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The History and Development of the 1983-1988 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

" Never did we ever expect the new Monte Carlo SS design to become so popular so quickly." These were the words spoken by revered GM Product Promotion Engineeringís former chief, the late Vince Piggins. This statement was actually an understatement of sorts. The 83-88 Monte Carlo SS main goal was to be competitive on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. However, do to regulations implemented by NASCAR, it was mandatory for any car used on the race tracks to be made available to the general public at the dealerships. To add to that stipulation, a minimum of at least 200 units had to be produced.

Chevrolet had definitely been doing their homework when they sat down and designed the SS Monte Carlo. The main goal of this design was to once again regain the former glory on the tracks of NASCAR. The new Ford Thunderbird design definitely had a major advantage over the "boxy" Monte Carlo on both short tracks and superspeedways. Chevroletís goal was to modify the current Monte Carlo body style without totally revamping the design. From this effort came a new nosepiece that was more rounded, contained recessed headlamps and a molded grille. In the wind tunnel, this new nose reduced the drag considerably. Drag coefficient was reduced to 0.375, which added up to a fifteen percent reduction over the standard Monte Carlo bodystyle. Front lift at high speeds was also reduced, an added benefit on the superspeedways like Talladega and Daytona. Obviously, Chevrolet obtained the goal of a more aerodynamic Monte Carlo for the race tracks. Now came the task of selling this "race car" to the general public in the hopes of selling enough units to justify the cost of the amount of money spent in the research and development of this awesome looking car.

Former Chevrolet general Manager Bob Stempel oversaw the Monte Carlo SS project from itís inception, often having to defend and justify the amount of time and money spent in developing this modern era musclecar. As with all deep convictions, this gamble paid big dividends for Chevrolet. It was decided there would be no flashy chrome on the Monte Carlo SS. Instead, blacked out headlight buckets, window trim, and bumpers painted the body color replaced the bright chrome work of standard Monte Carlos. Rally wheels were also standard equipment shod with P215/65R-15 Goodyear Eagle GT raised white letter tires. This contributed to the "race car" theme as did a special NASCAR style rear spoiler mounted on the trunk lid. To round out the external visual package, wrap around body stripes were added to compliment the base color.

Under the hood, a modified engine was also offered to compliment the racy exterior. Mr. Piggins based this new powerplant on Chevrolet race engine builder Dick Guilstrandís unique combination of heads and carburetion. The engine consisted of 9.5:1 heads, a high lift and long duration Corvette camshaft as well as a huge Quadrajet 4 barrel mounted on an aluminum manifold. The horsepower rating bumped up to 175 net horsepower. This may not seem like much compared to the huge horsepower numbers put out by early Chevelles and Camaros, but, considering the age of emissions and pollution control, these numbers were quite respectable. A special chambered exhaust design, also taken from the Corvette also contributed to the performance theme, with dual exhaust tips emanating a rumble not heard in years from a production automobile.

Now that GM had conquered the body style and powerplant options, the focus was directed to the interior. In 1983, not a lot was done to modify the interior. The most noticeable addition was the embroidery of the SS logo on the front seat headrests. A bench seat with column shift was standard equipemnt on all SS's, with buckets, center console and shifter optional equipemnt beginning in 1985. In 1986, the standard equipment 60/40 bench seat could also be ordered with a power option. Also, an optional gauge package was available which consisted of a 6000 rpm tachometer as well as oil, temperature, and voltmeter gauges.

The suspension was a modified F41 suspension, consisting of front and rear sway bars and a 12.7:1 fast ratio.

Amazingly, with the finished product, the SS Monte Carlo weighed in at 3,480 lbs, 20 lbs under the 3500lb limit set by NASCAR regulations. The 1983 Monte Carlo SS listed for $10,249 at the local dealer.

To say this new design was a success was an understatement. With only 4,714 units built in 1983, it was obvious Chevrolet underestimated the popularity of the new design. Said Mr. Piggins when interviewed by the press at an auto show, "We never really thought the SS would become so popular so fast. This design has far exceeded our expectations for sales, but delightedly so."

In 1984, the production numbers of the Monte Carlo SS jumped up to 24,050 out of the total 136,780 Monte Carlos built that year. The options pretty much remained the same, as did the 2 external color choices, either a dark blue metallic or white.

In 1985, the Monte Carlo SS saw a few changes, including the addition of new external body color choices. As well as the color additions, the striping packages were revised for 1985. The rear spoiler now had new pinstripes with the Chevrolet Bow Tie in the center.

Probably the biggest news though was the addition of a 4 speed automatic transmission as well as a horesepower boost 180 horsepower. The base price rose for the Monte Carlo SS in í85 to $12,466, but the weight dropped significantly to 3,384 pounds. The numbers continued to grow in 1985, with production numbers climbing to 35,484 units produced out of 119,057 Monte Carlos total.

1986 also saw some changes to the SS. Probably most noticeable was the new aluminum rally wheels that were patterned after the 1981 Z/28 Camaro. Along with the wheels came new aero-style mirrors mounted on the doors. The interior also underwent changes, with a new 55/45 split bench seat being offered for the first time.

Undoubtedly, the biggest news of 1986 was the introduction of a new style Monte Carlo SS. This car, named the "Aerocoupe", came with a wrap around style rear window. Once again, drag coefficient dropped, this time to 0.365. However, once again, Chevrolet underestimated the success of their design, producing only 200 units for 1986, making this the rarest and most desirable Monte Carlo SS to own.

1987 once again saw extremely strong sales for the SS. With 1987 came a minor modifications to the body, including a smoother rear bumper. Gone were the black strips mounted between the trunk and rear bumper. A rounded rear bumper cover extended from the trunk lid, creating a smoother look. The Aerocoupe was still available, with sales numbers climbing considerably. It is worthy to note here that most Aerocoupes were delivered to Southeastern dealerships, where NASCAR racing was the most popular at the time.

Sadly, it was announced about midway through the 1987 production year that 1987 would be the last year for the Monte Carlo nameplate, including the revered SS. Chevrolet execs, buckling from the pressure of the competition and shareholders alike, decided to drop the Monte Carlo from its lineup, regardless of the strong sales showing over the past 4 years. The Chevrolet Lumina was introduced, a far cry from the street pounding performance of the Monte Carlo SS. The Lumina was a front wheel drive car aimed to attract sales for middle income families. Performance was not a consideration of the Luminaís development.

As former Chevrolet General Manager Bob Stempel put it, " Unfortunately, gone are the days of rear wheel drive, gas guzzling, tire squealing excitement. It is time for us to move forward and design cars that will appeal to a newer, younger generation of car owner. Hopefully, these changes will be for the better."

I think I can speak for all of us when I say nothing will ever replace the excitement of the sound of loud dual exhausts, or tires squealing at the light when it turns green. Probably though the thing I miss most is the feeling that a part of my youth is gone with the demise of the Monte Carlo SS as we know it. It was the car I fell in love with in high school and dreamed of one day owning. I have realized that dream and for that I am thankful, as Iím sure every Monte Carlo SS owner is. Long live the SS!


PRODUCTION NUMBERS FOR THE 1983-1988 MONTE CARLO SUPER SPORT

1983 - 4,714

1984 - 24,050

1985 - 35,484

1986 - 41,164 (NOTCHBACK)

1986 - 200 (AEROCOUPE)

1987 - 33,199 (NOTCHBACK)

1987 - 6,052 (AEROCOUPE)

1988 - 16,204 (AEROCOUPES WERE UNAVAILABLE IN THE 1988 PRODUCTION YEAR)



*THE ABOVE INFORMATION WAS OBTAINED FROM MAGAZINE ARTICLES, PRESS RELEASES FROM CHEVROLET MOTOR DIVISION, AND ALSO THE BOOK "CHEVY SUPER SPORTS - 1961-1979". THIS DATA IS INTENDED FOR INFORMATIONAL USE ONLY. REPRODUCTION AND UNAUTHORIZED USE WITHOUT PRIOR PERMISSION IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED BY COPYRIGHT LAWS.
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