In ancient times, Detroit Raw supplied the youth market with hot cars, defined it with them, but they easily handed off the muscle car powertrain to a bunch of mature sheetmetal, including the Monte Carlo, a car that wasn’t necessarily meant to be a hot rod of any stripe. In the weed-smoky ’70s, our pal Berserko Bob had one. Not some small-block/slushbox wheezer, either. His Monte had a 454 backed by a Turbo 400. No one we knew had anything like it. But Berserko didn’t hot rod it. He just drove it every day.
Rich McLeod (a mechanic and welder by experience) got his Monte way back in ’98. He didn’t want it for the daily grind. He turned his unique sheetmetal into a drag racer, a hot rod that gets serious second looks. When he bought it off some soul at an Arizona Air Force base it was in solid shape. Must have been the dry air that preserved it.
Rich didn’t stall. Though he might pedal the car once in a while on the street, he went right for the throat. Straightaway, he pulled his NMCA Easy Street hat on and got busy with the future. He began his industry on the north side of Milwaukee in a two-and-a-half car garage. Talk about putting yourself in debt. At the same time he got married and bought a house. But some humans need to operate under that kind of pressure—keeps it all relative.
He had a couple of reliable hands on the project, Dennis Equitz and Rick O’Shea (is that like “ricochet”?) Equitz is the man at Blitzkrieg Motorsports, whom Rich got to know when he worked there from 1998 to ’12. O’Shea can weld or fabricate anything; his fertile mind finds pertinent use for parts and bits that most wouldn’t likely even consider.
Rich is a modest man. To him, the Monte Carlo represents small victories. It took a little bit more than a year to complete, he said. Ask him what he thinks is most unique about it and he’ll tell you that it still has a back seat and that it looks fairly stock. Most memorable? “Taking my kids for a ride.” Rich is a modest man.
The lads tweaked the NMCA rules a tad. They got the frame on a jig and pushed the rear ’rails in 4 inches. They welded everything back in to look factory, then they boxed the frame. They installed the wheeltubs and widened and raised the transmission tunnel to accept the transmission and driveshaft for a lower stance with the newly lowered body. They replaced the firewall with a piece of flat steel. Then Equitz raised the chrome-moly ’cage and started to work on the 9-inch axlehousing. He built the ladder bars to support it. The two mapped out the front suspension, welded upper and lower control arms over Fatman spindles that would be pointed by Mustang rack steering.
Rich bought a 454 out of a ’70 Impala along with a pair of closed-chamber heads that he spent two months porting and polishing by hand. Warren Automotive in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, opened the 454 to 500 cubic inches with a cylinder poke and the stroke of a billet Eagle crankshaft, which was part of an assembly that came from a fierce shop up in Bohemia, New York. Equitz made the waste collectors with 2 3/8-inch primary tubes that merge with a 4.5-inch collector.
Then reality set in: Rich didn’t have enough money to go racing … so he drove the car on the street for a few years. Then children appeared. He bedded the Monte down in the pole barn for a nine-year nap. During that hibernation some of its parts got sold or simply wandered off. When he got on the case again, he wanted respectable power, and that required a power-adder: in fact, an intercooled ProCharger D3CR supercharger.
Rick O’Shea and Rich crafted a sheetmetal intake manifold and a spacer plate for sensors and then put a Wilson 95mm throttle body on it. They built the system with Bosch 160 lb/hr injectors and fed it with a Holley pump. O’Shea fashioned the throttle lever and used a bicycle gear selector cable to make it work. Rich ran air intake tubes through the framerails. Accommodating the intercooler required a hood release system that he made from a Dodge pickup truck spring with the hood handle release inside of it. Again, he and O’Shea repurposed a bicycle gear selector cable to actuate it.
To soak up the torque and make that Turbo 400 shift like a machine gun, TPI Performance Transmission hopped it up with a Transmission Design 3,500-stall converter, Hughes reverse pattern valvebody, and Hipster transbrake. A JW Ultra-Bell hooks it to the engine. All the grunt ropes down a Strange Engineering chrome-moly prop shaft that stops at the fabricated housing, Strange spool, 3.40:1 cogs, and 35-spline axleshafts.
Modest Rich then told us of a slightly immodest proposal: “I’ve had this car for 19 years and I think I’m out of the debt of the car. That’s why I’m building a ’60 bubbletop Impala to be able to take my family on long cruises. If you have any questions just call or email me.”
|Owner||Richard McLeod, Allenton, Wisconsin|
|Vehicle||1970 Monte Carlo|
|Cylinder Heads||Iron rectangular port closed-chamber, hand-ported, 2.18/1.88 valves, 118cc combustion chambers|
|Rotating Assembly||Eagle billet crankshaft and H-beam connecting rods, Wiseco custom-coated pistons, Hellfire ring packs, Stef’s oil pan, Moroso oil pump|
|Valvetrain||Crane 1.7:1 roller rockers, Comp Cams roller lifters, Smith Brothers pushrods, Jesel beltdrive|
|Camshaft||Steve Morris custom solid roller (specs proprietary)|
|Induction||Aluminum sheetmetal manifold by Rick O’Shea/Rich McLeod, Wilson 95mm throttle body, Bosch 160 lb/hr injectors, Holley Dominator EFI, ProCharger D3CR supercharger, custom intercooler|
|Exhaust||Blitzkrieg Motorsports headers (Caledonia, WI), 2 3/8-inch primary pipes, Jet-Hot–coated 4-inch mild steel system, Flowmaster mufflers, DynoMax Top 10 Shootout tips|
|Ancillaries||Powermaster alternator, Derale oil cooler, Jones Racing pulleys, Meziere water pump, Moroso vacuum pump|
|Machine Work||Warren Automotive (Beaver Dam, WI)|
|Built By||Warren Automotive|
|Transmission||TPI Performance Transmission (South Chicago Heights, IL) Turbo 400, JW Performance Ultra-Bell bellhousing, Hipster transbrake, Transmission Design 3,500-4,200–stall converter, Hughes reverse shift pattern manual valvebody|
|Rear Axle||Moser 9-inch, Strange Engineering spool, 3.40:1 gears, 35-spline axles (unit assembled by Blitzkrieg Motorsports), Strange Engineering chrome-moly prop shaft|
|Front Suspension||Fatman 2-inch drop spindles, Blitzkrieg upper and lower tubular control arms, AFCO double-adjustable coilover dampers, AFCO springs; Blitzkrieg chrome-moly rollcage|
|Rear Suspension||Frame boxed and narrowed 4 inches per side, Blitzkrieg ladder bars, AFCO double-adjustable coilover dampers|
|Brakes||Wilwood Forged Dynalite 10.75-inch rotors, two-piston calipers, front; Wilwood 11.44-inch rotors, Dynalite two-piston calipers, rear; Wilwood master cylinder|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels||Weld Racing Magnum 2.0 15x3.5 front, 15x10 rear|
|Tires||Mickey Thompson ET Street Front, 27.5/4.5 front, ET Street 30x13.50 rear|
|Seats||Procar, Simpson five-point harnesses|
|Steering||Factory column, GM wheel|
|Shifter||Turbo Action Cheetah|
|Dash||Stock with gauge insert|
|Audio||Sony head unit, CD, cassette, Sony 6-inch front speakers, 12x9 rear|
|HVAC||Vents open, windows down, mouth open|
|Bodywork||Authentic Automotive (Cudahy, WI)|
|Paint By||Jim Plimpton (Authentic Automotive)|
|Paint||PPG 1999 Chrysler Concorde Platinum|
|Bumpers||GM (chromed by Parts Place)|
Photos by Dominick Damato