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Full Monte – 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

16 June 2023

Todd Holland wasn’t messing around with this one. From rust to riches in six months, his ’71 Monte Carlo gets the full monty

Words: Rixsta Sammons Photos: Cam Leggett

Although Stratford, New Zealand, with a population just shy of 10,000, isn’t exactly known as the custom car capital of the country, that hasn’t stopped this month’s feature car owner, Todd Holland, from building a thriving custom car and automotive repair business in the town.

The story of how Todd came to be in possession of his Monte Carlo starts with his company working alongside a company called Treo Motors Ltd, which imports a bunch of American classics with the intention to sell, and any that get flagged at the border for rust or structural repairs go to to Todd at RE Automotive for the work to be carried out. When Treo Motors did another haul of cars from the States, a few were flagged at the border — the Monte Carlo included — and that saw Todd with an abundance of work to get them back in shape and fit for the roads of New Zealand.

Working alongside Terry Price, the area certifier, it became time to look at the structural rust repairs that were flagged on the Monte Carlo. Todd and Terry both agreed that to carry out the best repair possible, the body would need to be removed. Because this was a larger job than that required with the other classics that had come through Todd’s shop, both Todd and Treo Motors Ltd agreed that the Monte Carlo would camp out in the back of the shop until time permitted finishing the large job, while Todd and his team continued with the other cars that Treo Motors had brought in for repairs.

With Todd’s interest in and recent completion of a Cadillac DeVille low rider, the thought of starting yet another project of this type naturally crossed his mind. Every night when Todd closed the roller door to his garage workshop, he saw the Monte sitting there, and he’d think, It could be a cool car with some custom touches. Due to the fact that the 1971 Monte Carlo wasn’t exactly the most sought-after model, and due to the fact that Todd had never seen a modified, custom, or even a low rider version of one, the wheels began turning, and it wasn’t long before he was calling Treo Motors Ltd to negotiate a purchase. 

Treo Motors came through with the right numbers for Todd to snatch it up and make it his to put his custom touches on. Now in possession of an ugly ’71 Monte Carlo that was in dire need of a makeover, Todd and his crew devised a strategy to transform it so that it would be competitive at the next NZ Lowrider Nationals event. If the vehicle was ever going to be certified and made road legal, as was previously stated, a body-off structural rust repair job was the first thing that needed to be done.

Quick work was made of separating the body from the chassis and getting the chassis stripped right down to its bare bones before shifting it into the sandblasting bay to get a shot blast of media to get it back to a workable state. Moving it into the fabrication bay with the grinders and welders, Todd and his crew put in countless hours to get the chassis strengthened and rust free. 

You may be sitting there wondering, “What’s the need to strengthen it?” Well, when we said Todd was entering this car into the NZ Lowrider Nationals, he wasn’t doing things by halves — he was going to go the full monty.

Gearheads have been discussing the merits of hydraulic suspension v. air suspension kits for quite some time. In terms of vehicle performance, both are excellent options. Todd didn’t care about what was practical; he cared about what looked cool, and the Monte Carlo would look and perform better with hydraulic suspension. Repositioning the front shock mounts and making other adjustments to the top control arms so that the Joker Wild Kustoms High Hitter hydraulic cylinders would fit and work properly were not beyond Todd’s capabilities.

Now that fabrication was complete, it was time to give the chassis a coat of House of Kolor Candy Gold with a sprinkling of gold flake to fit the theme and style of the car. Low riders are known for their exposed custom chassis when bouncing, and this theme and style works well with the vehicles. Fluid Coatings NZ is located at RE Automotive, so the engine components were detailed in House of Kolor Galaxy Silver and hydro dipped in Gucci graphics to match the theme. Bushes, brakes, and trailing arms were also replaced for new ones that were imported from the US, which finished up the work on the chassis for a short time. 

Next on the list was to slap the ugly off the body, so it was into the body shop next to be stripped and patched up with new sheet metal in the rusted sections, sanded back, and have a foundation of primer applied. While all this was going on, Todd was thinking about the colour scheme of the car, and how to add a little boujee to it. With the Monte Carlo painted in a base coat of Jett black as a ground coat before Todd could come up with the final theme for the car, the body was reunited with the chassis for the first time since being removed — the bling was all starting to come together.

Now able to start mounting the hydraulic cylinders and run all the lines to each corner, a carry tray was also fabricated to mount in the boot to take care of the 48V, which consist of four batteries and spare-wheel mount. This gave Todd enough time to come up with the master plan for the paint scheme, and then back into the booth the complete body and chassis went. 

Over the next few weeks, Todd laid out a candy silver and gold pinstripe design down the sides with a Mexican-style lace roof pattern. Following the countless hours spent laying down the multi colours, the car next saw its first coat of clear coat to lock it all down. Although it looked rather impressive, the car was brought back out and sanded down again before receiving a flow coat of clear again to give it some extra depth and that dripping-wet look — and as you can tell from the images, it certainly does! 

As the Monte Carlo was shaping up nicely, it was moved on to its second-to-last restoration stop, where the body panels were rehung, trims were replaced, and it was given a new exhaust, all of which made sense given that the car had been sitting on the hoist and needed one anyway. 

All that was left to do after installing a new set of thematic OG wire 13-inch 72 cross-lace wheels was to fire it up, take it for a spin, and double-check that everything was in working order. Fortunately, that was no problem at all; Todd and the rest of the crew at RE Automotive have been in the custom car business for quite some time and are known throughout the industry for consistently producing high-quality rides. It’s obvious that Todd wasn’t messing around with this build, as it only took six months from start to finish. Also, without a doubt, Todd has successfully made a ’71 Monte Carlo look bitchin’. Done and dusted in plenty of time for the Lowrider Nationals, which this year will be held at the Glowbox Arena & Events Centre in Claudelands — if you’re reading this, it already did (28 January). We don’t know what the rest of the low rider culture will think, but it’s popular with us and gets our vote.

This article originally appeared in NZV8 issue 214