If there is one thing that most people can agree on, it’s that the ’80s get a bad rap. Just take a look back and decide for yourself. The introduction of MTV made things like parachute pants, big hair, and neon-colored clothing mainstream. The defense rests. Think about how many high school yearbooks from the time are hidden in closets by parents that hope their children never find them? In reality, if you lived through the era, you probably don’t have many good memories. When it comes to the cars that came out of Detroit during this time frame, it’s tough not to have a similarly unflattering view.
A Dismal Time For Power Junkies
By the time the 1980s were in full swing, the horsepower numbers that were being offered through the Chevrolet ranks was continuing to dwindle. If you don’t think so, dive into your memory and remember the 245 horsepower L98 engine in the Corvette. Again, the defense rests. Do you want to get even more depressed? It was during this time that you couldn’t buy a Camaro with a manual transmission if it came with a 350 cubic-inch engine. To say that it was a tough time for car enthusiasts is an understatement. The ’80s did however bring us the fourth-generation Monte Carlo, which would coincidentally be the last rear-wheel-driven Monte Carlo, as it was facing an eminent cease in production in 1988.
The styling of the fourth-generation Monte Carlo SS was a hit, and Chevrolet continued to put their faith in the car to be competitive in NASCAR racing. Unfortunately, while testing the car, the NASCAR racing teams and Chevrolet realized that something was missing. The rear window area of the car was designed with a sharp, vertical drop-off behind the C-pillar. When this abrupt-ending roof line was combined with a long trunk lid, the result was serious airflow turbulence at high speeds, which resulted in unwanted lift at the rear of the car. Since the Monte Carlo’s G-body platform was scheduled for replacement in a few years, there was no time for a major redesign. Engineers ultimately decided to incorporate a sloping, fastback-style rear window that eliminated nearly half the length of the trunk lid. This simple fix not only gave the car greater stability, but a boost in top speed.
Of course, to make the car legal for NASCAR-sanctioned racing, a minimum number of production models needed to be built. That, ladies and gentleman, was how the production version Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe was born in 1986. During this first production year of the Aerocoupe, standard SS models were sent to a company called Cars and Concepts in Brighton, Michigan, so that they could be converted to Aerocoupe status.
When an SS Monte Carlo arrived at Cars and Concepts, they would remove the trunk lid and original rear window, and then cut out the metal between the openings. When the cutting was complete, a new metal panel, the new “Aero glass”, reinforcing brackets, and a smaller trunk lid were installed. The conversion was crude, but effective. In 1987, the process was cleaned up a bit, and the cars were built on the regular production line in Pontiac, Michigan. This new fastback look brought a lot more attention to the Monte Carlo.
What didn’t excite buyers, was that the only engine available in the Monte SS was the LB9 305 cubic-inch V8 that lazily coughed out approximately 180 ponies. With the Aerocoupe redesign, the car now had above-average aerodynamics, but not enough power for that to mean anything.
Finding The Perfect Project
Ben Dawson is a true fan of the fourth-generation Monte Carlo. Before he acquired this Aerocoupe, he already had a 1987 SS notchback with a worked-over 350 cubic-inch engine under the hood. As fun as that car was, Ben always felt that he wanted more, and by more, he knew he wanted a big-block. While he was perusing a few Internet sites looking for exactly what he wanted, he was surprised when he finally came across this Aerocoupe for sale. For the next month or so, he kept checking on the ad, but never pulled the trigger to go and look at the car, because it was more than a two-hour drive from his home.
Luckily, one day his job took him to a location that wasn’t too far from where the car was located, so he called the owner and made an appointment to look at it. The owner had already installed a ZZ502 cubic-inch crate engine in the car, and according to the owner, it had roughly 300 miles on it. Behind the engine was a B&M-built Turbo 400 transmission, and a Moser 9-inch rear with 3.50 gears and 35-spline axles.
When the owner started the engine, the carburetor was not adjusted properly, and within moments, the two guys had to leave the garage before asphyxia set in. Ben spent some time checking out the car, but had already made up his mind that this would be a great platform for his next project. Fortunately, he was able to keep his poker face and not look overly excited.
The owner needed to sell the car because he and his wife were expecting their first baby. The two talked about a price, which according to Ben, was actually less than the entire driveline cost when new. Ben didn’t immediately make the deal, but promised he would call the owner in a couple of days with his decision.
Making The Deal
During the 2 1/2-hour drive home, Ben made calls to gather the cash he need to buy the car. He was trying to sell a large boat that he owned, because who needs a boat if you can have a big-block Monte Carlo? After a couple of phone conversations, the boat was sold to a friend before Ben returned home. With the boat sold, Ben informed the owner he would buy the car, and picked it up the next day.
Ironically, the following day the transmission in the notchback went south—he broke the tailshaft of the 200R4 and sold it the next day. In Ben’s words, “that gave me more parts money.” Well played Ben, well played.
Although Ben feels that the Aerocoupe still needs some minor work and is an ongoing, rolling project, he also considers it his therapy. It must work, because when was the last time you saw a musclecar parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.