Long before Snooki and her Go-rillas, the Jersey Shore was one of the places to be in the summertime. Beaches, bikinis, and the boardwalk dominated the thoughts of many a young Jersey boy, including yours truly.
There was something inherently cool about cruising the Jersey Shore in an '88 Monte Carlo SS. There amongst a sea of third-gen Camaros, Trans Ams, and TPI Vettes, my boys and I would spend Saturdays prowling Route 35 between Seaside and Point Pleasant Beach in my burgundy metallic Monte-T-tops off and Bon Jovi's "99 in the Shade" blaring on the radio. Chasing big-haired honeys was the perfect end to a day at the beach. Though largely stock, the car stood out from all those IROCs just enough to get us the attention four 19-year-olds craved.
The well-coiffed mullets, gold chains, and girls with big hair are now a distant memory, although I still have the gold chain (take the boy outta Jersey, can't take the Jersey outta the boy). The car, however, is still with me more than 150,000 miles of memories later, including the ever-memorable first date with my wife in '92 and bringing my newborn son home from the hospital in '98. Somewhere in there is the obligatory stash of old speeding tickets and one off-road drag racing incident in the infield of Talladega Superspeedway. I did win that race, although getting Alabama red clay off of framerails is quite a bit harder than one yankee from Jersey ever expected.
I drove the car hard, but I also babied her. While I had plenty of offers, I never considered selling it-not for a minute. Not even when I was driving home and the venerable 305 started making noises that resembled a baby playing in its mother's collection of pots and pans. I nursed the car back home and began to ponder the fate of my best friend of 23 years.
Since the oil and coolant were co-mingling, the decision was made to yank the 305 and ring up the boys at Dart Machinery to get one of their Special High Performance (SHP)short-block assemblies and top-end kits. We wanted to show you how easily you can more the double the horsepower and torque of a stock SS.
Now before I get much deeper into the Dart side of this build, I can hear the 305 faithful saying, "Why not just rebuild it or modify it?" To be frank, I (like a lot of guys) always thought the 305 was a perfect example of GM's '80s foolishness. Why on earth would they put that motor in a car made famous by the likes of Dale Earnhardt? Montes should have had a Tuned Port Injected 350. I believed that then and I still believe that to this day-although I will be the first to admit those 305 motors can make good power when properly rebuilt.
To ease the feelings of (while at the same time educating) the 305 faithful, the stock motor will become the subject of a rebuild/upgrade story later on. For now, it's time to head to Automotive Performance Engines in Auburndale, Florida, and catch up with owner Kevin Willis who is assembling a new heart for the SS known as Exit 98.
A Dart short-block assembly and top-end kit gets this Monte's heart beating once again.