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Caprice and Monte Carlo will hang on several years after their B and G body cousins from Pontiac, Olds and Buick have been replaced by V-6, front drive cars.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.