1200hp twin-turbo Chev Monza

Sam Stornello's 1200hp street-and-strip Monza is an import to be reckoned with


It’s not often we feature two Chevy Monzas in the same year, but just like Falbo Sirianni’s car from the Jan ’23 mag, Sam Stornello’s home-brewed, street-driven, eight-second missile commands attention.

First published in the September 2023 issue of Street Machine

American cars were stuck with sealed-beam headlights until 1984; most rides from this era copped a similar four-piece treatment. This front end inspired Peter Arcadipane’s Concorde show van and Mad Max-famous Monza nosecones. Profile: GM’s 1970s design language is abundant in the Monza’s profile. “If you look at the GTR-X Torana concept car, it’s got the same side window and roof shape,” Sam points out. “I reckon America used it!”

The Chevy Monza earned its place in the circuit racing world back in the 80s, doing battle in IMSA in the US and in our local Sport Sedan class. Bob Jane, Allan Moffat and even Brocky had a whirl. Like their Vega cousins, Monzas are also known to be a pretty sound platform for a cranky drag car, so when Sam got chatting to mate James Kanaris (of Kanaris Engines fame) about his next project, they found just the ticket with James’s uncle.

“About seven years ago, James called me saying his uncle was thinking of selling his Chevy Monza,” Sam recalls. “I’d had all the Australian muscle cars and I wanted something a bit different, something I wouldn’t feel guilty about cutting up.”

The right-hand-drive, SBC-powered Monza fitted all of Sam’s criteria, so he jumped on it and started concocting a new driveline. The 406ci Dart small-block in the car had been built by James Kanaris, though it was running a simple twin-carb and tunnel ram combo. “I was thinking of ProCharging it at the time, but then I started mingling with a few of the boys with turbo cars,” Sam says. “I taught myself as I went along – that’s why I’ve been so slow with it!”

The aftermarket block holds a Callies Magnum crank, Oliver rods and CP pistons, with a custom-grind solid cam working the valves in Racer Pro 13-degree CNC heads. Air comes in via a 105mm throttlebody, while 2400cc injectors supply E85, all controlled by FuelTech 600 brains. A pair of BorgWarner S400 hairdryers are packaged behind the headlights, hooked to piping and manifolds made by Sam himself. “I’d never done fab work before,” he explains. “I’m a plumber, so I’d done some pipe work, but never fabrication. I can pull that engine out and leave all the turbos and manifolds in the same location, and even though it doesn’t look like you can get to them, it’s quicker to do the plugs on it than my small-block HK!”

The turbos are regulated by a CO2 boost control set-up. “At the moment, we leave on 7psi, and within half a second as the car’s moving, it pushes boost into it,” Sam says. “It goes 7psi, then 12psi and 18psi.” A Reid-cased Powerglide and full-floater nine-inch with 3.5 gears finish off the powertrain, which has so far put down 1200rwhp on the dyno.

Like much of the post-60s American metal Down Under, finding off-the-shelf parts locally wasn’t really an option. “It fought me all the way,” Sam laughs. “Most of the things that needed to be done were custom made.”

Sam hasn’t had to do much with the Afco suspension to have the car happily running bottom 8s. “The faster it gets, the smoother it runs,” he enthuses. He also fabbed up the custom twin-system pipes himself

Some of the challenges included stuff we take for granted with factory right-hand cars, like a respectable dash. The Monza’s 80s-era conversion had turned everything under the crash pad into a plastic-welded, spliced mess. “It had something like a Celica cluster in it, and I only really had the dash pad and glovebox,” Sam says. He mocked up and fabricated a full dash structure in sheet metal, and the six-point ’cage is more of his self-taught handiwork.

“I’d had all the Australian muscle cars and I wanted something a bit different, something I wouldn’t feel guilty about cutting up.”

Factory Monza engines sit fairly low, with a shallow sump to clear the steering arms. Sam switched to a higher-capacity HQ-style sump to keep the oil pressure healthy, and binned the steering box in favour of an LC Torana rack-and-pinion. Underneath, you’ll find a three-link torque-arm rear, Afco shocks on both ends, and Wilwood discs all ’round.

“I didn’t have a lot of places to put the turbos and I had to get 90-degree elbows from Nelson Racing,” Sam says. “It was a lot of problem solving!” The pipe routing forced his hand in deleting the brake booster, but the Wilwood master happily pulls the car up sans parachute

Sam endeavoured to keep as much OEM metal as possible aside from the big reverse-cowl and self-made tubs, so the inner guards are intact and the firewall’s mostly original. “It’s still a street driver – when we did Australia Day I put some fuel in it, drove it down to Queenscliff, and drove it back home with no issues,” he says. “Once I got it on the road, everyone was asking when I was going to race it, but I didn’t really care.”

Not that Sam’s neglected the quarter-mile. “I was really going to lean on it at Jamboree in Sydney; we started ramping it in and then got pushed to the next day,” he says. When Sam finally got a run, he clocked an 8.2-second pass at 155mph. “I actually backed off because something came up on the screen,” he says. “Turns out it was just a parameter we set when I was getting used to the car, and when I came back around everyone was screaming ‘Why did you get off it?’ I’m pretty sure it would’ve been into the sevens.”

Track delays and bad weather cut Jambo short, but Sam’s philosophy of getting things right the first time means he’s not too fussed. He’s now bagged a new PB every time he’s raced the car, and with just 18psi down the throat so far, he knows a seven is just around the corner. “It’s gonna happen,” he promises. “I’ve never been in a hurry!”


Paint:PPG Blade Silver
Brand:406ci Dart small-block Chev
Induction:Wilson 105mm throttlebody, Edelbrock Super Victor manifold
ECU:FuelTech FT600
Turbos:Twin BorgWarner S400
Heads:Racer Pro 13-degree
Camshaft:Kanaris custom-grind
Crank:Callies Magnum
Oil pump:Moroso billet
Fuel system:Holley VR2, 2400cc Siemens injectors
Cooling:Aussie Desert Cooler radiator, twin Spal thermo fans
Exhaust:Custom turbo manifolds, twin oval system
Gearbox:Powerglide, Reid case
Converter:Custom PTC
Diff:9in, full-floater axles, 3.5:1 gears
Front:Afco coil-overs, LC Torana rack-and-pinion
Rear:Afco coil-overs, three-link
Brakes:Wilwood discs (f & r)
Rims:Convo Pro 15×4.5 (f), Weld AlumaStar 15×11 (r)
Rubber:Nankang CX-668 165/80R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 275/60R15 (r)

James and the boys at Kanaris Engines for their time, support and helping me along the way from build to race track; Chris at Race Wires for the electrical work; Danny at Initial D; Peter at Unique Auto Interiors; Car Salon Paint Shop; Tommy at Dyno House for his time and knowledge; last but not least, my wife Frieda for being supportive and by my side during the build and on the race track – she’s been my pit crew at all my races and is always with me 1000 per cent.