It's safe to say that no two project cars are alike, and every street machine has a unique story. Some are destined to live the pampered life of a 100-point concours resto, others find themselves duking it out at the dragstrip. Then there's the lucky few that get built by car crafters who help them live up to their true purpose-to be driven.
Meet Larry Cheffer, a veteran bodyman from Kankakee, Illinois, and his subtle, yet extremely radical '84 Chevy Monte Carlo. Trust us, you need to take a long look to fully appreciate the amount of creativity and work that went into this long-nosed cruiser, but what makes this story even more fun is how the car evolved into what you see here.
Like most of us, Larry had originally set his sights on building a brutally wicked weekend street car-one with NASCAR flare that could hit the 200-mph zone. Crazy? Maybe, but it's no worse than those of us who dream of taming a 1,000 hp engine to cruise down the boulevard.
With the first Monte Carlo project well underway, Larry took a step back and realized that a machine with a 20-point 'cage and a 46-inch-tall roofline was a little out of the ordinary. And while it was well on the way to becoming everything Larry had imagined, it wasn't something that he could enjoy with his entire family. The project was quickly stripped and abandoned.
Fast forward a few years. The Monte Carlo cruiser concept kept haunting Larry, prompting him to purchase a new vehicle for his better half. Unlike the previous project, this one had to be a reliable, family-friendly, go-anywhere cruiser that still embraced the NASCAR theme. Over the next five years, Larry employed every spare moment and all his skills to meet that goal. The body modifications were fairly extensive, and included dropping the rocker panels to hide the framerails, lowering the front spoiler 131/44 inches by channeling the core support for a perfect rake, and adding a unique set of brake cooling ducts molded into the quarter-panels.
The modifications Larry performed certainly aren't for amateurs, but Larry believes in "sweat equity." According to Larry, "If you simply put in the time, anything can be built for relatively cheap." It just goes to show that with dedication and realistic goals, you're never that far away from owning the street machine you always wanted.
Car Craft Q&ACar Craft: How many hours did the bodywork take?Larry Cheffer: If you include all the sheetmetal work, you're looking at close to 1,000 hours. Matter of fact, I'm willing to bet that I've welded the length of a mile on that car.
CC: How did you come up with all the subtle modifications?LC: Actually, every modification has a reason. For example, I dropped the rocker panel by 2 inches because I didn't like how you could see the frame from a distance.
CC: What does the ZR3 designation represent?LC: I've always been a Dale Earnhardt fan and wanted to pay tribute to him after his untimely death. My buddy Bob Thrash, who painted the emblems for me and also came up with the idea for the brake cooling ducts, suggested using GM's code for its fastest production cars and adding the number three to it.
CC: Would you consider the Monte a completed project?LC: As much as I would like to install an overdrive transmission, I think I'm done, and it's definitely time to move on to another project.
The DetailsCar: '84 Chevy Monte CarloOwner: Larry and Chris Cheffer, Kankakee, IllinoisEngine: 350ci small-blockHeads: Aluminum Edelbrock RPM, 2.02/1.60-inch intake/exhaust valves, 1.5:1 Harlan Sharp roller rockersInduction: Edelbrock Pro Flow FuelInjection Camshaft: Edelbrock hydraulic flat-tappet, 234/244 degrees duration at 0.050-inch lift, 0.488/0.510-inch liftTransmission: GM TH400, TCI 10-inch 3,000-stall torque converterRearend: Ford 9-inch, Richmond 3.80:1 gears, aluminum centersection with Detroit LockerFront suspension: Air Ride Tech with G-body 2-inch-drop airbags, all PST polyurethane bushingsRear suspension: Art Morrison street rod-style four-bar Air Ride systemBrakes: Baer 13-inch discs, front; Baer 12-inch discs, rearWheels and tires: 17x8 Billet Specialties Chicanes with P275/40R17 Michelin XGTZs, front; 17x11 Billet Specialties Chicanes with P335/35R17 Michelin XGTZs, rearBody mods: Shaved door handles, locks, and side markers; dropped rocker panel by 2 inches; molded functional brake ducts into quarter-panels; extended the spoiler 6 inches; and added a functional cowl intake, firewall cover, and raised inner wheelwellsPaint: PPG Concept Black