against a 2015 Camaro SS 1LE (which is Chevrolet’s Track Pack) for comparison. The Monte ate up the skidpad, besting the 0.96 g number put down by the 1LE Camaro.|