An impromptu dinner meeting with a friend last night led talk of a possible G-Body project car (and two very bored girlfriends). Joey, who has long wanted a G-Body Monte Carlo, asked what it would take to make a cool street car out of an old G-Body car, like a late 1980’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS.” It can’t be that hard,” I said. “Can’t you just drop in a crate motor from GM Performance Parts?”
Joey and I traded text messages discussing various aspects of the project, but when Joey sent me a picture of a 572 c.i. big block, I knew it was time to ask someone who knew their stuff. Murilee, back from vacation and TTAC’s patron saint of bowtie projects, was happy to oblige.
I asked Murilee what he thought would be an appropriate course of action for a fast, mean-looking, mean-sounding G-Body, and whether there were any manual transmission applications available. I also wanted to know if this was a dumb idea and whether it was better to just go ahead and buy a Grand National. Mr. Martin chimed in below
“If it’s going to be a cruiser that sounds mean and has respectable power, it should be no problem on a non-insane budget– it’s when you need to get into the 13s or below at the drag strip that you have to start worrying about breaking differentials, etc. The G-body is a good choice, provided it’s possible to get it through the smog check in his state with modifications. The cheapest way to go would be to buy some old guy’s rust-free original car, with decent interior, etc., and then do a cam/intake/headers upgrade on a decent used 350. A manual transmission isn’t out of the question, but G-bodies either didn’t get them or they’re extremely rare, which means stuff like pedals and clutch linkage will likely have to be fabricated. Since that’s a problem that’s I’m sure has been solved many times, any halfway decent hot-rod shop should be able to do the job for a not-particularly-eye-watering price. Otherwise, the 200R4 or 700R4 that came with the car should be fine.
The ZZ4 crate motor from GM Performance is very nice, though it costs something like 5 grand. It makes 350 horses, which will make a G-body stupid fast (but will require a beefier differential, serious cooling system, and so on).
The LS engines are great, but they don’t bolt right in to a G the way the old-time small-blocks do. Buick GNs are getting really pricey these days, but there’s so much aftermarket turbo stuff for the Buick V6 that he could make something even more powerful for cheaper.”
I hadn’t considered a ZZ4 crate motor, instead assuming that an LS3, E-ROD or even the LS6 from the 2004 Z06 would be a nice addition. Those engines are all capable of making big power while passing emissions tests, though apparently they require more work than a small block.
At this point, I’ll turn it over to the B&B for ideas regarding engines, transmissions, accessories and the like. Out of respect for Joey, I haven’t discussed the budget – largely because he hasn’t told me what he wants to spend. I’m going to assume that, given his means, it won’t be a budget build, nor will it be an extravagant magazine quality show car.
And as a treat for those of you who made it this far, here’s the reason we went to the warehouse in the first place, a 1977 Pontiac Can-Am. I have no idea what’s been done to it, but judging by the anodized aluminum hardware, the engine bay that looks cleaner than an operating room and the glovebox mounted TV, it’s far from stock.