Derek Turner Demonstrates Next-Generation Cool with a G-Body ’80 Monte Carlo
The era you grew up in has a significant effect on the style and era of cars you like. Many of us can trace our automotive interests back to our first high-school car, which was often a 10-to-15-year-old ride. A guy in high school in the mid-’50s might have had a ’40 Ford to start with, for example. For someone in the early-’80s, it might have been a ’68 Chevelle.
For Derek Turner, that definitive first car was an ’83 Monte Carlo, which he drove to high school in Lincoln, Nebraska in the late-’90s. As the last of the full-frame, mid-size, rear-wheel-drive GM cars, ’78-’88 G-bodies had a lot going for them, even if relatively few of them (like mid-’80s Buick Grand Nationals and Monte Carlo Super Sports) were marketed as performance cars. You could say they have good bones, which has earned them a small-but-loyal enthusiast following.
Derek has always been partial to the ’78-’80 Monte Carlos, which carried over the distinctive, sweeping fender and quarter panel character lines from the model’s previous generation. An acquaintance owned this ’80 Monte and had used it for some bracket racing at the local drag strip. Derek hounded him to sell it, to no avail. A few years later – after Derek had already started on an ’84 Monte Carlo project – the guy was finally ready to sell.
“I stopped one project [the ’84] to start on this one [the ‘80],” Derek says. Indeed, he dove into it right away after the purchase. “I drove it around the block, pulled it in the garage, did a huge burnout, then tore it down from there,” Derek says.
He did it right, too, pulling the body off the chassis and having the frame media blasted and powder coated. It was rebuilt using tubular upper and lower front controls arms from UMI, QA1 adjustable coil-overs, plus sway bars and rear trailing arms from UMI. Wilwood front and rear brakes improved stopping, while a Posi rearend from a mid-’80s Monte Carlo SS was swapped in for better strength and traction.
Derek already had an engine built, a ’70s-era 350ci small block with a mild cam, March Performance pulleys, and Speedway Motors headers. It was originally assembled more than a decade ago with an older EFI setup that left Derek stranded last year after the Goodguys Heartland Nationals in Des Moines. He has since upgraded to a FiTech setup that has the car running strong. A 700R4 transmission keeps things simple.
Like many Midwest cars, the Monte Carlo required some rust repair, including a full passenger-side quarter panel, a half quarter on the driver’s side, some floor patches, and repairs to the bottoms of the doors. Derek also shaved the emblems and moldings, built a smooth firewall and inner fenders, and incorporated flush-fit door handles from a 2005 Monte Carlo. Fiberglass racing bumpers from VFN replaced the clunky steel safety bumpers and have been cut and reshaped to fit flush and look clean.
After doing most of the bodywork himself, Derek turned the car over to his friend Ben at No Coast Custom and Rod Shop to apply the House of Kolor Galaxy Gray finish. He loves the results. “Everything just flows,” Derek says. “The way the sun shines on the paint is just awesome with those body lines.”
If you can’t tell by now, Derek is s stickler for detail, and he lucked out on some of final body pieces. “I found an expired eBay ad for an NOS Monte Carlo grille,” Derek says. The ad just happened to have a phone number, and the seller just happened to have a full complement of NOS exterior pieces – taillights, headlight surrounds, and grille. It was a great score that helped Derek complete the exterior with fresh parts.
You might have also noticed the wheels. Inspired by original Monte Carlo hubcaps, the 20×8.5-inch aluminum rollers were modeled by Norberg Designs, with centers machined by Atomic Machine and hoops chrome plated by Ogden Chrome. The center emblems are off a 2005 Monte Carlo.
Derek’s quest for an interior that was comfortable, modern, but OEM-appearing led him to use 2005 Monte Carlo seats with the headrests deleted and fresh black vinyl upholstery stitched by McVicker’s Upholstery. The console and dash came from a 2006-2012 Impala. “That dash just has the right lines to go with the exterior,” Derek says, though it had to be narrowed to fit. Crosslink Coatings hydrodipped the woodgrained dash and console pieces for a dark finish, and Derek used the steering column and wheel from the same Impala as the dash. “I figured out how to wire the turn signal switch and all that stuff,” he says. “It was quite a chore.”
Other interior details included a Vintage Air system, Alpine stereo, Lokar shifter, and Dakota Digital gauges in the Impala instrument cluster. Despite coming from various sources, it all looks well-integrated.
A six-year project, Derek finished the ‘80 Monte Carlo last year and debuted it at the Omaha World of Wheels “I could finally step back and look at my work and appreciate it,” he says.
The car has been appreciated by many people at events Derek has attended since then. As for Derek, he really appreciates driving it. “I love taking the thing on the road,” he says. “Everybody told me I wasn’t going to drive it, so I’ve got to prove them wrong.”
Photos by Jason Lubken