Most of the popular classic cars that undergo restomods are cars between the 1950 and 1970. Their classic beauty is retained or refined and the powertrain and suspension are upgraded with more modern technology. But lately, more and more cars from the 1980s are coming in restomod condition. It’s probably because kids from the 80s are all grown up and have the capacity to do these builds. One great example is Mike Personette from Byron, Illinois and his 1988 Monte Carlo Super Sport. We will probably be seeing more of these classic muscle cars in the future.
In 1997, Mike found this Monte Carlo in a well-preserved condition with only 14,000 original miles. When bought the car, it was perfectly preserved without any dings, scratches, fading, or any other flaws. The engine was also in great shape and had no problems. For almost 20 years, Mike left the car untainted and only had 24,000 miles on it. The black exterior and maroon interior are still original and kept in great condition.
Although the Monte Carlo was in great condition, Mike felt that the Monte Carlo still lacks something. In 2013, he chose to give the car an update. He wanted both the exterior and interior in original condition. All he wanted was more power and better performance. Mike’s sons, Matt and Mark, helped him accomplish the build. They choose to get rid of the spiritless 305 ci small block engine that could only produce 180 horsepower and replace it with a livelier LS engine.
The LS engine family is large and the choices can be varied. After some careful planning, Mike ended up choosing the Chevrolet Performance LS376 crate engine. It uses an LS3 as a base and modified to fit a 4-barrel carburetor. The LS aluminum block is fitted with a nodular-iron crankshaft, hypereutectic pistons, and metal connecting rods that have powder coated. The capacity of the engine block is 376 cubic inches and 6.2 Liters with a compression ratio is 10.7:1. It is still a street legal engine that packs a punch. The LS3 is then topped with 2 L92-style aluminum cylinder heads with a 68cc combustion chamber fitted with 2.165” and 1.590” valves. The LS3 is then connected to the Chevrolet Performance ASA camshaft.
Mike retained the stock tank and installed a Walbro in-tank electric pump which feeds the thirsty Holley 770-cfm Street Avenger Ultra carburetor. For the ignition, stock GM coils are used that are controlled by MSD 6LS-2 box. To keep everything cool, Mike installed an AFCO direct-fit aluminum radiator and a dual electric fan with a Painless fan controller. The powerful LS engine is connected to a Chevrolet Performance 4L70E automatic transmission that features a Yank torque converter that locks up at 3,200 rpm. The automatic transmission is controlled by a Compushift II transmission controller. A cool Twist Machine paddle shifter setup is used together with the stock floor shifter.
Other performance goodies include a bulletproof Moser Engineering 12-bolt housing fitted with Moser 30-spline axles, an Eaton Truetac Differential, and a 3.73:1 gearset. A Denny’s “Nitrous Ready” driveshaft makes sure all the power is directed where they should be. The rear features Spohn adjustable lower and upper control arms, and a Spohn Pro Touring rear sway bar.
Mike did not change much under the car, he just added some parts that the Monte Carlo will able to handle its improved powerhouse. He installed drop spindles in the front and drop springs at the rear to lower the center of gravity by 2”. He then installed Baer discs brakes on all 4 wheels. It rides on 17×8” YearOne N90 wheels with 245/45R17 Michelin Pilot Super Sports tires.
Except for the Goodmark 2-inch cowl induction hood which was needed for the huge LS engine, the look of the Monte Carlo remains the same as it was almost 30 years ago. The trims, decals, and paint remain original. The interior received some upgrades including the tachometer, the Speed Hut transmission temperature gauge, and the Momo Tuner steering wheel. The interior features bucket seats, AM/FM radio with a cassette player, and A/C system that are all original.
It took Mike and his sons 2 years to complete the build. The result is a car that looks completely original but has a very modern performance. With its new powerhouse that produces 525 horsepower, this Monte Carlo SS is ready to burn some rubber on the road and still keep the drive smooth as it can be.
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