Styling production cars so that they deliver better aerodynamics on the racetrack is nothing new. That’s the reason the 1969 Dodge Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Superbird have their shovel-nose snouts. Ford also aero-upped the 1969 Torino and Cyclones, for NASCAR speedways. The slant-nose Chevy Chevelle-based Lagunas of the mid-1970s also provided a slippier shape on the track.
Production cars remained pretty brick-like in appearance until the introduction of the 1983 Ford Thunderbird, which ushered in the modern age of aerodynamically influenced styling that is largely still with us today. It was a sleek car that cut through the wind like a bullet, pushing drivers like Bill Elliott to the front of the NASCAR field. In contrast, GM’s intermediate coupes cut through the atmosphere like the box the bullets came in.
Chevrolet quickly responded to the “aero” T-birds with a sloped fascia on the blunt nose of the Monte Carlo. It was the inception of the Monte Carlo SS production model, which debuted in 1983. The sleek styling helped a bit on the racetrack, but launched a very popular street car that has the makings of one of the few true collector cars from the 1980s. With only 180 horsepower on tap from a 305-cubic-inch engine, the Monte Carlo SS would never challenge an LS6-powered 1970 Chevelle SS for street supremacy, but the inherent tug from the small-block V-8 was nonetheless satisfying.
While the styling of the Monte Carlo SS was a hit, it was still missing something on the racetrack. The sharp, vertical cutoff behind the C-pillar and long rear deck caused airflow turbulence at high speed, including unwanted lift. It just wasn’t competitive with the T-bird. With the Monte Carlo’s G-body platform not scheduled for replacement for a few years, engineers were left with few options. Their answer came in the form of a sloping, fastback-style rear window that effectively replaced the rear decklid, giving the car greater stability and about a five-mph boost in top speed.
Of course, to make the car legal with NASCAR, a number of production models were required; and with that, the Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe was born. The car’s development was completed in 1986, with a scant 200 production examples built that year. The production run in 1987 was 6,052, for a grand total of 6,252. Considering that more than 41,000 examples of the standard SS were made in 1986, and more than 33,000 “notchback” cars were built in 1987, the Aerocoupe is a comparatively rare model.
All 1986 Aerocoupes started life as standard SS coupes and were sent to Brighton, Michigan-based Cars and Concepts for conversion. That essentially meant removing the decklid and original rear window and slicing out metal between the openings. The new glass section, reinforcing brackets, and a truncated decklid were installed. The 1987 cars were built on the regular production line in Pontiac, Michigan. Interestingly, although similar modifications were performed for the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2, the rear windows and decklids are different and not interchangeable. All 1986 examples were white with a burgundy interior, while the 1987 models were offered in four exterior colors. Subtle changes to the rear window trim is the biggest differentiator between the model years.
The rarity and uniqueness of the Aerocoupe has helped preserve probably a greater percentage of the build than the standard 1986 and 1987 SS models. Nonetheless, many have been personalized and modified. It’s also common to find re-done paint jobs on even lower-mileage cars, as the factory paint was notoriously prone to peeling and fading. When inspecting a candidate car–regardless of the odometer reading–it’s important to ask whether the paint is original.
Although some buyers will try to persuade you that their 350 engine swap makes the car more powerful and, therefore, more desirable, the collector status of an Aerocoupe lies in its originality. Insist on it.
Special thanks to Chris Bower of Pewamo, MI for letting us photograph his 8,000-mile 1987 Aerocoupe.
Number Built – 200 (1986), 6,052 (1987)
Construction – Body-on-frame
Engine – 305 cubic-inch V-8
Power/Torque –180 horsepower, 225 lb-ft torque
Transmission – GM Hydra-Matic 200-4R four-speed overdrive automatic
Suspension front – Independent, with unequal-length control arms, coil springs
Suspension rear – Live axle with coil springs, four trailing links
Brakes – front disc, rear drum
Length/width/height – 200.4/72.3/54.7 inches
Wheelbase – 108 inches
Weight – 3,400 pounds
0-60/quarter mile – 9.0 seconds, 16.8 seconds at 82 mph (Car and Driver, August 1986)
Top speed – 118 mph
MPG – 17 - 25 mpg
Distinctive styling with true NASCAR legacy
Low production bolsters value
Tried and true small-block engine
General mechanical replacement parts are plentiful and inexpensive
The 305 V-8 feels a lot more powerful than it really is
Blue smoke at start-up indicates common valve stem seal problem
Prone to wear, particularly the exterior finish and seats
Not many SS-specific restoration parts available
Remanufactured alternator $77.89*
Brake discs and pads $53.99 (front rotor), $35.89 (rear drum); $36.79 (front pads), $24.79 (rear shoes)*
Remanufactured A/C compressor $223.79*
OE-style body graphics kit $299.99**
*Based on information from rockauto.com
**Based on information from phoenixgraphix.com
WHAT TO PAY
1986-87 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe
MSRP – $14,652
Low – $5,875
Average – $7,775
High – $14,200
*Based on prices from the Classic Cars and Parts Price Guide, fueled by NADA and available wherever Corvette & Chevy magazines are sold.
Insurance cost is $192/year for a $7,775 1987 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com
WHEN TO BUY
The popularity of the Monte Carlo SS and, in particular, the Aerocoupe version, has kept prices stubbornly high for quite some time. In fact, there hasn’t been significant movement up or down in years. The Aerocoupes likely aren’t going to decline in value, but they probably won’t see a tremendous surge in the near future. Take your time to find the best car you can afford, because you probably won’t see a big change in prices soon.