Monte Carlo SS - specious chapter two

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Thread: Monte Carlo SS - specious chapter two

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    Monte Carlo SS - specious chapter two

    Not that anybody's paying attention, but this is the second part of the set. Might have to be split in two...

    ‘Specious’ supercar history….

    HOT ROD October 1985

    It’s been said the best laid plans of mice and men can easily go astray. Well no one knows this better than the bowtie boys at Chevrolet. They debuted a small, intermediate chassis, but with rear drive and a separate iron frame, 8 years ago, with the expectation that it would be replaced by the fall of 1984. Well, not only did Chevy not kill that 1978 vintage intermediate chassis, it has revised and improved it for 1986. The irony is that since the Monte Carlo has been in production for so long, its production costs have already been amortized, and its sales popularity frees up development money that wouldn’t be there for a fresh new model, still trying to pay down the costs of its assembly line.

    The same is true of this year’s re-styled, revamped Caprice, which has borrowed styling themes from the new Monte Carlo SS. The large B chassis sedan and the intermediate G specialty Chevy coupe now compliment each other, as the less popular 2 door Caprice and the Malibu 4 door sedan have been cancelled. 1986 tricks like fuel injection or overdrive automatic transmissions were hardly dreamed of when the first downsized Monte Carlo and Caprice were being designed in the mid-70s, but these are what keep the old school, separate frame, rear drive cars within pollution and gas mileage rules. The Caprice and Monte Carlo will hang on several years after their B and G body cousins from Pontiac, Olds and Buick have been replaced by V-6, front drive cars. In fact, these two biggest Chevrolet cars seem to have returned to the pre- Arab oil embargo past, in that this year there is more power standard, and more power available for Caprice and Monte Carlo than the year before. Does this signify a new horsepower race? Well, as with so many glimmers of horsepower hope in the era of the 27.5mpg CAFÉ average, Detroit both giveth and taketh away when it comes to actual performance, but we’ll get to the details in a minute.

    There are now two very distinct versions of the Monte Carlo. The softer version is known as the “LS.”” The LS gets a new grille with new one piece, flush headlights and lower body side trim. Both LS and SS have taillights extended about a half inch from the fender so they are visible from the side of the car. The standard engine is the 4.3 liter, throttle-body fuel injected V-6 introduced as optional equipment last year. The power plant is essentially ¾ of the 350 V-8. Bragging power approaching a small V-8, the so called “Vortec” engine will see duty in all of Chevy’s rear drive vehicles but the Corvette. It will become the top engine option on the S-10 pickup and Blazer, and is currently the base engine for the full size C-10 truck, Caprice and Monte Carlo. It shares a new single piece oil pan gasket with all 90 degree, longitudinally mounted Chevy engines. Since the V-6 pumps out 130hp and 215lb/ft of torque, Chevy has altered the LG-4, 305 V-8 for the Monte Carlo LS. You can now order a revamped, high compression 305 for the Monte Carlo LS, rated at 165hp. It combines the milder LG4 camshaft with the high compression pistons of last year’s L-69 for a 15hp boost. The Turbo Hydramatic 350 3speed automatic transmission is also no more, as the 4 speed 200R automatic is now standard on Caprice Classic and Monte Carlo.

    The most heavily revised G body car this year is the familiar “SS.” The SS has a new ‘glass-back’ rear window for a much more sporting silhouette. Chevy is calling the new design the ‘aerocoupe,’ and it is intended to stem the competition on NASCAR Super Speedways coming from Ford’s slick Thunderbird. The window slopes down to create a shorter rear deck. The C pillar is the same as last year, and the trunk remains the same size, but the trunk door has shrunken to roughly the size of an upright piano lid, and it restricts the size of parcels that can be stowed. The SS trunk lid uses gas charged struts to minimize the intrusion of large hinges. The SS sloping rear window mimics styling of the revised 1986 Caprice, and the smaller Cutlass Ciera from Oldsmobile. Unlike certain versions of the new Caprice, you cannot lift up the large shelf under the rear window to access the trunk from the back seat.

    The new rear window deceases drag coefficient from 0.375 to 0.365, which is enough to give the NASCAR stockers a 200mph top speed, rather than 190mph, all other factors being equal. It also boosts the highway gas mileage rating for the civilian version. The slick SS fascia’s only change is to adopt the single piece headlights of the LS. SS paint options remain the same as last year with white, black, silver or maroon, but now there is an optional gold metallic stripe scheme. Cardinal red stripes are now standard, and replace last year’s orange stripes. Thankfully, the stripes are toned down a bit, and the large SS letters have been reduced in size. The rear spoiler now lies down at a shallower angle than last year’s version. Both LS and SS feature more aerodynamic rear view mirrors, and the SS abandons styled steel wheels for a new, lighter weight, cast aluminum alloy wheel reminiscent of those first used on the 1981 Camaro Z-28. The SS also features a new 120mph speedometer, which is much more indicative of the car’s capability than the 85mph dials we’ve been getting for the last 10 years. In fact, the original plan for the SS debut in 1983 called for a 120mph speedometer, and the SS featured in that year’s auto show circuit had the higher numbers on the dial. Apparently concerns over extra cost and possible negative P.R. have faded in the intervening years. Monte Carlo SS adds gas charged shocks and stiffer rear suspension bushings, which are said to eliminate wheel hop during severe acceleration and braking.

    The L69 5 liter V-8 engine now utilizes roller valve lifters and tubular exhaust headers, and despite a compression decrease from 9.5:1 to 9.3:1, the horsepower rating still matches the L-69 V-8 in the Camaro IROC Z. The biggest change under the hood comes via a new optional engine for the SS aero coupe, known as the LB9. The same displacement as the L69, it differs in utilizing the latest in Chevy engine technology: a fuel injection system that delivers fuel to each intake port. It consists of a cast aluminum intake plenum with individual, tubular intake runners. The original goal with the LB9 actually was not to boost power, but to give the small block V-8 more power at lower rpm, in order to duck EPA ‘gas guzzler’ taxes. At the end of this production year, the Feds identify every car that GM sold with a city/highway average of under 22.5mpg, and they impose a $500 tax on each violator. This is the rule that has given us such wonders as the 4+3 Doug Nash manual transmission in the Corvette with manual lockouts which force the driver from hitting every gear under light acceleration.

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    Re: Monte Carlo SS - specious chapter two

    By varying intake runner length, engineers can vary the rpm at which the intake runners ‘resonate’ with the intake and exhaust valves, so that the intake runners effectively ram extra air and fuel into the cylinders – Chrysler had a very similar concept, except that it used carburetors, in its ‘Max Wedge’ 383 and 413 V-8s of the early 1960’s. Basically, they found that longer runners tended to boost torque at the expense of top-end horsepower, while shorter tubes boosted high end horsepower at the expense of low-end torque. Chevy found that a 21.5” runner length decreased the horsepower peak from 4800rpm (with the hot L-69 camshaft) to 4400rpm, but delivered 215hp – 25hp more than the 4bbl L-69. Torque peak still came at 3200rpm, but the force went up dramatically by 14.5% from 240lbs/ft to 275lbs/ft. The computer command control is even more complicated than the electronic spark control system in the L69. It has a programmed altitude compensation system to adjust for oxygen density, a ‘hot wire’ mass air flow meter and a two throat throttle body.

    The LB-9 305 engine was originally conceived as the mightiest motor at Chevrolet, for use in its Corvette sports car, but the economy boost from the TPI system was so good that Chevy was able to adapt TPI to the bigger 350 V-8 and still hit its gas mileage target. The 215hp engine made its debut on last year’s new Camaro IROC Z, and was not only capable of breaking into the high 14s at the strip, but could hit 140mph with its “Z” speed rated Goodyear Gatorback tires borrowed from the Corvette. However, this year the LB9 has been ‘detuned’ with the substitution of the mild LG4 305 cam. Horsepower is down to just 190, but torque has actually gone up slightly to 280lbs/ft. The milder LB9 is the top regularly available option on the IROC Z, Caprice and the Monte Carlo SS. The engine differs from the IROC Z LB9 in using a fuel cutoff at 124mph, because the aging B and G bodies are more susceptible to body lift at high speeds than the sleeker Camaro. The 215hp tuned port injection LB9 of 1985 is now known as the 1LE and is, at least theoretically, available not just on the IROC Z Camaro, but the Monte Carlo SS, and even the Caprice. However, Chevy seems intent on playing keep away with the hotter TPI 305.

    The dealer can’t even order the car through the regular computer system. Rather, he must fill out a paper order form and send it to the central order office in Warren Michigan. This procedure is much like the “central office production order” system Chevy once used for selling hot items like the 427 Camaro in the 1960s. The hot motor requires you order the J-65 police disc brakes, G-80 positraction axle and a G-92 Borg Warner performance axle (3.27:1 ratio) that has a unique 7 3/4” ring gear imported from Borg Warner’s Australian facility. Chevy engineers worried that last year’s IROC Z’s 7.62” ring wasn’t stout enough. In fact the Borg Warner T-5 manual transmission is unavailable with the hot 1LE because it is considered too weak to handle the big boost in torque.

    With the necessary optional equipment, the 1LE costs $1045 more than the standard L69 4bbl engine. You get about 13% more power, but the cost of the car goes up 8%. Chevy allows any axle from 2.29:1 down to 3.27:1 with the LB9 on the IROC Z Camaro, Caprice and Monte Carlo SS, and for the first time, the carbureted L-69 standard on the SS can be ordered with higher gearing, all the way up to the LS’ standard 2.29:1 cog. Unfortunately, the standard ratio goes way, way up to 2.73:1. Last year’s standard 4.10:1 digger ratio remains available, although it has become an extra cost option, and it now requires you also order posi-traction.

    No one has embraced the Monte Carlo SS more than hot rodders, and editors here have backed up their high opinion of the SS by filling the editorial parking lot with them. As much as we love the fact that Chevy has lavished attention on the SS, we have our doubts that any of the improvements on the SS will actually result in lower ET slips. We can just hear the bowtie salesman as we come in the door, preaching the gospel of fuel injection and ‘more power,’ even though the 4.10:1 geared, 4bbl version is very likely to be quickest on the street and strip. The price of the LB-9 likely barely covers the cost of production of the sophisticated new induction system, but Chevy is hoping for a pay-off, in the form of a reduction in gas-guzzler taxes at the end of this year’s production run. Look for Chevy to fill the dealer lots with LB9 engine SS Monte Carlos with standard 2.73:1 axles. This drive train combo, rated at 18/27mpg, averages 22.5mpg, which is enough to avoid fines. The 4.10:1 axle, carbureted model, rated at 16/24mpg, will subtract $500 of profit per car in the Fed’s gas-guzzler fees.

    One thing we loved about the SS is that when you saw one on the street, you knew it was capable. Now, despite more NASCAR inspired styling, slick new alloy wheels and even extra torque, we fear Chevy has begun to transform the SS into a ‘cosmetic’ super car. Paradoxically, the reason SS performance is getting the water down treatment is that the SS is becoming more popular, and Chevy expects SS sales to match LS sales by next year. The SS seems to have fallen victim to its own popularity. It may turn out that the LB9 engine, even with higher gearing, is as fast as the carburetor/4.10:1axle setup, and that doesn’t take into account the LE1 (which we predict will be an extremely rare sight on the street) with its 25 extra horsepower. One fact remains indisputable: it will be more expensive to get the same level of performance in this year’s SS than it was with last year’s SS.

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    Re: Monte Carlo SS - specious chapter two

    Note: I know the contest is over, just sketching out my 'phantom' universe where the MC SS gets the revamp it deserved.

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