ANDOVER Dan Gentry has always been a bow-tie kind of guy. He still has the ’62 Chevy 327 Impala SS in his garage that he bought for $500 back in high school, back in 1970.
"It was in our wedding in ’74 … it’s got a couple hundred thousand miles on it and it is still a daily driver," he said.
So it wasn’t exactly out of character when he got the urge to own a big block Monte Carlo.
A friend of his in high school at Leavenworth had used and abused plenty of Monte Carlos brought home by his father, a salesman at a local dealership.
"He would run the bejeebers out of them. I thought, `If I had one of those, I wouldn’t treat it that way,’ " Gentry said.
So he was on the prowl for one, more specifically a 454 cubic-inch SS version.
"I didn’t even know the SS existed, until my wife (Linden) got me a book for Christmas one year," he said. “Within days, I spotted one for sale in The Eagle classifieds. It was about a 20-footer. It had some rust around the wheel wells.
"It’s a bench seat, 454 rated at 365 horsepower, 400 automatic, power windows, power seats and locks, rear defroster, kind of an oddball. It was one of only 1,919 SS 454s built that year (1971 model)," he said.
With the help of some friends, he immediately set out to restore the car, originally sold by Quality Chevrolet, to its former glory. It helped more than a little that one of those friends was Ron Bell, who owned Maaco Auto Paint & Bodyworks, where Gentry was working at the time, in the mid-1980s.
"Ron did the majority of body work in his garage and repainted it at Maaco," Gentry said. "It was a frame-off restoration."
The floor pans were solid and Gentry was lucky enough to find a new pair of front fenders, still in the GM wrappers, a new rear bumper and a left rear quarter panel for his Monte.
"Back then you couldn’t find parts … they were making nothing for Montes,” he said. “You could get a lot for Chevelles, though."
The car was shot with fresh Cranberry Red paint, accented by a new black vinyl top installed by Stardust Upholstery, which also handled reupholstering the front and rear bench seats in factory-style black cloth.
Gentry, with the help of Kevin Corkins, pulled the big block V-8 and hauled it to Means Motors, where it was rebuilt; the Turbo 400 transmission was overhauled by John Newman of the Tranny Shop. Kevin Kaiser built the dual Flowmaster exhaust system for the car, which was finished in time for the 1991 show season.
That was about the time his second ’71 Monte Carlo popped up on his radar screen, again in an Eagle classified ad. "It showed up in the paper listed as a 4-speed and that caught my eye," Gentry said.
"It was in a horse shed in Burton and everything was stripped out of it. It was in pretty rough shape. The guy had no title for it, so I told him if he ever found it, call me. Six months later, he called me."
Both the transmission and the shifter were missing, though. "It had a really good, straight body and that was about it," said Gentry, who immediately set to work tearing the second Monte Carlo apart to rebuild.
"I did a ton of research." By then, he said, "You could darn near buy every part on the car." As fate would have it, a friend wrecked a ’72 Monte Carlo, which became the parts car for Gentry’s restoration project.
Rick Bell of Sedgwick rebuilt the 402 cubic inch V-8, adding a mild cam to the factory 300 horsepower setup. The engine was more commonly referred to as a 396, said Gentry, who explained that Chevy fudged a bit on the actual displacement in an effort to avoid higher insurance rates.
Bo Shoemaker helped out with a lot of the mechanical chores on the second restoration. A Muncie 4-speed transmission was located and rebuilt, again by the Tranny Shop, and Kevin Kaiser did his thing on the Flowmaster exhaust setup.
The tan bucket cloth seats and buckskin vinyl top are also the handiwork of Stardust Upholstery. And once again, the body and paintwork were handled by Ron Bell at Maaco, who applied the Burnt Orange color to the sheet metal, blasted clean and smooth by Terry Scroggin.
Both Montes now ride on factory-style Rally wheels and 215/ 75R/ 15 tires, Michelins on the red car, Matrix on the orange.
The second restoration took nearly three years to complete.
"It’s really fun to get them next to each other at a show," Gentry said. "People can’t believe how different they are from each other.
"The orange car is more like a Chevelle because of the 4-speed,” said the proud owner. “The other one is more like other Monte Carlos. They’re just two different animals … but they’re both just brutes.”