Looking back on the '80s, it's tough not to have a jaded view. We've had a decade and a half since to be spoiled with the kind of high horsepower numbers not seen even in the '60s. By comparison, the '80s, while an improvement over the mid-to-late '70s, seem slow and pedantic by comparison. The most robust offering was the 245hp L98 in the Corvette. You couldn't get a manual trans with the 350 in a Camaro, and the only engine to be had in the Monte SS was the LB9 305 that wheezed out less than 200 ponies. On the plus side, horsepower numbers were climbing throughout the '80s, signaling the reawakening of performance that would give us the power boons of the late '90s and 21st century.
A transfer from his job at Autozone had Darrell "Poppa" Hyde working in Columbus, Georgia, when in the fall of 1986 a brand new, black Monte Carlo Aerocoupe, sitting on the lot of Bill Heard Chevrolet stole his heart at first sight. Undaunted by the car's $17,000 sticker price, Darrell traded in his '80 Bonneville and '74 Suburban, laid down some cash, and drove off the lot in his brand new Monte SS. For six years it was his daily driver, until a divorce in 1993 separated him from the homologation special edition.
In 2001, fate again dealt him a blow, when Darrell's daily-driver was stolen. In need of transportation, he found out his '87 G-body had stopped running and was left to rot in a field. With the help of his daughter, Darrell managed to get his old car back and into running condition for everyday use. By 2005 the Monte was showing its age--not to mention the aftereffects of being left for dead. The T-tops allowed water to leak into the interior, soaking the carpet and breeding rust that would to eat through the floorboards. The black paint was sunbaked pretty badly, and overall the car was just tired.
In his garage, Darrell started disassembling the G-body for a full refit, with some modifications to give it the performance not available back in the go-go '80s. The stock 305 was pitched in favor of a 427 Mouse he built himself out of a Dart Iron Eagle tall-deck block, Brodix cylinder heads, Eagle rotating assembly, Comp Cams valvetrain, Edelbrock intake, and Holley 950 cfm carb. Steve Larkin in Memphis performed all the necessary machine work before assembly.
To handle all the power and torque of the new mill, California Performance Transmissions built up a 200-4R with 3,000 stall converter. The factory 10-bolt rear was junked, and a narrowed Fab 9 9-inch rear built with 4.30 gears and Detroit Locker. Speaking of narrowed, to help fit enough rubber underneath so the car would hook, Darrell got help from friend David White to cut and narrow the rear framerails to make room for mini-tubs and 255-width rubber.
Most of the body repair, including welding in new floorpans, was done by Darrell himself. Another friend, Scott White, helped detail and paint various interior and trim pieces, different brackets, and some miscellaneous items. A custom console insert was made by Darrell to mount accessory gauges, and the stock buckets replaced with 3R Racing units. There's a fake floor on the passenger-side, behind which hides the MSD ignition boxes. The factory A/C system was also junked, replaced with a Vintage Air climate unit.
To modernize the look of the car and make the frame less visible from a distance, Darrell built his own ground effects, along with lengthening the nose two inches, and installing the massive rear spoiler. Once everything was set, the car went to painter Tommy Gann for coating in DuPont black and clearcoat. Finishing the package are Intro GT Sport 17x8 wheels wrapped in Khumo rubber. There are many who might question all the time, effort, and money expended on what most people only see as "just a G-body Monte Carlo." For Darrell, building for value wasn't the idea of the project.
"I always liked the lines of the G-body cars. This Monte Carlo was the last new car I ever bought, and I wanted to fix it up and add the performance you couldn't get back when it was new. I didn't want to build another Camaro or Chevelle like everyone else. I wanted something different, a pro touring G-body." Indeed, one with a NASCAR high-banks heritage and theme. Even though the Aerocoupe isn't his daily ride anymore, Darrell still drives it at least once a week, and to most shows within a reasonable amount of distance from home.
While "different" is the obvious adjective to use about this car, we look at it more as a great example of original thinking, and the true reason why most hot rodders build cars.