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Low-Mile Garage Find: 1986 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS

Models once considered genuine muscle cars were finding the going tough by the mid-1980s. The double whammy of tighter emission and safety regulations had sapped engine power while adding weight. As manufacturers delved into the black arts of fuel injection and electronic engine management, times were about to change. However, cars like this 1986 Monte Carlo SS demonstrated that they still aspired to meet the high-performance requirements of potential buyers. This beauty has been hidden away since the turn of the century, but it has emerged in anticipation of finding a new home. It presents as you might expect for a genuine two-owner survivor of this vintage, although lifting its appearance to a higher level would be rewarding. The SS is listed here on eBay out of Upstate New York. A big thank you to Barn Finder Mitchell G. for spotting this one!

Chevrolet introduced its Fourth Generation Monte Carlo range in 1981, with the model remaining on sale until 1988. Its significance can not be understated, as it was the last rear-wheel-drive vehicle to carry the Monte Carlo name. This car recently emerged from decades hidden in a carport, and inspecting the supplied photos confirms it is as solid as the day it rolled off the line. The exterior is clean, while the underside shots reveal nothing beyond surface corrosion. Treating this before it deteriorates would be wise, but it is a task the new owner could tackle during the cold winter months. The Code 41 Black paint shines well for a survivor, although a close inspection reveals the chips and marks associated with regular use. There are no significant problems, and the panels look pretty straight. The buyer could preserve it untouched but might find the prospect of a cosmetic restoration irresistible. This would be a straightforward undertaking, and with complete decal and graphic kits retailing for approximately $300, it shouldn’t be expensive. The plastic and glass are in good order, and I can’t spot any physical damage on the distinctive alloy wheels.

High-horsepower engines must have felt like a distant memory in the early 1980s, but companies like Chevrolet began clawing back lost ground as the decade progressed. A standard 1986 Monte Carlo produced 150hp from its 305ci V8, but the SS pushed that figure to 180hp. No manual transmission option was available, although the four-speed 200-4R automatic did a decent job feeding those ponies to the rear wheels. The stopwatch told the story because while a standard Monte Carlo took 17.7 seconds to cover the ¼-mile, the SS completed the journey in 16.3 seconds. The story was no different when the subject turned to top speed, with the SS besting its sibling by nearly 10mph. The seller indicates that this two-owner classic spent decades idle, but they recently revived it. The process included fitting new tires and brakes. They don’t expressly state it, but it appears to be a turnkey proposition. I usually view claims of low odometer readings cautiously, but considering the car’s history, the reading of 61,000 genuine miles is plausible.

It is safe to assume that every reader has seen a classic from the 1980s with its interior looking battered, baked, and sad. That fate hasn’t befallen this SS, with the only significant fault being the warped console lid. However, with a new lid and hinge available for around $110, addressing the issue is hardly likely to bankrupt the new owner. The upholstered surfaces look excellent, with no wear or physical damage. The story is the same with the carpet, while the plastic components, dash, and pad are free from deterioration. There are no aftermarket additions or modifications, making it refreshing to see the original AM/FM radio/cassette unit intact. Other optional appointments include air conditioning, power windows, cruise control, and a tilt wheel.

Cars from The Malaise Era spent decades in the wilderness as potential buyers ignored them in favor of earlier or later models offering better performance. However, times have changed, and a new generation of enthusiasts has jumped onto the nostalgia bandwagon and view them as an affordable access point into the world of classic car ownership. That has seen the values of cars like this 1986 Monte Carlo SS climb faster than the market average. This Chevy’s new owner could perform a straightforward restoration, returning it to its former glory. Alternatively, they could tread the preservation path, retaining it as a genuine survivor. Both approaches are valid, but which would you choose?


  1. Zen

    I had one of these, and it ain’t worth $15,000. They’re made out of crap, and underpowered. Good luck to the new owner, he will need it.

    Like 11
  2. Dave

    25 years ago a friend of mine had one that he drove everywhere. He took it from here in Connecticut to Arizona one time and said he had to put towels on the underside of the T-Tops to ward off the mid day heat. He swapped in a 350 with a rebuilt 200-4R and wondered why the transmission kept breaking when he did burnouts. They are not made out of crap, but they are underpowered. This is still a good looking car and is ultimately worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay.

    Like 22
    • John E Alm

      I Have One Better , My Boss Owned A Garage In E.HTFD , Bought A From Dorwin Cheverolet 1987 Montie SS Fully Loaded , He Drove It 70 Miles , We Brought It Into Shop We Pulled The Motor And Sole Motor To Customer With A Corvette W/ Bad Motor And Installed A Orginal ZL-1 All Alumnium Nascar Car Motor With The Upgraded 200-4R Transmission With Manual Shift Transmisson , Line Lock & 150Hp Nitrious Kit , Car Was Featured Popular Hot Rodding And Popular hot rodding Magazine

      Like 0
  3. Mike Norris

    It’s concerning that there is rust on the top edge of the odometer, as well as the trip odometer reset button shaft. Looks like it’s been in a real humid area.

    Like 2
  4. Daleone3

    For $15k, how about blowing the leaves out of the cowl or maybe douching the engine…..may be low mileage but it was definitely USED. I would be curious when the last time the oil was changed, looks like one of those cars with crude in the oil pan-

    Like 7
  5. mike david stangler


    Like 10
    • Zen

      I wrote a response below.

      Like 0
    • Victor

      I had a 1987 burgundy one. Brand new. It was a pile of crap. Transmission trouble twice. Seat rail broke. Paint quality was terrible. T tops would not stop leaking. Traded it in after 8 months and 6,200 miles and bought a grand national.

      Like 4
      • Bill Bolebruch

        Have mine since 88…no issues.

        Like 1
  6. Robert Levins

    180hp works for me. That’s PRETTY GOOD for a 1986 Monte Carlo ! I think that this car IS WORTH “around “ $15,000.00 but not too much more. These Monte Carlos are DEFINITELY collectors cars! 180hp will give it “decent” performance and giving you an AWESOME looking car. Perfect for cruising around and having a LOT of LOOKS coming your way! Yeah – these aren’t NASCAR ready and yet do you really want to race it? I’ll take it just the way it is – after all you can only go so fast around town anyway ……. Great article !

    Like 10
    • Brian W

      These were not sports cars despite their time at NASCAR. Actual performance buyers bought Camaros and Firebirds. Appreciate it for what it is – Chevrolet’s last ride as a personal luxury rear drive sporty coupe. Even this car’s primary rival the Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar would only outlive these vehicles another ten years before a brief final run as a Thunderbird convertible from 2002 to 2005.

      Like 1
  7. James Mullis

    We have one in the family a 84 which my parents gave to my son when he started driving and it is a great car to own They are very sharp cars

    Like 8
  8. Zen

    It is made out of crap, GM cut quality to the bone in those years. The 200R4 was weak, the tilt steering column came loose and had to be taken apart to tighten screws every so often, the intake manifold gasket needed to be replaced after a short time, driver’s seat mounting brackets broke on me a couple of times, and no I ain’t THAT heavy, it used to eat blower relays so that you couldn’t put the A/C or heat or defrost on high, and it was underpowered until I replaced the timing chain with a chain for an older small block Chevy, then it really had some power, but by then I was sick of it and sold it. I had it for several years, bought it in 1991 with 20k miles on it.

    Like 5
  9. mike david stangler

    hi everyone i have 2004 montecarlo ss with only 95,000 miles on it i still like the car and would like to get it fixed up. any one know any grants or help to get my car fixed up it has been in minnesota since new it needs some repairs i had a turn of bad luck a while back trying to get back hope everyone has a great day any help would be greatly appreciated thank you very much

    Like 2
  10. C Force

    Another plastic mailaise era car going for way too much money.The 200r4 tranny is a piece of $#@%! and would serve a better purpose as a boat anchor.Wouldn’t give more than $2500.would have to yank out the sorry drivetrain and put in a 383 stroker motor and a TH350 trans w/reverse manual valve body.I saw em’ run at the 1/4 mile in the 80s,mid 16s at best.They are just a case of “all go no show”

    Like 4
  11. FrankD Member

    These are nice to look at. They were dogs to drive if there was ever a candidate for a LS swap this it.

    Like 5
  12. Dan

    They are nice to cruise around with…. that’s about it. The people who bought these were doing crate motor engine swaps about a year after buying them. The Grand Nationals and 5.0 Mustangs used to leave these things sitting at the the lights. This would be okay if you were looking for something to fix up and cruise around in but the quality was poor, the paint was poor, and it was not quick. If I were gong to spend $15k, I could think of other cars from this time period that would be a better choice. I still see 5,0 Mustangs around this money. By comparison, they were quicker and more reliable. You could really make them go fast with just a few Mods. Come to think of it, the Dodge Omni GLH turbo was faster too. Corporate Leaders at GM really ruined this car. It should have come through with a strong 350, better transmission, and a set of gears in the rear end. Instead, GM gave us none of it. It could have been so much better. On race nights, the SS stood for “Super Slow. “All show and no go” is the correct way to describe it. Pass on it and take this money and restore something better. In the end you will probably have more fun, less headaches, and see a better return on your money.

    Like 3
    • Roy New

      My dad bought his in 1985 come with 3.73 gear ratio by the way I still have it

      Like 0
  13. Stan

    Search….. Mexican 🇲🇽 MonteCarlo SS

    Like 1
  14. Harry 1

    It was Chevy’s way to compete with the Buick Regal Grand Sport. Had the looks but never had the power or scat ability. 15g is⁷ a bit much no matter the condition. Just an overpriced Monte Carlo.

    Like 2
  15. Desert Yeti

    I would daily this in a heartbeat. Always loved the lines and don’t need to be the fastest guy on the street anymore.

    Although it’s true that an LS swap might be too tempting to pass up. Turbo LS this thing without cutting the hood and go hunting those same 5.0s and GNs that think they’ve got an easy win.

    Like 1
  16. Mr C.

    A older friend of mine sold his (85-86?) a year ago for $27K. It was purchased new by him and only had about 5,000 miles on it. It was the burgundy color SS. It was probably one of the lowest mileage on the planet. He got what he wanted. No haggling. My brother in law has a 86 White one with about 30K miles on it. Some minor door dings from his kids bikes. He was the second owner and bought it with 15K miles when it was 2 years old. They were slow but could burn a little rubber. Definitely a older guy car. I used to store his car for him in the winter. The damn clock would kill the battery in a month or two!😂

    Like 1
  17. Zen

    I forgot about the poor paint quality. Mine was burgundy, and it eventually had the notorious alligator cracking all over the hood and roof. If I waxed it, all the cracks had white wax in them. The only time it looked decent was if I could find the colored wax for badly faded paint.

    Like 1
  18. Derek D Trieglaff

    As well as a nice 5.3l LS swap sounds, it would be useless without swapping in a 4L80e trans and a proper posi 10 bolt. But regardless, I think that as a daily I wouldn’t do the turbo 5.3l. I think a nice LS3 N/A would be the best bet. Still 400 HP but, you can leave it stock or put in that chop stick and get a nice lumpy idle and still have really good factory reliability. LS3 with simple bolt ons would make this a killer street cruiser and it wouldn’t lack any kind of power. It’s at least 5× the power of stock. So, you wouldn’t want much more than that on stock underpinnings and factory squishy bushings.

    Like 1
  19. Cyrus Echols

    Always thought these looked pretty sharp, especially with a better stance,ride height and bigger tires. Perfect to hotrod I think. Choices of Chevy small blocks, suspension, brakes and transmission and rear ends is almost limitless .$15k ? Gotta want it bad . It’s worth what someone is willing to spend. It looks better than most. Hey Zen, how’d a timing chain from an older engine make more power? I for one am stumped…

    Like 0

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