Let’s take a walk down memory lane to 1984. Raegan was in the White House, Michael Jackson was on MTV, and you were probably just about to tune in to watch the newest episode of Night Rider. The ‘80s were an interesting time in American history, to say the least. How this relates to muscle and sports cars of the day can be depressing if performance was what you were after, that is, if you limit yourself to these United States. But, lets say you were to take a trip down Mexico way, you might have been pleasantly surprised at what you could have had, considering the American alternative. I am referring, of course, to one of the winningest automobiles in Chevrolet’s racing history, The Monte Carlo SS.
See, the trickle down effect wasn’t limited to Raeganomics. Oh, no. It has been the case for the aesthetic and performance of consumer cars since the inception of racing. That old adage, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday,” rings true. People want what wins on the track, and as the Monte Carlo climbed in rank, it did so in sales as well. Although, in this case, many Americans felt they were on the receiving end of a raw deal. After being inundated with cars that were choked by emissions regulations in the late ‘70s, Americans were anxious for some new muscle, but however many races the car won for GM, it still didn’t necessarily equate to better options for the consumer.
In 1984 Terry Labonte won the Winston Cup Series in a Monte Carlo, sticking yet another feather in the bowtie team’s hat. This was nothing new for the Monte Carlo, which had always been a winner for Chevy. The significance here is that while the G-body was winning on the track, enthusiasts sought after that same car, but to no avail. While it voices to reason that consumers didn’t need a full blown SB2 NASCAR race engine, they did want something a little more hopped-up than the factory 305 offered in the Monte Carlo SS at the dealership.
That 305ci engine produced a pitiful 180 horsepower and a 1/4 mile time nearing 17 seconds. Mind you, that was the performance version of one of GM’s show ponies. Imagine watching Labonte cross the checkered flag in his Piedmont sponsored Monte, only to go to your local dealership and find out that the best they could offer you was a meager 305, mated to an automatic transmission. Still, 1984 was a stellar year for the Monte Carlo, with GM selling a total of 112,730 units. 24,050 of which, wore the SS badge. The SS was a well optioned car with bucket seats and a floor shifter, but what it still lacked was a respectable drivetrain…at least in the United States.
Meanwhile, south of the border, the Monte Carlo was just as popular. In the video above, you can see how GM was marketing the fastest production car being sold in Mexico at the time. But it wasn’t motivated by the anemic 305 version we mentioned before, and if you pay attention to the video, you can see the driver banging gears. Basically, It was an entirely different power plant. This is what makes the Mexican version of the Monte Carlo SS so rare.
In Mexico, in 1984, and only 1984, you could have purchased an SS with an LM1 350 V8 and a 4 barrel Rochester Quadrajet hooked up to a 4 speed manual gearbox. Not only that, but the Saginaw transmission also came equipped with a Hurst shifter. Other variations from the American version included the elimination of the SS rear spoiler, different side graphics, checkerboard style wheels, different mirrors, special steering wheel, no center console, only power locks, only manual windows, and the interior was styled using Pontiac Grand Prix parts rebranded with the SS logo.
With the Monte Carlo having such a long lifespan for GM, it has seen many variations, from the LS models geared toward luxury, to the SS models purpose built for performance. With that, people have customized them and used them for many different lifestyles. Lowriders love the big body panels of the first and second generations, racers have gravitated toward them since their introduction in 1970 because they win at the track, and the average consumer has enjoyed the economy and comfort of the Monte from the beginning.
The Mexican version of the Monte Carlo is just another variation – albeit more rare. With most manufactures pushing 4 and 6 cylinder cars in Mexico at the time, to own a 350, four-speed powered G-body would have been pretty impressive, and still is today.