Car of the Week: 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Even if his mother-in-law hadn’t sold him her car, Verlyn Rasmussen says he probably would have broke down and bought himself a Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS anyway.

Today, it just seems inevitable that he had to have one.

Rasmussen’s 1986 Chevrolet is his pride and joy — along with his 1978 Corvette — and as such, has always gotten special treatment. The Marshfield, Wis., resident has always coddled and babied the handsome coupe. Fate has certainly been kind to this ’86 SS — they were wildly popular during their era and many of the cars were driven hard and put away wet.  Today, there are still plenty of fourth-gen Monte Carlo Super Sports around, but few can approach the showroom condition of Rasmussen’s car or the paltry 5,200 or so miles on the odometer.

“I don’t want a restored car, I want an original car. Maybe that’s part of why it doesn’t have a lot of miles on it,” jokes Rasmussen. “I know what guys who restore cars go through. It’s not appealing to me with the waiting process. I’m not a patient person that way.”

Aside from a few oil changes, the condition of Rasmussen’s car is almost identical to the day it left the local dealership for the first time. He recalls rotating the tires once, and he sprayed the inside of the wheel wells a while back to make absolutely sure he’d have no rust problems — not that the Monte Carlo SS will ever see road salt.

“I actually never did say, ‘I’ve got to keep the miles off,’ I just want to keep it as nice as possible, condition-wise,” he says. “When people see it, it’s a positive reaction to the car because it’s like looking at a brand new 1986 Monte Carlo SS, and not many people can do that anymore. It’s a typical, ‘How can you do that? How can you just leave that?’ It’s a hard mind set to explain to people, but I do have another toy to drive, too, and even some of my daily drivers [over the years] were fun to drive.”

Even though he wasn’t the car’s first owner, Rasmussen had his fingerprints all over the Monte Carlo SS right from the start. He was enlisted to help his mother-in-law, Gwen Prust, look for a new car and he immediately began steering her toward the sporty, sweet-looking mid-size Chevrolets. He wanted her to have a car that was fun to drive and nice to look at, but big enough and practical enough to be a daily driver.

“I’m not going to call it a full-size sports car, but in essence that’s what it is. I was into racing and I liked the way it looked. It just looked neat with the striping and way it was put together,” Rasmussen said. “She was into sporty type cars anyway — T-Birds and cars of that nature.

“I was with her when she ordered the car and I was with her when  she picked the car up. I requested that the car be rust-proofed [laughs]. I asked that the splash guards be put on the car and the mat in the trunk to be put in. I wanted everything to be covered up because I was hoping eventually that it would be my car… The only thing it doesn’t have that I would have wanted is it has an open rear end. It doesn’t have Posi.”

After she got the car, Rasmussen made a deal. He promised he would take the car off her hands if she wasn’t satisfied with it or ever needed to sell it. That took about four years.

“This was her second car. She was a single lady and didn’t need two cars on the road every day. She wanted to turn this car into her daily driver,” he says. “But she decided not to because of how nice it was. She had a full-size Blazer at the time and didn’t want to make payments, so after four months of making payments [on the Blazer], I bought the car from her. I paid her exactly what she bought the car for. It had only 1,450 miles on it … so it was like buying a new car anyway.”

That was 1990, and Rasmussen has added less than 4,000 miles to the clock since then. The car has never sat for an extended period of time, but Rasmussen has always kept its trips short — often just for local car shows and gatherings with his gear head friends.

1980s Hit Parade

The fourth-generation Monte Carlo SS lineup was wildly popular and a star of the sales charts during the 1980s, with roots back to 1981 when GM redesigned its midsize formal coupes and launched its handsome new A body — a year later changed to the ‘G body’ — lineup. After a 12-year hiatus, Chevrolet dusted off the Super Sport moniker for the Monte Carlos and began a run of SS cars that enjoyed iconic status from 1983-88 and then well beyond as collector favorites.

It was never going to outrun the Corvettes, Z28s and turbo “Black Knight” Buicks of the era, but the Monte Carlo SS had the best of many worlds tied into one very attractive package. It was a big car with plenty of creature comforts inside, had a huge trunk for groceries, had a very cool paint job, came with T-tops if you wanted, and while not a true tire burner, was almost certainly faster than your neighbor’s station wagon or conversion van.

It didn’t hurt, of course, that the same body style could be seen weekly for years burning up tracks on the NASCAR circuit with the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip behind the wheel.

For 1986, the Monte Carlo series got a few small updates. All of the models except the new Monte Carlo LS kept their 1985-style grilles and quad rectangular headlamps. All Montes received new aerodynamic sport mirrors (black on base model, body-color optional). Retuned suspensions used harder bushings and stiffer shock valving. The SS had new aluminum wheels, plus gas-pressure shock absorbers front and rear. Monte Carlo engine choices were the same as 1985: 262 cu. in. (4.3-liter) V-6 or 305 cu. in. (5.0-liter) V-8 for the regular Monte Carlos, and the high-output, 180-hp 305 under SS hoods. All Monte Carlos had standard power brakes and steering, three-speed overdrive automatic (four-speed on SS), AM radio with digital clock, cloth bench seats, dual black mirrors, dual-note horn, full wheel covers, color-keyed bumpers, and front stabilizer bar. Bodies held bright wheel opening, belt, window/windshield reveal, lower bodyside and roof drip moldings.

The Monte Carlo SS added a rear spoiler, black sport steering wheel, tachometer, a blacked-out grille and trim moldings, sport mirrors (left remote-controlled), gauge package, and P215/65R15 white-letter tires. For 1983-’84, the SS was available in white or blue. From 1985-’88 it could be found in white, black, silver or maroon metallic.

The rarest of the SS Montes as the striking Aerocoupe fastback. Of the 119,010 Monte Carlos and 41,164 SS models built for 1986, only 200 were Aerocoupes, which featured an extended rear window that stretched nearly to the tail of the car.  The Aerocoupe sold new for $14,191, compared to $12,466 for the sport coupe.

The Aerocoupe lasted through 1987, when 6,052 were built. The regular SS coupe soldiered on through 1988, when sales dropped to 16,204 copies and Chevrolet pulled the plug on the rear-while-drive, mid-size coupe.

Still shining

Rasmussen is mighty particular about his cars, and his ’86 SS looks like it’s headed to concours judging pretty much every day of the year. That’s not to say he refuses to drive it at all — he figures he puts on about 150 miles a year these days — but the ’76 Corvette often gets the nod first. “It’s like the flip of a coin which one we’re going to take,” he jokes. “My wife [Deb] will sometimes say, ‘We’re taking the Monte Carlo today,’ because she doesn’t feel like sitting down low and going fast and climbing in and out of the Corvette… The driving experience is smooth as silk. No problems and no worries. The car is so new and so low-mileage that there has never been an issue with it, which makes a person feel even better about the fact that you have it.

“But it is something I can take pride in. I keep it in the garage attached to the house, and I can flip on the light anytime I want and look out the window into the garage and see it.”

Rasmussen admitted that the car is well known in Monte Carlo SS circles. The are plenty of fans of the cars around and a few cars were squirreled away when they were new and kept as time capsules. Rasmussen knows he’d never have trouble selling it if he had to. “There are guys who try to collect cars from the Monte Carlo SS era, and they like the car enough that they kind of keep tabs on whether I still have the car yet,” he says. “I’ve had people that are into Monte Carlos call me and ask me if I still have it.

“I want to keep it so my kids can enjoy it. They gave up a lot so that I could enjoy my toys. We didn’t go on big vacations every year and do a lot of other things like that … You have those little Tinker Toys that you play with when you are a kid. Well, I never got to take them with me when I left home. They went on to the next kid. These are my toys, and when I’m done with them they can go on to my kids.”

Show us your wheels!

If you’ve got an old car you love, we want to hear about it. Email us at oldcars@krause.com

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