1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Project Car

For years, the three of us had talked about building a car together. We would get the biggest old car we could afford, rip everything soft out of the inside, and go drive it in the desert. We wanted the inside to be an overwhelming array of knobs, dials, button, switches, and screens that would put even the cheesiest movie car to shame. It sounds simple in theory, but it turned out to be anything but easy.

The three of us knew that in building our post-apocalyptic “survival car,” people were going to draw parallels to it and the Mad Max Interceptor, the Batmobile, KITT from Knight Rider, Death Race, and even the DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future. We were adamant that our car should not too closely resemble any of these movie cars. It is not a clone or recreation of any specific vehicle.

In January of 2009, we had sold the Taurus SHO and were eager to start a new project. There were lots of cheap cars on craigslist, but they all needed major repairs or were in non-running condition. At last, we found a listing that sounded promising. The ad was for a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau coupe with a small-block 350 V8 engine and a Quadrajet 4bbl carburetor. We called the guy and went to go take a look at it.

The exterior had a couple of pretty big dents and the interior was shot. The seats were torn, the dash was cracked, and there was no radio. That didn’t matter to us though, and we bought the running car for just $600 dollars and drove it home.

We stored the car at a friend’s dads house, provided we helped clean out the garage first. This quickly proved to be a less-than-ideal arrangement for us, and the car was only there for a couple of months before we moved it to its new home at one of the owners’ houses.

January 2009
Jan 10 – Purchased the car for $600. Immediately began disconnecting A/C stuff.

Jan 12 – Started ripping out the dashboard. Removed grille inserts and started painting the car and the wheels flat black.

Jan 20 – Car is mostly painted flat black. Gutted interior. The floorpan on the drivers side is completely rusted through. We ignored it and simply painted over the rust. Covered up the opera window with sheet metal and pop rivets.

Jan 26 – Covered up passenger side opera window. Removed heater core and covered hole in the firewall with sound deadening material. Installed military antenna mount.

February 2009
Feb 2 – Purchased Jeep fuel gauges from Military Swap Meet.

Feb 21 – Painted and installed hood. Purchased carpet from junkyard. Some of the electronic items which will be installed in the car’s new dashboard. Removed military antenna mount.

Feb 28 – Shopping spree at Home Depot. Bought a 4×8 foot piece of MDF, 1.5″ wood screws, 3M Adhesive spray, a roll of black automotive carpet, 2 pre-cut plywood patch panels, and some jigsaw blades for $63.
Feb 29 – Started making new door panels. Removed rear bumper.

March 2009
Mar 2 – Completed driver side door panel. Covered up rusty floorpan with sound deadening material. Mocked up brush guard. Started re-shaping front end of car.

Mar 4 – Attached brush guard w/additional rebar inserts. New light bar installed on roof.

Mar 6 – Cut holes in fenders to attach brush guard. Installed passenger side door panel.

Mar 7 – Fabricated ram air hood scoop. Installed vertical bars and reinforced brush guard to fenders.

Mar 21 – Removed ruined muffler. Hood scoop mocked up. Started building rear dash. Started making rear window louvers.

Mar 23 – Purchased Ford Mustang seats ($50) and center console ($10) on Craigslist. Finished fabricating and installing window louvers.

Mar 25 – Sprayed rubberized truck bed liner on front bumper, lower doors. Cardboard mock-up of dashboard.

Mar 28 – Installed Monroe rear air shocks (purchased March 20 for $66.92).

Mar 29 – Car is starting to look mean!

May 2009
May 6 – Started building new dashboard out of medium-density fiberboard (MDF).

May 11 – Continued working on the dashboard, installed a 9″ Sony black and white TV and a 4″ black and white TV.

May 21 – Cut holes for radios. The dashboard will have a fully-functional in-dash computer. We scrounged up a hilariously outdated all-in-one PC, a Hitachi Flora with a 466MHz Celeron Processor and Windows 98.

May 23 – Painted the computer casing flat black. Built a sliding keyboard tray and sourced a mini keyboard.

May 25 – Painted the dashboard. Wired up some of the electronics.

May 27 – Test fit some of the antennas. Mounted the depth finder and the aircraft radio panel.

May 29 – Spent an entire night building a switch panel out of aluminum.

May 31 – Installed switch panel and ran wiring. Installed cold cathode lights behind dash. Installed alarm system panel and radar detector.

June 2009
Jun 1 – Ran wiring for rear speakers. Installed ceiling mounted darkroom timer.

Jun 6 – Added RCA selector switch and labels. Switched out mini black and white TV with a tiny color LCD screen.

Jun 9 – Worked on wiring up the dash.

Jun 10 – Switched out the CD player for a better one. Bought a 2x subwoofer box at Goodwill but it didn’t work and so returned it. Tested all screens.

Jun 14 – Added some carpet to the sides and top of the dash. Cleaned up wiring. Purchased Sony powered subwoofer from Goodwill ($15). Overhead console installed.

Jun 17 – Installed clock, BNC connector, and Uniden CB into overhead console.

Jun 23 – Installed LED license plate lights.

July 2009
Jul 2 – Purchased new hood hinges ($40) from junkyard.

Jul 3 – Car wash.

August 2009
Aug 6 – Removed shitty old muffler and flex pipe. Installed NEW catalytic converter and Cherry Bomb muffler ($81).

Aug 7 – Welded the seat brackets to the car.

September 2009
Sep 11 – Made a large panel box full of electronics for the trunk.

Sep 12 – Photo of center console with padded armrest and touch switch. Rope lights installed.

October 2009
Oct 8 – Started mocking up trunk layout. Installed LaserDisc player, VCR, Magnavox VideoWriter digital typewriter. There is also a vintage 1960s FURUNO mechanical depth finder from a ship!

November 2009
Nov 4 – Installed the junkyard carpet for real. Roof rack has been improved.

Nov 20 – Purchased a set of Teleflex boat gauges on eBay for $60.

December 2009
Dec 16 – Front bumper shows additional bars. Started making a mounting panel for the gauges. Fuel gauge can be seen installed on ceiling.

Dec 18 – Purchased an EverStart MAXX 875CCA battery from Wal-Mart ($86).
Dec 27 – Repaired and repainted Ray Jefferson Marine CB radio. Air compressor for rear air shocks installed on roof and air lines run.

Dec 28 – Trimmed down gauge panel. Installed wiring for gauge lights. Installed power switch for compressor and gauge/dump valve in dash. Panavise mount show installed on dash.

Dec 29 – Fabricated some door pulls out of a used leather belt I purchased at the thrift store.

January 2010
Jan 10 – Replaced the battery cables and terminals with beefier ones.

Jan 14 – Shots of the car with the rear air shocks pumped up.

Jan 23 – Trackball painted and mounted to center console. Replaced headlight switch. Headlight/wiper switches shown mounted on dash. Cut hole in the rear for the backup camcorder.

April 2010
Apr 28 – Purchased Bosch spark plugs, Champion plug wires, and power steering hose from RockAuto ($36).

June 2010
Jun 19 – Dashboard with computer turned on.

July 2010
Jul 4 – Tweeters shown mounted on door panels. Carpet vacuumed out. Trunk is finished with mounted depth finder, subwoofer, marine CB, flight data recorder and blue/green cold cathode lights. Front fenders are shown to be cut and truck tires installed.

October 2010
Oct 23 – Car has even more bars on the front bumper. Window louvers starting to rust.

December 2010
Dec 31 – Purchased 2 BF Goodrich All Terrain 31″ tires from Price-Rite ($99 mounted and balanced).

January 2011
Jan 1 – Pictures of Rochester Quadrajet 4-barrel carburetor.

March 2011
Mar 23 – Purchased carburetor rebuild kit from QuadraJetParts.com ($38).

April 2011
Apr 3 – Pictures of carburetor showing hose routings and connections.

July 2011
Jul 24 – Pulled carburetor off car, began tearing it down for a rebuild. Read full article: Rochester Quadrajet Carburetor Rebuild.

August 2011
Aug 3 – Parts after being immersed in the dip cleaner (seriously nasty stuff!)

Aug 26 – The reassembled carb with new gaskets, internals, and a fresh new fuel filter.

October 2011
Oct 9 – Carb installed on car. Had to pull it off to adjust the needle. Working fine after that.

November 2011
Nov 25 – Purchased a 90 amp wire feed welder, cutting wheel, and reciprocating saw at Harbor Freight Black Friday sale ($120 total).

December 2011
Dec 4 – Making repairs to the front bumper.

January 2012
Jan 14 – Completed title transfer and 30-Day Registration ($29).
Jan 15 – Photo shoot with the car in a local tunnel.

Jan 29 – Mocking up a huge rear bumper we purchased at a military surplus swap meet for $20. The old dashboard is long gone and the metal bars we tacked in on January 24th are visible.

Jan 31 – Bought a new radiator cap.

April 2012
April 7 – Bought a new lower radiator hose, hose clamps, radiator flush solution.

August 2012
Aug 5 – Installed brand new water pump, smog pump, fan clutch, fan belt and valve cover gaskets ($171). Power steering hose?

September 2012
Sep 16 – Started working on the gullwing door conversion. It will be externally hinged.

Sep 19 – The door is much heavier than we expected. The hinge works but flexes a lot.

December 2012
Dec 10 – Purchased a set of 33″ tires on Craigslist ($50). Had them mounted ($33).
Dec 21 – The car, with no dashboard or any kind of gauges, takes us 30 miles to Mesa and back including freeway driving. The car passed the emissions test!!

January 2013
Jan 6 – The car is seen wearing its brand new license plate. We spray paint the name of our website on it in several places.

Jan 12 – We drove the car to Barrett-Jackson. The new rear bumper is shown mounted.

February 2013
Feb 4 – Our wooden dashboard got pretty ruined from being parked outside in Arizona. It got rained on and the wood swelled up, then fell apart. We dismantled the dashboard and salvaged some parts, but most of it was thrown away. At this point, the dash had been out of the car for about a year.

Feb 16 – New air filter.

March 2013
March 2 – We bought a 1985 Chevrolet Impala with a rebuilt electronic Quadrajet and swapped it for the one on the Monte Carlo, then sold the Impala for double our money.

Mar 9 – Used battery from Sonora Tire Shop ($25).

January 19, 2014
So what’s going on with the car right now? Well since we bought it 4 years ago, we’ve had trouble getting it to run dependably. Due to dead batteries and carburetor issues, we’ve been stranded a couple of times in the car. We plan to swap the motor for a stock Big Block Chevy and just leave it alone. This would give the car a big power upgrade and a nice sound at a reasonable price. Work on the car has slowed considerably as we’ve spent more time on other projects like our 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis.

July 2016
With 13+ cars parked around our property Skullfuck became more of a problem than a project. We simply ran out of room and with no budget or time set aside for it we found it best to put the car up for sale. With a clever Craiglist ad we managed to find a good home for the car, outside of the scrapyard and away from the jittery fingers of the local metal scavenging tweakers. We had a handful of inquiries from people mentioning ‘Wasteland Weekend’, a post apocalyptic themed event out in the deserts of California. Apparently we had constructed the perfect car for it, as the new owner is well known in those circles. He already has it up and running with a new motor so keep your eyes peeled. It was a fun 8 years and definitely worthwhile. If you see the car out and about we’d love to see pictures of it! @genhoblog

Here is a brief list of some of the things we did to the car:

  • Spray painted exterior flat black
  • Covered up opera windows
  • Removed original dash
  • Ford Mustang bucket seats (front), recovered original bench sear (rear)
  • Custom light bar with off-road lights
  • Custom brush guard/bumper in the front
  • Installed Monroe rear air shocks
  • New door panels, rear dash
  • Custom dashboard with electronics
  • Rebuilt the carburetor
  • Installed new air filter, spark plugs, plug wires, changed oil
  • Replaced a power steering hose
  • Installed new catalytic converter and muffler
  • Installed new smog pump, water pump, fan clutch, valve cover gaskets
  • Lubricated grease points on chassis
  • Installed rear bumper (purchased from military surplus swap meet)
  • Titled, registered, and insured the car (January 2013)
  • Installed 32-inch Dunlop Mud Rover rear tires, 31-inch BF Goodrich All Terrains in the front
  • Upgraded to 33-inch tires in 2013

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