Monday, November 18, 2013

How did I find my red '78 Monza spyder??

It was a random Wednesday afternoon.   I knew the latest "Swap-Sheet"
 would be out, so I went to a news stand to find one..

The swap-sheet was a local sell-your-stuff paper, long before "craigslist".

So as usual I scan for the Sunbird and Monza listing's first.

Sunbirds being a little more plentiful than Monza's at that time. But over all the listings for h body's were becoming rare....

It was all for entertainment anyways because I didn't have more than $40 bucks to my name at the time.

Let's see it was June, 1995..  I was 23..  I think I had a sub shop job and was also delivering pizza's at the time.

So strolling through the paper I find no Sunbird's.  But in the Chevy section, there's a Monza. and again, in the for-part's section...  another Monza...

Both ad's are intriguing enough to warrant a phone call and even a tire-kick look.

I responded to the ad in the for sale section first..   Because this one sounded promising, and maybe I could beg or borrow the $1300 asking price..

The ad read something about a Silver '78 V8 4 speed,  from down south. Needs some work.

So I went to look at it.  Not bad.  Was cool to see another monza around..

It had faded grey paint, was an original v6, so the V8 was a swap. The exhaust was pretty much home made.  The car had solid floor's, body and door's, which was better than any local monza, I'd found outside of the MadMax one I was driving.. Except for the the drivers side door striker had which been rewelded on.
Not a pretty weld.

 The car also drove around the block fine, but. I knew it would need everything to be nice...It was a little loud and clunky, and I didn't have the money or time for another project, so I left there, 'thinking' about it.
Maybe / maybe not...  and there was still one more to look at...

But it was a "part's car" so I didn't have any hope that it would be anything I would want..

The AD was short and almost hidden in between the other listing's. It read something like...  "78 monza spider for parts/ partially disassembled" $950.

In my mind's eye...what I imagined was an overpriced ($950 for a parts car?) rusted out light blue(my least fav color) pile of crap someone had. Someone who knew what it was, and thought a whole bunch of used stuff would be worth a mint because it was a real spyder at one time.

I made a phone call,  and arranged a time to go look at it.  The car wasn't more than 10 miles away from where I lived...

As I drove up to the address...  A nice house with a typical rural house driveway. A few cars parked in it.

I didn't see anything resembling a spyder at first.. but as I rounded into the driveway... I could see a car cover over a car being swallowed by a giant Pine tree next to the driveway. From under the branches you could make out the silhouette of a monza.   I could see why I'd never seen this car before.

Story was...The car had been in the garage for 2 years disassembled and had been out in the driveway under the tree for the last 2 years. An MG project had taken it's place in the garage.

The owner needed to seal the driveway that summer, and decided to sell.

So there it sat.  Met the owner in the driveway. A really cool gentelman, later found out well known in the local racing scene.

 I lean over and grab the cover and lift it, right at the rear quarter panel to expose what I expected to see...a rusted out rear axle trailing arm attachment area....

And right here is a moment that changed my future... I lifted the cover and with the first corner right in front of the passenger side rear tire..saw  Smooth red paint...and not a spec of rust..  Ok... A little more lift and a good door corner!... no way... a little more and something catches my eye...   There's something Black?  ..oh....stripes...   Stripes?   lift to the right and sure enough, there's the Spyder script.

A quick check of the back area reveals the rear spoiler. Rear quarter looking rustfree. the Paint looking like it could shine up with a wash and a wax.. Original Rally Rim with good trim ring and center cap, looking original with some aging BF goodrich white letter tires that might still have some miles left on them, always a plus..  ahh ha!..C pillar must be rusty right?  That was common on southern coastal cars..but Nope all intact and ready to shine up.

Ok take a breath, try not to look shocked or surprised right?   There has to be a let down Somewhere!... I lift the cover enough to get a peek of the interior, not knowing what to expect, but I knew what sun faded ripped and molded interiors were typical in older cars..

I knew to look right at the drivers side seat bolster for the classic wear and tear... and I was shocked, as my eyes raced from place to place all I saw was the cleanest looking tan interior I'd seen since my parents Sunbird was new...  At this point I was in full shock I think.  How to go from here??

I not only have to have this car, I CANT let it slip away!  It's like a wave of wonder, disbelief and fear of it being the one that got away.. And there was still more to come..

Lifting the cover towards the front revealed the reason this car was as it was...   Suddenly there was no fender..  no wheel, no ... nothing, just the front frame rails...even the paint was missing in the wheel well's.

The front end was propped up on 4 x 4's.. So right there's a problem towing the car home.

Owner explains dis assembly was for an SCCA racer project and not due to an accident or anything. He had all the original parts. As best as he knew there wasn't any frame rot.

The clincher was the final lift of the cover after I asked about the hood...he motioned to lift the cover up more and there it sat spyder decal intact and looking as good as it does today.

It was unbelievable.

The guy was soooooo nice.

I let the guy know how interested I was in the car... and he assured me I was the first to call and look at it. but he'd had some other calls.

I asked if it would be possible for him to hold the car for a week, if I gave the $20 I had on me?

He said welll..ok..

And a thanked him and assured him I'd be back by Friday with the money..

Then I was on my way... mesmerized, yet worried sick.. my mind racing...

Oh my I'm getting a mint spyder?? what are my plans??  No wait!!! don't think that you'll jinx it you don't really know if that thing will be yours yet!!!!

What if someone else calls?? what if someone offers big bucks?  what if he sells it under my nose?
Anxiety..  Wonder... wow a red spyder!

But wait, my next paycheck wont be enough??  will he hold it?  can I sell something? Do something? will someone let me borrow it?

I must have been stewing for a few days....  then fortunately, came the perfect time with my dad sitting around and me getting the nerve to ask "Hey Dad"..    Well like Dad's go, he knew something had been either up or troubling me the last few days and he was glad to hear my request....

Fortunately, I had the '78 Brochure handy, which has a nice red monza spyder on the first page....

  "Dad I found THIS car.."    Dad knew about cars that you just had to have..  but wasn't about to fork over any cash.  Even if time was of the essence..

But... Dad was willing to help his son grow financially and responsibly and was willing to co-sign a bank loan..

The bank agree'd but wouldn't lend such a little I had to agree to $2500. paid back in monthly installments.

I signed,  Dad signed, and there I went off and running to secure the deal on the car.

Over the few days and sleepless night.. I had to wait, The guy didn't mind me pestering him with a few call's making sure the car was still there. And no one else had come to look at it..

Finally there came the afternoon of transferring funds, for the title to the car. DONE!! I couldn't believe it... I was the excited owner of this 1978 Monza Spyder!    I had some money to pay back, but I had the drive to work for it here...

To this day though, I don't feel totally right that I talked him down from the very reasonable $950.
I cant remember exactly think I talked 50 or 100 off.

And for good reason, the deal wasn't done sweetening!..  Ya..  i know..

So the car is mine on paper, but there's still the trouble of getting it home safely with no front suspension..

I just so happened to know a hot-rodder with a rollback..  And he said he could pick up anything, and the front suspension issue shouldn't be a problem.

The car did get onto the rollback pretty easy from there.  But there were a few issues.

First of all when I got there, the guy had everything belonging to the car laid out in the driveway...

A ton of stuff, including new in the box items he was going to use on the car!  Intake ign, carb, and even a small NOS* kit, which I thought was a fire extinguisher.. But the problem was where to put everything.
 The engine block would hang out on the deck of the roll back. there was room to lay the hood down..

But thing's got tense from here... the Rollback operater was in a hurry and started packing things into the interior of the car.  I quickly had to become a parts jocky as thing's like oily  power steering hoses were getting put on seats... Umm...  NO!!!!

I scrambled to get the parts in the car right  without any further damage...the tow guy not understanding the find I had with the interior.

But I couldn't catch everything, next thing I know there's a chain draped over the hood leaving a nice 6 or 7 inch scratch in otherwise perfect paint.

After the car was safely unloaded into my parent's driveway.... Hooray!!

I paid the guy his 90 buck's, and had a million thing's going through my mind...  as the roll back pulled away I saw that the "Fire Extinguisher" the guy gave me was still in the back area of the truck..

I didn't worry about a fire extinguisher and I went on my way loading parts out of the car and getting things set up in the garage.

It wasn't until days later going through stuff that I found the box and paperwork for an NOS cannister, that should have been somewhere.... Oh yeah, that fire extinguisher that the rollback guy made off with!

There was too much else going on, so I let it go...

Here's really the only picture I took of it (that came out)  as I was re-assembling it.
Wheel well's were immediately cleaned and primed...front suspension was re-attached to get it rollable.

With the remainder of the loan, I had the original engine rebuilt..

It came with a set of new flat-top pistons for a 305.  The original heads needed re-assembly, so I went with a set of heads I found in the paper.  I was pleased to find that they were actually a bit better than the originals these were from a 305 HO motor from an 84 monte carlo. That motor also used flat top pistons so these gave me a nice compression ratio. Larger valves, and a little better airflow than the stockers.

After getting the engine installed, I installed everything else over the next few days, and soon enough I had a real monza spyder in really good shape... except the paint..

There was a blueish haze over alot of it, and the front clip had been stored outside so it had a chalky white have over it.

I thought it might be a goner, but I went to a professional detail shop and bought a shelf full of products and borrowed an electric buffer.  As you can see all these years later, they worked pretty good.

I don't think the car would have comeback this good if it was the car's factory original paint.

What??? This one doesn't have it's factory original paint??   Was it really then a factory Spyder ?

Along with all the stuff I got with the car, there was a nice paper trail of receipts that came with it.

I could see the car was well maintained and the mileage corresponded..

Digging through the receipt's I was first kind of bummed to discover the car had gone into a body shop in 1986 for a 'freshening up' according to the seller.

The car was repainted a treated to some of the last available NOS decal sets available in the country at that time.

That was all well and good, I mean the car looks excellent...but of course some of the car's originality was now gone..  But the biggest worry was that the car was simply remade as a spyder.

But...I would soon dig a few original buildsheets out of the interior and find out for certain the car did indeed receive the spyder  options Z01 and Z02..

And as far as I can tell the decals were installed in just the right spots however... After looking closely I can see that the back end of my hood spyder decal ends up about 1/4 to the passenger side. Oh well.

And that's about where this story closes.  Hope you enjoyed..

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