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  • Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

    Starting up a project journal for my 1987 Chevy Monte Carlo SS.

    My upcoming project is going to be a complete suspension overhaul as I'm determined to make this car handle better than my beater (Subaru WRX).

    Current pictures (As of summer 2011):



    Engine bay

    Some history on the car

    I bought the Monte back in 2003, a year after I graduated High School. My '94 F150 was in a bodyshop being fixed (Long story involving an icy parking lot and my friend hitting my car while doing donuts ) when I spotted my future moneypit sitting in one of the bays.

    Even knowing absolutely nothing about Montes (Or cars for that matter) at that point, I still knew that it looked mean as hell sitting under that lift and that I wanted it...bad. Turns out that it was the shop "beater" and was for sale. In hindsight, this should have been something to think long and hard about before I pulled the trigger, but I was 19 and way too smart to worry about such things...A month or so later, I sold my truck and used that money towards buying the Monte.

    It was slow, burned oil, had terrible exhaust work (True duals with one of the exhaust pipes routed below the crossmember...ground clearance of maybe 4"), a dirty grey split-bench interior, the works.

    I loved it, my parents hated it.

    I performed my first oil change on this car (After having to ask the guy at the parts store where to add oil), and from there dove in headfirst and by this point have completed 3 engine swaps, converted from a carb to fuel injection (And changed to three different FI intake setups), created a custom interior, rebuilt the suspension, swapped in a new tranny/rear, etc. Pretty much the only thing I haven't touched is the body of the car itself, although a new paint job is in the works.

    More details on the various projects through the years in the next few posts.
    I take photos.

  • #2

    Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

    2004/2005/2006 OR "Two engine swaps and dreams of fuel injection"


    Only a year after I purchased my car, I decided that it wasn't fast enough, and seeing that I was now fully competent doing oil changes (I only spilled a little bit of oil now!) and brake jobs, it was now time to do an engine swap. Yup. Really.

    I picked up a late 60's 350 that was supposedly rebuilt and already broken in from a friend of a friend for a few hundred bucks. Completely in over my head but with a few good friends who actually knew about cars, I swapped in the "new to me" engine for the 305 that was in the car (A "305" that turned out to be a tired 350 with a really nice set of heads on it, which I only found out after I gave it away for free...but I digress).

    I also had a set of Hooker Competition full-length headers, the Pypes exhaust kit, and the "Iceman" heavy-duty crossmember (The one that is a copy of the G-force crossmember) installed.

    After we finally got the engine running, it burned oil...bad. Still, it pulled like a freight train compared to the old motor and I really didn't drive the car too far anyways since I was living at school in Boston, so it would do for the next year.

    Here's a picture of that motor. Not pretty, but it was good enough to do burn outs:

    Didn't do too much else to the car in 2004 besides drive it...and replace oil that had smoked out the tailpipes.


    Finally got sick of replacing oil all the time and the tranny started to have issues, so I had my friend and his dad help me install a GMPP 350 "HO" crate motor and the 2004R which I had rebuilt locally.

    Here's the engine in all its carbureted glory:

    Definitely an improvement over the old motor!

    I picked up a low-mileage (About 60,000 miles) all-original grey on grey '88 SS as a daily driver that year as well. Absolutely awesome car, but it had some serious rust issues on the driver's door and rear quarters from spending its life in upstate New York.

    I also picked up two parts cars off ebay, one I ended up selling whole and the other I stripped for parts.

    Here's all four at my garage (The '87 is parked in the garage):

    Yup, I'm a Monte addict.

    Only picture I could find of the exterior of the car from 2005:


    I ended up having to sell my grey '88 in 2006 because I couldn't afford the gas driving 60+ miles a day for my internship, so I sold it on Ebay to a guy in Florida who claimed he was going to restore it. Roughly a year later, I get a letter from the state of Florida claiming that "my" car had been in impound for over 6 months, and they were going to crush it if I didn't come to collect it and pay the storage fees...

    Turns out that the guy who bought the car never registered it and somehow got it impounded. I contemplated getting it back, but it would have cost me $2000 in fees alone, let alone getting it home, so I had to let it go.

    Yup, I miss that car.

    Anyways, since I started to learn more about cars and was a computer science major in college, I decided that converting the car to fuel injection would be a cool project for the Monte.

    After doing a ton of research, I decided that TPI would be the way to go, as TBI would still be a nice upgrade, but was still a "wet" manifold design, and didn't have the "wow" factor of TPI.

    I bought a partial TPI setup online and mated it to a Vortec base as my crate motor has Vortec heads. The base is $400+, which really set me back for awhile as I was still working on a college budget, but it was a necessary cost.

    The TPI intake was originally grey with a rough cast finish, but after literally weeks in sanding and polishing by hand (Spent a couple of hours each night until my hands ached) and a can of black high-temp spray paint, I finally had the color scheme that I've kept ever since.

    Here's one of the runners originally:

    After sanding (Still needed to buff):

    The final product:

    While piecing together the TPI setup, I also bought a set of 15" Firebird wheels that looked like GTAs for a fraction of the price, so I installed those.

    I also purchased a new crack-free dash and painted it SEM Warm Grey, along with the rest of the interior plastics. I replaced the split bench with bucket seats and painted the seat backs black, along with a black carpet:

    After the driving season was over, I pulled the carb and intake off, and started diving into the TPI project...which I wouldn't finish until 2008...

    Stay tuned...
    Last edited by DNut; January 4th, 2012, 10:32 AM.
    I take photos.


    • #3

      Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

      2008 "Things are finally starting to come together"

      2008 was a big year for the car. The end of 2006 through 2007, I collected a ton of parts for the TPI swap, as well as bugged everyone that had converted to TPI on a Monte forum with a million and one questions about everything from vacuum lines to "Where can I find xx part?".

      While this was going on, I found a killer deal on an open 8.5" rear from a friend, and had it rebuilt with all new internals (Eaton posi, new gears, Moser axles, etc).

      I swapped that in along with the UMI control arms (Which had to be modified to fit. Turns out that I bought the first iteration of the upper arms which didn't work with an 8.5"), Bilstein shocks at all four corners, and new OEM rear springs.

      The new rear:

      Old versus new shocks:

      It's in!

      Ended up getting the majority of the work to the car done during this time as well, including:

      - Tranny cooler
      - Stainless brake lines
      - Megashifter
      - B-body brake swap
      - Replaced my Firebird wheels with GTAs
      - Front end rebuild
      - Ramcharger electric fans

      All of this work, and I still had to finish up the TPI swap. I had the car running in late 2007/early 2008, but I couldn't get the car to idle properly and never actually drove it.

      Around this time, a new member joined the aformentioned Monte forum (My buddy Ron):

      He posted up pictures of a beautiful TPI swap that a shop had just finished up for him, and I ended up chatting with him about my issues. He recommended that I have the car brought to the shop that worked on his car, as the owner was a specialist in swapping TPI motors in Monte Carlos.

      I had my car towed to the shop, where it was diagnosed that I had some serious issues with my Ebay-special TPI harness, and I had the shop install a new Howell harness for me, as well as giving my car a once over since I was planning on driving my car to a show in PA after doing a ton of shade-tree mechanical work on it.

      A short while later my car came back running better than ever (Gotta love TPI low-end torque!) and ready to go:

      I had the car dyno'd late that year and found out that (untuned) while it was a blast to drive around, it wasn't making power past ~4200 RPMs due to the long tube runner design (One of the drawbacks of TPI).

      Wanting more power, I tore into the motor that winter with the intent of replacing the TPI with a FIRST injection system.
      Last edited by DNut; January 4th, 2012, 10:34 AM.
      I take photos.


      • #4

        Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

        2009 "Car's down again for the count"

        Due to this dyno plot:

        I was on the hunt for more power and at a higher RPM; My crate motor was rated at peak power at a little over 5000 RPMs, so I knew that I was leaving some on the table with an intake that flat-lined a little over 4000 RPMs.

        I initially was planning on going with a Holley Stealth Ram (HSR) as it would pretty much be a bolt-on replacement for the stock TPI, but fate has a funny sense of humor sometimes...

        Back when I first started researching TPI, I stumbled across FIRST fuel injection, who manufactured a pretty awesome-looking long tube runner intake. They had a sale on their intake which made them very competitive with the pricing of the Stealth Ram; That, combined with what I felt was a more visually appealing intake design lead me to purchase this over the winter:

        I then had it powdercoated to match the TPI intake that I sold to finance this purchase:

        The engine bay:

        The rest of the saga can be read here:

        To make a long story short, I ended up having a TON of issues with that intake and sold it to another member of that Monte forum in order to purchase a Stealth Ram after a year of trying to get it to work.

        I'm a little bummed out that I couldn't get it to work for me, but such is life.

        I didn't get to drive the car at all that year, and contemplated selling it before deciding to give the Stealth Ram a try.

        While it was sleeping in the garage that Fall/Winter, I began to have an idea for the interior...
        I take photos.


        • #5

          Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

          2010 "Big changes for the interior and back on the road"

          The winter of 2010, I took on a pretty intense overhaul of the interior in the hopes of reducing some of the NVH (Various t-top rattles, exhaust noise, etc) and making it look a little more modern.

          I did a good amount of research into sound deadening, and ended up doing the entire passenger compartment, along with the trunk.

          In addition, I swapped in a dash from a Grand Prix and some new aftermarket gauges, along with new seats and door panels, and dyed all of the interior plastics black.

          Here's the thread from the beginning with a TON more info:

          A bunch of thanks owed to Jon from GSI interiors for making the door panels, rear inserts, visors, and custom rear seat for me. Definitely couldn't have pulled it off without him.

          Pictures of the "finished" interior (At this point Still needed to install the sill plates, buy floor mats, and fab up a heater blockoff plate)

          I also replaced the FIRST with a Holley Stealth Ram (Looks like black and grey is becoming my new theme)

          In the spring of 2011 I had the car tuned at SDCE in RI, which made a HUGE difference in the drivability of the car.

          I had some timing issues that Scott resolved for me along with the tune itself. No more random stalls, power is up all across the board, and the car now idles like stock, which is exactly what I was looking for.

          While the numbers aren't anything amazing (262 HP, 271 TQ at the wheels), it makes for a nice driver.

          Here's a dyno plot of before and after tuning. What you can't see on the graph is how much better the car idles and drives.

          I'd eventually like to look into that dip in power at around 5200 RPMs, but I'm not sure if it's ignition-related or due to my motor not being meant to be spun up past 5000 RPMs.
          Last edited by DNut; January 4th, 2012, 09:26 AM.
          I take photos.


          • #6

            Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

            And, that's pretty much it for now!

            As I mentioned in my first post, I'm currently in the middle of planning some HUGE changes for the suspension.

            I haven't purchased anything yet, but I'm currently knee deep in some suspension theory books that I picked up a month or two back.

            I have a good friend who likes to call it "Nerd Rodding" as I end up reading and reseaching for months before I start getting my hands dirty.

            Looking forward to having some new updates to share!
            I take photos.


            • #7

              Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

              good work, long way from not knowing where to add the oil..

              Drag Week 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013


              • #8

                Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                I know well how often you undo work you've put in, and usually lose money the whole time. I love G body cars, I have owned a ton of them. I don't know what you have in mind for the suspension, but I know alot about the bolt-in cross platform stuff if you want to hit me up. I really want to buy another one, there's a Malibu 4-door I saw on CL that I'd love to own. I really like the Grand Prix dash swap too, I was looking at that setup on Ebay just yesterday!


                • #9

                  Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                  I still have all of the receipts from when I started modifying the car and started adding them up one day; I stopped once I hit 5 figures...

                  I've been doing a ton of reading in regards to fixing the geometry issues that the G-body suspension has and I've all but nailed down the criteria for parts:

                  For the rear I'm planning on using a Watts link along with adjustable upper and lower control arms with those really trick "rod end" style ends with Delrin that a few companies have come out with. Haven't decided on springs and shocks yet, although my Bilsteins and Eibach springs work "ok" for now. I'm interested in the "pro-touring" style rear sway bars that attach to the frame instead of the lower control arms.

                  The front suspension will be a little more complicated, but I'm still focused on using tall ball joints to help improve the camber curve as the suspension compresses by increasing the effective height of the spindle. This will require using "flat" upper control arms (Same as the ones used for the B-body spindle swap that I currently have), but I'd like to get a new set that uses Delrin bushings instead of poly.

                  Looks like Global West makes a nice set of uppers and lowers with their "Del-A-Lum" bushings that would work perfect.

                  The newer dual piston S10 spindles will probably be used along with some brackets so that I can use larger LS1 or similar brakes.

                  I'm also going to replace the body bushings, install some braces to firm up the front end as my car is a bit of a wet noodle due to the T-tops, and install a Lee or similar rebuilt steering box.

                  Other than that, I'm still narrowing a shock/spring selection (Arguably the most important part) and a front sway bar.
                  I take photos.


                  • #10

                    Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                    like the GP dash just like the mexican SS

                    03 Silverado 2500HD ext. cab short bed 4x4 6.0L: TowMater 92 LeBaron Convertible: Does it run yet?


                    • #11

                      Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                      like the GP dash just like the mexican SS

                      Too bad it didn't come from the factory with a 350 or a manual transmission like the Mexican SS...

                      I went with the dash because it was different and because I couldn't afford the price of a nice SS dash. (Close to $800 for a restore one!)
                      Last edited by DNut; January 5th, 2012, 10:13 AM.
                      I take photos.


                      • #12

                        Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                        What kind of gauges are you running now?
                        BS'er formally known as Rebeldryver

                        Resident Instigator



                        • #13

                          Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                          What kind of gauges are you running now?
                          They're from Glowshift.

                          Definitely a case of getting what you paid for, as they look nice (Do the full sweep when turning on/off, customizable lighting, etc), but the accuracy isn't 100% there. I can't get the speedo to work quite right and the fuel gauge is WAY off, but the oil, water temp, tach, and battery seem to be close to spot on.

                          Interestingly enough, the fuel gauge and speedo are the only ones that are universal in design in that you can select different Ohm ranges for the fuel gauge and some mystery 1-10 selection for the speedo. I tried to be intelligent about the electric speedo and figure out what the setting should be based on the pulses that my VSS outputs, but when I called Glowshift they told me that it's "trial and error" to get it to work right...

                          I'm seriously considering trading them in for a set of Autometers or another name brand as the fuel gauge is slowly getting to me (It registers half full when full and creeps towards full as the level in the tank goes down).
                          Last edited by DNut; January 5th, 2012, 10:27 AM.
                          I take photos.


                          • #14

                            Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS

                            I still have all of the receipts from when I started modifying the car and started adding them up one day; I stopped once I hit 5 figures...
                            haha...stopped adding them up, I take it. Smart move. I keep them all but learned long ago not to add them all up, not even just for fun!

                            Nice project. G-bodies make great hot rods and are endless fun.
                            Last edited by mlcraven; January 5th, 2012, 02:36 PM.
                            Michael from Hampton Roads


                            • #15

                              Re: Dave's '87 Monte Carlo SS


                              Too bad it didn't come from the factory with a 350 or a manual transmission like the Mexican SS...

                              I went with the dash because it was different and because I couldn't afford the price of a nice SS dash. (Close to $800 for a restore one!)
                              jeeze that is nuts

                              i had a 82 GP LJ Brougham diesel mexican export. the olds 350 diesel was replaced with a 68 olds 350 (still have the engine)

                              and a 1985 Monte Carlo 4.3L TBI base with the CL aperance package

                              the car only had 28,000 miles it sat in a barn after the computer blew hence why the interior was clean. sadly the frame was rotted out in the rear becuase of how it was "stored"
                              Last edited by Mater; January 5th, 2012, 05:45 PM.

                              03 Silverado 2500HD ext. cab short bed 4x4 6.0L: TowMater 92 LeBaron Convertible: Does it run yet?