When it comes to building hot rods, significant memories of days past are more often than not, the driving force. For enthusiasts, those memories typically revolve around rides with mom or dad, a crazy uncle, or nefarious activities that occurred in a certain car during high school. Building a memorable ride is not just for the everyday enthusiast. Sometimes, corporations see the value in recreating history and when the completed ride is unveiled, it’s usually a home run. Such is the case with this ’76 Monte Carlo built for General Tire.
When the folks at General Tire had the idea of creating a calling card for the brand, it was decided that something special needed to be built. Since General Tire is not just an average company, the hot rod they needed could not be just an average ride. That’s why they teamed up with Petty’s Garage to build an adaptation of King Richard’s 1979 championship-winning Monte Carlo.
It all started when, in 1978, Petty was unable to make a single appearance in the winner’s circle. The 1978 Dodge Magnum continuously fought the team and unhappy with the seven top-five and eleven top-ten finishes (including two-second places), Petty decided that his relationship with Chrysler could not continue. Because of that, he began racing a secondhand 1974 Chevrolet Monte Carlo at the fall race at Michigan.
Returning to General Motors proved successful as the King recorded six top-ten finishes in the final ten races of the 1978 season and finished sixth in the final standings. The 1979 season was even better, as Petty won the Daytona 500 and took home the NASCAR championship for the seventh time in a 1977 Monte Carlo.
For the modern adaptation of that championship-winning ride, General Tire wanted to build a streetable car that the company could use to promote the brand. Since they wanted to build a recreation of the King’s winning ride, why not have the King’s crew build the modern version?
A good body was found and delivered to Petty’s Garage and the crew began by disassembling the Chevy and then started to build the NASCAR-inspired hot rod. Unfortunately, a good ’77 Monte couldn’t be located, but a ’76 model was found in September of 2021. Many times, building a recreation of a famous car can only be done using old photos. This time, the Petty crew had access to the original car as it was parked in the Petty Museum.
The build needed to keep the feel of the race car, so the Petty crew did the best they could to incorporate as much of the NASCAR style in the new ride and still keep it street legal. Basically, it’s a race car body with lights, wiper blades, and air conditioning. Okay, there’s more to it than that, but you get the idea.
To motivate the recreation, General Tire wanted to be true to heritage, but also utilize a reliable and potent drivetrain. Enter the LS engine Magnum six-speed transmission. A crate engine was located and the Petty crew reached out to Silver Sport Transmissions to get the right gear selector box. The LS3 is still fed via EFI, but to keep a vintage appearance, a carbureted intake and a modern EFI unit is employed. Although the Monte arrived at the Petty’s Garage with an automatic transmission, thankfully, the folks at General Tire didn’t alter the NASCAR style too much and decided to utilize a manual transmission. The Silver Sport Transmissions-prepped PerfectFit Magnum six-speed is not just another manual transmission.
We asked Jeff Kauffman, VP of sales and marketing, to give us a rundown on what makes the PerfectFit kit so unique. “PerfectFit is a process that involves a combination of transmission case machining to eliminate trouble spots. In many cases, the case machining will reduce or eliminate the need for tunnel mods.”
The recreation ride will surely be able to achieve near-NASCAR speeds since the Magnum has two overdriven gears and can handle up to 700 lb-ft torque and 7,800 rpm shifts. Although it’s certainly capable of handling the abuse one could deliver while racing at the track, it’s also great for everyday use. The Silver Sport STX shifter provides a shorter throw and tighter feel than the original, which is great for those looking to really enjoy the drive.
Now that the car is completed and ready to drive, you can bet the team at General Tire will be doing that as often as possible. Keep your eye peeled for the car at various events around the country and be sure to take a look at Silver Sport Transmissions’ website to see how you can make your ride even more fun to drive.