1988 Monte Carlo LS Street Car Build Thread

Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#1
Im bringing this over from Maliburacing.com and Yellowbullet.com:

As some may remember I bought a 79 Malibu 2 door. Well it lasted less then the about of time it took to bring home as I sold it to a man at a car show in town. So in a effort to replace it, I scored a very clean but needs some work 88 Monte Carlo LS. It took 2 weeks to get with the seller Dan to make this deal happen due to both of our schedules but we are both very pleased with the outcome. So as stated before in what was deleted, I had a emphasis on a complete car with AC and overdrive to cruise in. The car will get a 350 small block, suspension work, brake and be kept as clean and stock appearing as possible. Work has already started with the addition of a factory rear sway bar, rear frame tie bar and new lower arms with poly bushings. Up next is the front sway bar upgrade to a 34 mm hollow unit, dual piston blazer brake upgrade, front frame bar (under the core support) and some wheels. Here are some pictures of what was sold quickly and what has replaced it.

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And no, I dont plan to make it to fast as I still have this. My 87 Blazer.

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Well I picked up my wheels and brakes on Thursday. Here is a quick mock up and a how they will look photos.

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Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#2
Well what started as a attempt to simply swap everything from the spindles out to do the brake upgrade turned into a complete front end rebuild. The ball joints were toast and the bushings have seen their day so off came the arms for a rebuild. While I am in there, I placed a 34mm sway bar in place under the bars and also will swap to a quick ratio steering box, both from my old 87 Firebird GTA.

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I hope to have parts soon and my tires will be on the wheels on Sunday. On Friday evening, I ordered upper and lower balljoints and bushings along with some sway bar bushings from rock auto for 94 dollars. All Raybestos brand parts in either service or professional grade. They claim 3 to 5 days shipping time. We will see since I will be in the hospital with my wife this Friday to have our second son. Progress will slow but not too badly.

Went from this...... to this.

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Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#3
Got it on the ground! All I need to do now is bleed the brakes, lube the front end and take it to the tire shop for a alignment.

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From September:

Well the garage gods have worked in my favor. Does anyone else have a garage like mine? The more you look for something you need, you not only find one set but you find two!!! In my vast garage (not really, just two cars) I found the complete drum set from my blazer that were removed to put Aerospace Components discs on and I even found a loaded set of replacement backing plates that I bought to fix the drums when they were still on the blazer. That was till I ponied up the coin for the discs. Well like many of you, I strive for a little heritage in parts from one vehicle to the next. This way the cars have a little DNA from past projects and are more meaningful then a mere VIN number with tires.

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I am confident between all the parts here, I will be able to assemble a complete set up with just the purchase of new cylinders. I do love when a good plan, even if unintended pans out.

8.5 is in with all new brakes. I need to hook up the flex line and bleed the brakes and then shorten my driveshaft. I need another afternoon or two maybe with the car and we will be back on the road.

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From November:

Small update, I have now driven my Monte for two weeks on my daily and weekend ride. It rocks in many ways and sucks in others. I am already sick of getting kids in the back seat of a two door!!! (this is why I sold my 05 Blazer when I had my first kid who now is almost 4) For the rocking part, I can sling this ##### through turns, over curbs and park it anywhere (except the ghetto areas) with out worry. I love the fact I can drive it how I want and have fun doing so. For the crappy part, the 4.3 is a gutless POS and needs to go. The transmission which as you remember was gone through shifts gears so quickly, I feel like I'm in fourth gear by 30 mph or so. Will a shift kit improve this? The 3.42 gear made the world of difference and was worth every penny of the swap.

My speedo does not work so I have no idea how fast I am going nor do I very often care. I need to track down the correct gears for the cable drive and sort that out just so I can track mile per gallon figures. In almost two weeks, I have driven it to work 5 or 6 days, daycare runs, gone parts chasing, chassis shop running, taken the wife out for breakfast and groceries many times and burned less then half a tank. My truck would have been #### near empty with a tank twice the size.

I even hooked up my one speaker radio so I can listen to NPR on my drive through town. May I even go so far to say that all my lights work, even the interior courtesy and dome.

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My plans for the Monte in the near future are to get my Blazer running and then rebuild my 350 and drop into Monte sometime about 6 months or so from now.
 
Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#4
Time for a little update. Yesterday I took a 845 mile round trip to pick up a 8.5 rear for the Monte. Well worth the drive and the price. Thanks to Todd. It is a 3.42 open rear but all stock and only 80k miles on it. I also got my factory wing in a few weeks ago and finally got around to installing it. I was given a link to the measurements on my other thread asking for information about mounting the wing. I can say with confidence at least for the later style lay down wing only 2 of the 6 measurements were correct. I ended up centering the wing and forcing the studs into the paint to serve as a witness mark and then go the step drill out after starting with pilot holes. The outer holes I ended up carving with the grinder. Worked out just fine.

Put this on:

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And got one of these to go under:

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One more small thing, I know this sounds stupid but I am #### proud of the fact I actually drove the car a little over the weekend too. After fighting with what seemed like 3 gallons of oil in my motor, a dead starter and a battery that was drained down, I fixed all of that. Little did I know I would run into a broken exhaust stud for the y pipe. I cut the remnants off, drilled it out and tapped it for a 5/16 bolt. While this will probably last a long time, it is not seen as permanent. It does however get me on the road to driving and enjoying the car. I will get a alignment this week if I have time and let the enjoyment start.
 
Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#5
Small update since March. I have continued to enjoy the car (new AC helps that out a ton). After having the parts sit for two months I finally installed my new AC a couple weekends ago. I got the new compressor, evaporator and accumulator on Saturday in about 3 hours and then took it to be charged up on Sunday to Firestone. All in, it was about 450 bucks and works great. This really brought my desire to drive the car every day back to life. I also got a set of new used upper rear arms from Shawn (Street Bu) to install. I am very pleased with the progress and look forward to driving the car some more. I took it upon myself to install discs in the rear to match my upgrade done to the front.

I picked this gem up this morning from my chassis shop. he had a late 90's model 4 door Blazer he was deconstructing. I paid 125 for it and dint have to do a thing other then load it in my pick up truck.

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Also, StreetBu from maliburacing.com sent me a set of upper rear arms with poly bushings in them that will be installed when I do the disc brake conversion.

I was off for four days this part weekend and spent it almost entirely on cars and with my boys. Between naps, cooking and entertaining I managed to get my disc brakes on the rear along with the replacement upper arms. My observations are as follows. The pedal is much more linear and constant. The rears will no longer lock up under hard braking and the front dives less. The car now has front and rear brakes from roughly a model year 2000 Blazer and they work great with the factory master cylinder and proportioning valve. One loss with in my book does not matter is the parking brake cable ends are different from the drum rear to the disc. I have both sets of parking brake cables and will see if I can make them work one day.

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The time for the V8 comes closer day by day.

I bought a parts car last weekend and swapped the wiper motors but this has not solved my wiper issues so this remains a issue. I have it down to wiring or another bad motor. From the parts car I grabbed the tach filter, nicer corner lights, a nice grille, the wiper motor and the 3 piece air box from the grille to the radiator/ core support.

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In keeping with my aged and patina look, I just bolted it in as everything had a nice even appearance to it. I also picked up a set of new front speakers which i will install soon. In my parts car purchase, I also got a set of headers, 2 HEI distributors one a used accel unit and the other a new chinese unit and a complete 350 motor which will go into my car this winter. In all a good past week for my monte.

On top of this, I continue to drive it almost daily and have yet to climb in and feel bored!

Slight delay but progress none the less to report. My machinist ended up with Kidney Stones the day I was supposed to meet him to drop off the motor. He still wanted to meet me but I told him no and to take time with his kids to recover during Thanks giving. In the meanwhile, I took a 750 mile road trip with my family for the holiday so everyone was having some fun. We finally made some time last night and hashed a plan.

He looked over the motor and to start told me he uses the same foundation for his circle track deals and they are more then reliable for that so mild street duty with my expectations should be no issue at all. Turns out my 880 block is also highly desirable. It has the powdered fracture cap rods and nodular crank with 4 bolt mains. He will clean the block, install new freeze plugs and cam bearings. We will also re-ring with moly rings and put a new set of bearings in it after the crank is polished. He will surface both the heads and the block deck to square everything up. On the heads, were doing a simple valve job and making sure everything checks out. I have a brand new drop in HEI to keep ignition to a minimum one wire hassle.

The general plan here is to keep it simple and reliable. The motor will have compression low so it burns 87 octane. Were talking 9.0 or so to one. I am going with a GM LT1 Hot cam, 525 lift and 218 duration. This will give me smooth operation and good vacuum for brakes and ac. The heads are AFR 190 cc that I bought new back in college and have served me well over the years. For induction I have three choices for intake and three choices for carbs. I have a Performer, Performer RPM airgap or a Victor Jr. For carbs I have a 1406 edelbrock, a q jet or a pro systems Holley 750 HP.

My dilemma is I am favoring driveability and economy over horsepower and performance here. I also want to keep the stock hood. I am leaning heavily towards the performer with q jet to achieve this. I have not had a q jet on a car in over a decade and am looking forward to its simplicity. If it does not cut it, I have other options HAHA. During this process, I will buy a torque converter and have my 200 4r gone through and beefed up as needed for the new motor. The machine shop will disassemble and mic my parts on Saturday and start ordering replacements on Monday. With the minimum need of machine work it should go decently at the machine shop and the bill should not kill me during the holiday cash bleed.

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Details to come as work continues.
 
Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#6
Picture time! The motor is almost done, just waiting on paint to dry (it has been cold here at night while their working) and some plugs to be installed. The heads turned out great after a hour in the bath, new seals and a quick valve job. The block measured great (though I have no idea how many miles it had). There were two pistons that had tight ring lands so we replaced all 8 with a set of cast standard bore pieces. Other then this, it has new cam, crank and rod bearings as well as the pistons and rings. At this point, I'm going from calling it freshened to rebuilt. I should be able to pick it up in a day or so.

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Small update. I had a couple hours to work on the motor project on Saturday while my youngest was napping and my oldest was "helping" me. My main goal was to strip the old motor of the last few parts that were needed for the new motor. I took the chance to grab the fuel pump block off plate, the lifters, bars and spider. I came to a halt when the cam thrust plate bolt spacing on the 87 block was not the same as the vortec block. No big deal but it means I will be ordering parts sooner then I thought. I did get the new motor off the cradle and on the stand where I can work on it better and the old one is now on a dolly in the corner to see light at a later date.

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The engine is assembled and ready to drop in. I spent some time over the weekend mocking up different intake and carb combinations as well as the headers. Unfortunately, the headers I have create interference (really tight clearance between the wire and tune) on three cylinders. I will need to order a new set to alleviate this problem. The good news is once the old motor is out, I can swap the accessories to the 350 and drop it in. I will be ordering a converter and new headers here shortly and then once I feel I have all the parts in place, wrenching can commence.

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Daddy's best helper, he was by my side nearly every minute!

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And here are some different combos, I am leaning towards the Edelbrock 1406 and RPM air gap intake.

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Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#7
My new FTI Street Brawler torque converter just arrived. Its a lock up unit and is set to stall at 2400 rpm. The nice part is for a sub 300 dollar unit, it comes with Torrington bearings, tig welded fins and hardened impeller hub. That is excellent value for the dollar form a company I know works!

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When I built the motor, I trial fit my headers and was very unhappy with them upon initial inspection. Last night I decided to give the headers another educated examination. I think the first time I was distracted and came to a few premature conclusions. The headers still are not the best fitting headers, this is true. But for the fact they are owned and in my hands, I think I can make them work with a few tweaks. I will need to dimple a couple tubes and get plug wires with less bulky boots. In all fairness the MSD wires do have quite large boots.

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Made a bit more progress yesterday. I got my flywheel and plug wires sorted out. I mocked up the plug wire route and distributor on the engine stand because its much easier there then in the car. The wires are all in separators and I discovered the HEI I got with my parts car donor Monte is actually a Street Fire by MSD part number 8362.

Last week on Friday I made a impromptu run to a parts yard I had never been to before. It was a TOTAL score. For 27 bucks I got the drivers and passengers side serpentine brackets from a F-Body set up along with the power steering pulley and water pump pulley. I also got a brand new cap and rotor in the box (sitting on a seat) along with a thermostatically controlled fan switch. I did all this with no tools an for 27 dollars! At this point, I am literally finding time to do the swap away from turning wrenches.

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Plug wire routes.

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Total score from my abandoned project purchase!

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And of course, my best helper. Notice here we swapped the red cap for the black one.

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Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#8
This is the latest mock up of the motor, I got rid of as much color other then silver and black as possible.

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Got the tail pipes in, they are very nice. I hope the fit as well as they look!

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My Dr. gas X-pipe and ball and cone joints arrived today. Now to find some time to get the swap going.

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I finally uploaded a few photos of all the action. Here they are in order of yanked to my help helping.

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I will go pick up my quadrajet tomorrow from my buddy who is rebuilding it for me and hope to finalize my hoses on the radiator. Believe it or not, the lower hose is being a real PITA.
 
Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#9
I just ordered from rockauto my idle stop solenoid and the choke pull off for my qjet which has epoxy hardening as we speak. The parts will take 1 to 6 days to arrive but will in no way hold me back as I am not ready to fire it up so quickly. As stated previously, I got my upper hose situated and it fits like it was made for the car! I also fabbed up a upper radiator mount. its coming along despite weather and the rest of my schedule. This afternoon I pulled the fender well and removed the computer and its associated harness. I made a rubber plug and used 4 screws and some RTV to seal the hole back up.

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Firetruck1

Firetruck1

Apprentice
Nov 1, 2017
66
107
18
#10
Yesterday was a bit of a wash. I was busy all morning and then it rained shortly after starting to work on the car in the afternoon. I did manage to cut both 3 bolt flanges off the headers and get my ball and socket headers fitted. They align perfectly through the crossmember. I also started on the connecting to the Dr. Gas x pipe.

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I needed two parts to complete my quadrajet rebuild. The piece to bump the idle up when the ac compressor kicks in and the secondary pull off valve arrived this morning. I know many will question the choice of this carb set up but the purpose of this car is to cruise around and enjoy. This includes the ability to drive anywhere I am brave enough to point the wheel. I have placed driveability, gas mileage and ease of overall use very high on my build priority list and this carb will suite these needs very well.

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This morning I took the Monte to a buddy of mine shop to have the last few details done. This amounts to wiring, fuel system and exhaust as well as odds and ends. We added a PCV along with all new hoses and lines. I made a bracket and settled on a location for my fuel pressure regulator. Ran the three lines for feed, return and the carb. We finished up all wiring except the relay for the fan on the radiator. We primed the oil pump in the motor and fired it off open header for a few seconds before moving on to the exhaust tomorrow.

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Tomorrow, the plan is to do the exhaust and then it goes to the transmission shop on Wednesday for a shift kit. From there, if there are mison items to come back for we will take care of them then.

Exhaust is done. Three inch up and over the axle and other then the header tube, not much hangs lower a inch or two below the frame. Started playing around with tuning. It fires right up but we have to hold the rpm elevated. There are a bunch of adjustments that we need to tweaked and looked at. I think a issue resides under the distributor. It sounds like the advance is not operating. In any event, the project is coming along quite nicely and quickly. Tomorrows goal is to tune it so it starts and idles nicely and then take it to the transmission shop around lunch. Once there, the game plan is to drop the pan and if it looks good in there we will do a simple shift kit. If its worse for wear then its getting rebuilt with good hard parts.

Today was a expensive day of progress. I took the car to the transmission shop hoping to have a shift kit installed and call it done on the transmission. I thought this was possible as they are known to be reasonably durable and capable of living behind the kind of power I'm making. I also though this was possible due to the fact the transmission was working perfectly prior to the engine swap. They put it on the lift and dropped the pan, full of metal and aluminum in there. Something has been eating itself alive. Were going to rebuild the transmission and install a parts package with durability in mind. Though it should be good through 850 horsepower or so, the goal here is more inline with longevity. I will be certain to grab pictures as the project continues.

I went to the transmission shop today to look at what could be the source of the metal in the pan. The transmission has had someone inside before as they already upgraded from the aluminum input to the steel piece. The servo spring was broken and some of the bushings were worn. The clutches were not terrible though the steels had signs of slipping. I have no idea when is was rebuilt but I did have it resealed two years and about 15,000 miles ago. They have parts ordered either late this afternoon or first thing on Monday so it should be together shortly after that. Then its off to final tuning and working the bugs out of it one by one.

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The transmission is coming along nicely and ready to bolt back in to the car once my converter comes back from FTI where they cut open to clean out any possible contamination. I took a few pictures of the old and new stuff. I hope to be back in the car by the end of the week.

Old parts

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New stuff

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