When it came to building what was considered a personal luxury car, it wasn’t until 1970 that Chevrolet decided to enter that market segment. But when they did, they did so in grand fashion when the Monte Carlo was released to a waiting public.
The base-model Monte Carlo gave buyers standard features that eclipsed what was typical in other Chevys. However, these luxury appointments didn’t build confidence in power junkies yearning for high-powered cars that could turn bias-ply tires into billowing mosquito repellent. Even the SS454 model was still looked at by many as a “big” car.
But, like 145,974 other people that did appreciate the Monte Carlo’s good looks and appointments, Larry Gilbert of Markleville, Indiana, ran to the local Chevrolet dealership, and purchased what became something he wishes he had held onto.
“I had bought a new Monte Carlo in September of 1970. They were released for sale on September 19, and I ordered mine on Sept. 20th. I sold it 13 months later to a good friend because I did not want to make car payments anymore. What a dumb move that was. I started to miss the car almost immediately, but my friend, Kenny, would not sell it back to me because he and his wife loved it as much as I did,” he quipped.
He never forgot about that new Monte Carlo, and in 2010, he decided it was time to get another. “My son-in-law took me to a few car shows and got me really fired up, so I started looking for something. I had been looking for several months, when in 2011, a good friend showed me this 1972 Monte Carlo on Ebay,”
The seller flooded the ad with pictures of both the bottom side of the car as well as the top. Larry felt that it looked very nice, so he gave the owner a call and made arrangements to look it over. Larry’s son-in-law, Jamey, agreed to go with him to look at the car. “He is very good with mechanicals, and I had worked in a body shop for 25 years, so I knew what to check. Between us, we thought we could make a good determination of how well this Monte stacked up,” Larry told us.
I sold it 13 months later… What a dumb move that was. – Larry Gilbert
“We took it for a drive, and the sound of the engine was fantastic. After our test drive, Jamey and I went to lunch to discuss the car. We decided it was worth what he was asking, so we made him an offer and told him we had to get my wife Glendia’s approval. I gave him a deposit and we drove back to Danville, Indiana, and discussed it with the women folk. On the last Monday of August 2011 Glendia and I drove up and finished paying for the car and drove it home,” Larry said. Larry also told us that the drive home was so enjoyable in his new-to-him Monte, that Glendia had a hard time keeping up in the daily driver during the return trip.
That bright red paint was enamel-based, so the first thing Larry did was wet sand the car with 1,500-grit sandpaper and then buff the paint. While the red really came back to life, “I noticed a few spots here and there that did not really suit me, but having just purchased the car, I was quiet about my findings to Glendia,” Larry said with a smile. The couple drove the car to a local car show the Saturday after purchasing it and got a Top-30 award. Larry says that the car still had the paper license plate on it, and the car show folks probably felt sorry for him.
Larry and his wife drove the Monte for a few months, and unfortunately, the gremlins started rearing their ugly heads. According to Larry, “It kept wanting to stall when I stepped hard on the gas. Jamey and I played with it one Saturday, and discovered the carburetor had a warped base plate and the car was sucking air.” They replaced the carburetor, and the performance and gas mileage increased tremendously.
Three years later, Larry decided it was time to redo the car one area time. First on the to-do list was paint and body. “While sanding and buffing the car, I noticed there were areas that looked like surface rust, and the more I looked at it, the worse it got in my mind,” he said. In March of 2013, he contacted a shop about redoing the car, and the restoration was started.
Larry contacted One More Time Rods and Restorations, and the the owner of the shop allowed Larry to jump in and help with the work. After 20 hours of Larry scraping the car with a razor blade, the paint was gone, and only bare metal remained. The car was then turned over to the body man for his magic hands to turn it into a masterpiece. Larry said it was fun to watch the body guy running his hands over the body and then mixing up a batch of filler about the size of a golf ball and applying it sparingly to the proper places. It took roughly three weeks to finish the body work, and then it was on to the painter.
The shop applied a sealer, and then multiple coats of primer. When the body was perfect, a slathering of Ferrari Red was applied. According to Larry, this particular shade of red was only used on 1985 and 1995 Ferrari vehicles. In 12 weeks, the car was out of the shop and ready for the car show season.
Next on the list was an interior make over. It was in okay condition, but had a few nicks in the seat welting, the driver’s seat upholstery was splitting, and the carpeting did not look that good. Larry ordered the interior pieces from Legendary Auto Interiors, and when the interior parts finally arrived, he took the parts and the car to a local upholstery shop to have the seat covers installed. Larry laughed, “I’m really glad that I took them to a shop, especially after I saw him struggle to get them done. That was money well spent.” Larry also replaced the door and quarter windows at this time, as the previous ones were scratched quite badly.
In 2015, Larry had the engine gone through because it had been using a quart of oil every 700 to 800 miles. Quinlan Machine Shop in Indianapolis, rebuilt the small-block 350 engine. They began by boring the cylinders .020-inch over, and added an Erson roller cam and roller tip rockers. “When I first called Dan at the machine shop, he told me it would take 7 to 10 days to complete the rebuild. I was really shocked at this time line as everyone else told me for 4 to 8 weeks. It actually took 17 days to get completed, but Dan was on vacation for a week so his original time line was correct. It runs really good now, and we drive it everywhere.”
Larry’s Monte Carlo is a testament to making sure you have what you want, and not settling. Although he sold his first Monte, we are fairly certain that this one will not see the inside of someone else’s garage any time soon. As Larry says, “This car has been a pleasure to own and drive, and we look forward to keeping for many years to come.”