When you mix power, danger and speed with guys that have an unquenchable thirst for winning, something interesting is bound to happen. And after 1979’s perfect storm of publicity kicked off the wild ride known as Sprint Cup racing, NASCAR was literally flooded with star gearheads, talented fabricators and octane-fueled business moguls. Of course, most of those shine-running good ‘ol boys had been fighting it out weekend after weekend at small southern venues for years. But the media accessibility of the 80s, and a subsequent rise in popularity, firmly established the sport’s first household names and commenced its constant journey of technological transformation. Not surprisingly, many nostalgic stock car fans believe 80s racers, like this awesome Chevrolet superspeedway chassis, are the perfect combination of relatable street form and purebred track function. And, after carefully examining its seamless mix of common panels and tweaked mechanical components, we can’t help but agree. If you’re one of those old school circle track fanatics who’s always wanted an authentic race warrior that actually resembles the car it’s based on, you’ve come to the right place. Forget some cheap decal package that’s been whipped together in some backyard garage, RK Motors Charlotte is proud to provide you the rare opportunity to own a storied Terry Labonte Monte Carlo!
The 80s was a definitive time of transition for America’s favorite racing series. The brash, blue-collar culture that birthed the sport began to experience gentrification through bigger sponsors, better technology and an increasingly diverse fanbase. And it seemed the ‘golden age’ of farm fresh, Eastwood-like drivers was giving way to a whole flock of new and equally colorful characters for fans to either love or hate. If you graduated from the school of hard knocks, you unabashedly pulled for ‘The Intimidator’, Mr. Dale Earnhardt. If you liked a driver who was as opinionated as he was talented, then Darell ‘Jaws’ Waltrip would do. If you admired charisma and courage, ‘Awesome Bill (Elliot) From Dawsonville’ was your man. And if you couldn’t relate to anything about stereotypical stock car racers, Tim “Hollywood” Richmond was your next obsession. The point is: 80s Winston Cup competition was a tenure of immense talent and outrageous personalities. And, thanks to the rise of the sport’s first generation of mega stars, it would eventually grow into a 90s powerhouse that became both a middle-class ritual and a taboo upper-class indulgence.
That kind of cross-sectional growth made corporations eager to cash in on the sport’s increasing popularity. And the automakers, having already spent close to 20 years winning on Sunday and selling on Monday, initiated efforts to build fierce brand loyalty. Since its 1973 introduction, the Monte Carlo had been a solid success for parent company General Motors. And in fact, three of the four dominant drivers I just mentioned spent almost their entire careers behind the wheel of Chevy’s honorable knight. But any good racer knows that success ultimately begets more intense competition. And, despite Chevy maintaining their consistent championship streak well into the decade, Bill Elliot eventually led a re-energized Ford Thunderbird program to speeds in excess of 200 MPH. It didn’t take long for that hair-raising performance to send GM’s star division back to the drawing board. The only problem: GM had invested a lot of money in the production Monte Carlo and, like any major OEM, needed time to amortize costs before significantly altering the car. So, Chevrolet engineers borrowed a page from Chrysler’s playbook and went to work on a mild aerodynamics package that eventually resulted in the profile you see here. Dubbed the Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe, and featuring an initial production run of just the 200 units NASCAR required for homologation, this legendary racer features a re-contoured rear window and a shorter rear deck that increase both airflow and downforce. Not only did the Aerocoupe help Chevrolet nab two of the series’ next three championships, it also kicked off development of the brand’s sport-dominating Lumina.
Since the boys at Chevrolet knew their Monte Carlo was a force to be reckoned with, they worked hard to partner with the sport’s top team owners and toughest drivers. Given his legendary performance in his own Holly Farms Impala, First Class Hall of Famer Junior Johnson certainly knew a little something about getting a Chevrolet around a race track. And when it came to defining tough and talented, there really wasn’t a better fit than Texas Terry Labonte. As one of the biggest names of NASCAR’s ‘golden age’, Junior Johnson fought his way to widespread success on both dirt and asphalt tracks before winning 139 races and six Sprint Cup championships as the owner of Junior Johnson and Associates. Hailing from the humid winds of Corpus Christi, Texas, Terry Labonte would eventually win two Sprint Cup championships, both behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and officially earn the nickname “Ironman” because of his record-setting 655 consecutive starts. During their time together, this soft-spoken duo dominated Johnson’s home track of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina in both 1987 and 1988, won the 1988 NASCAR All Star race here in Charlotte, scored victories at Daytona, Pocono and Talladega in 1989, and earned very respectable 3rd 4th and 10th place finishes in the ‘87, ‘88 and ‘89 Sprint Cup championship standings. Since this super cool Aerocoupe is an actual 1985 Winston Cup chassis that raced multiple seasons, it’s literally impossible to pinpoint its individual accomplishments. And while the car’s current 1988 paint scheme is 100% faithful to the Labonte era, it’s also highly likely this chassis logged laps for three time Sprint Cup champion Darrell Waltrip and the late, great Neil Bonnet.
One thing is certain: whoever its driver was, you can rest assured that almost every aspect of this Chevrolet is accurate and authentic to how it rolled into the shop at the end of the 1988 season. For instance, the car’s body still maintains a correct combination of basecoat paint and era-correct decals. At the front of that narrow and buttoned down body, a prominent mesh grille and small aluminum headlight fillers populate what is commonly referred to as an ‘SS nosepiece’. At the top of that nosepiece, a traditional cowl induction system rides in front of a glass windshield, a window net that’s clipped via old GM seat belt latches and what appears to be factory B-pillar glass. Below that glass, wind-cheating side panels frame familiar black wheels and old school 28x10-15 Goodyear Eagle Stock Car Specials at the edges of superspeedway car-specific exhaust pipes. And behind those meats, a shortened aerodeck hangs a moderately sized trunk spoiler between an extended plexi hatch and a sculpted rear valence. Take a look inside Junior’s traditional red interior and you’ll immediately notice a raised, and subsequently more aerodynamic, floorpan that is specific to superspeedway cars. There’s an authentic seat that’s bolted between a simplistic Shroeder steering wheel, a familiar Hurst shifter and old school Simpson Race belts. In front of that seat, a primitive dash hangs a tilted Jones tachometer and Stewart Warner accessory gauges beside a Banjos Peformancenter switch panel. And below that dash, a vintage RJS fire suppression system rides just south of a proven MSD ignition box. Check this Monte’s stainless-trimmed engine bay and you’ll find a small block Chevy powerplant, which likely hasn’t seen fire in some time, perched between a beefy, superspeedway car-specific radiator, a heavy duty oil cooler and the aforementioned cowl system. At various points in the car’s history that red engine has been fitted with a big Holley carburetor, an impressive Edelbrock Victor GN intake, a set of conventional headers and chrome “Chevrolet POWER” valve covers. Unpin the decklid and you’ll find an authentic, NASCAR-spec fuel cell sitting next to an old school Fram fuel filter. And if you toss the car on a lift you’ll find a weight-conscious tube frame chassis that, thanks to research by Chevrolet and expertise by builders Wayne Dalton and Dave Little, has been stiffened with superspeedway car X-bracing, bolted to era-correct Moog race parts and fitted with rare Hurst Airheart brake calipers.
At RK Motors Charlotte we take pride in the fact that we’re gearheads selling special cars to other gearheads. But when this awesome piece of NASCAR nostalgia rolled through our showroom doors, most of us were baffled about both its construction and history. So, we decided to make a few phone calls and bring in a panel of experts to verify its authenticity. Championship crew chief Mike Beam, who worked extensively with Junior Johnson & Associates, inspected the car and performed tireless research that helped establish its history. Tim Brewer, long-time Junior Johnson & Associates crew chief, inspected the car and confirmed its credentials. Championship crew chief Jeff Hammond, who worked with Terry Labonte for the 1987 season, inspected the car and highlighted its many authentic details. And Tim Roberts, former head builder at Banjo’s Performance Center, identified the car as a Hutcherson chassis and corroborated its authenticity. Folks, it simply doesn’t get more official than that, these experts are prominent NASCAR figures who have prevalent ties to both this team and the era in which this Chevrolet raced.
This old asphalt warrior is the very definition of a stock car time capsule, and when you see it in person you’ll be just as blown away as we were! Not only is it an accurate representation of what three of NASCAR’s biggest stars piloted to numerous victories, it’s also an iconic relic of the era that built Sprint Cup racing into a national pastime. Are you an octane-fueled circle track fanatic who’s looking to take your collection to the next level? Don’t miss your opportunity to own an amazing piece of stock car history!