Graeme Brewer and his Down Town Kustoms team are no strangers to engineering and creating truly awesome street cars, and this 1976 Chevy Monza they’ve just finished for owner Falbo Sirianni is no different.
First published in the January 2023 issue of Street Machine
Falbo had owned the Chev for around 20 years before taking it to the DTK team, and initially he just wanted the woeful Monza rear suspension fixed up. “I’d tried taking it to a few other workshops, but it just never worked out,” he says. “I then got onto Graeme, so we took the car [to Taree from Sydney] and he agreed to start working on it.”
Graeme could see why previous workshops had passed on the Monza, but unlike those others, he wasn’t prepared to dismiss the car. “It was a bit of a mess, if I’m honest,” he says of the Monza’s state at the time. “The rear guards were full of bog, the right-hand drive conversion was very poor, it overheated easily, and as we dug in, we found more things that needed to be done.”
The boys completely stripped the car down and set about re-engineering it from the ground up.
These Monzas aren’t what you’d call well-endowed when it comes to sophisticated suspension, so the lengths Graeme went to in order to rectify it are quite extraordinary for a street cruiser. “The factory three-link is very average, and they run a separate shock and spring, so we changed all of that,” he says. The boys kept the three-link design but changed the lower bars’ pick-up points on the body and all of the pick-up points on the diff in order to alter the geometry, allowing the car to actually get the power to the ground.
The upper three-link mounts in the tunnel were retained but strengthened, and the DTK guys added Ridetech coil-overs and a Watt’s link to control lateral movement, as the wheel and tyre clearance in these little Monzas would rival the width of a bee’s appendage. “It was a tight and difficult space to work in with the factory floor,” Graeme says.
Monzas have a monocoque chassis, which by the standards of 1970s American engineering was a bit like joining the ends of two bricks together with a playing card and superglue. “I didn’t like it, so we added chassis rails to the car so it had some proper structure,” Graeme says.
The front suspension and steering copped an even more substantial overhaul. The DTK boys used the factory pick-up points but changed just about everything else. They made custom upper and lower control arms and steering arms in-house, as well as changing to HQ spindles with Hoppers Stoppers disc brakes. Graeme set about remedying the poorly done right-hook steering conversion with an update to power-assisted rack-and-pinion.
“The steering was a big challenge because of the way we had to link the steering arm to the rack,” Graeme says. “We ended up using a box from a van, and linked that with some 3D-printed prototype shafts [see more, below] to the steering rack, which were then made in CNC steel. Using that box changed the steering direction to the firewall, so it wasn’t easy to make it work.”
The bodywork DTK undertook on the Monza also can’t go without a mention. The lads made a whole new firewall for the car, along with a new pair of rear quarters to fix the bog-filled ones and make room for the 18×10.5 rear wheels. “We also 3D-printed the bonnet scoop, which feeds directly to the air cleaner,” Graeme says.
Speaking of air cleaners, let’s talk about the powerplant in this thing. Falbo says the option of an LS was tabled early on, but in the end he couldn’t give up that small-block Chev soundtrack. “I wanted it to sound like an old-school muscle car, so we decided to stick with the 350,” he says. They couldn’t just throw it back in stock though, so Graeme had Mick at Dyno House in Taree give the SBC a tickle. Capacity was nudged out to 383 cubes with a Scat crank and rods and Hypatec pistons.
A Crow Cams stick completes the bottom end, and sealing in the whole deal is a pair of beefy AFR billet heads and an Edelbrock intake manifold. Falbo requested the package stay carby for old-school simplicity, so sitting underneath the air cleaner is a Quick Fuel 750. All up, the combo made 485hp on the dyno, which is plenty for a car that weighs in at just 1447kg.
Behind the small-block you’ll find a Turbo 400 housing a street-friendly 2200rpm converter, while the Truetrac-equipped nine-inch uses 3.25:1 gearing for easy highway cruising.
To say the build was a huge undertaking would be a severe understatement, but both parties couldn’t be happier with the result. “It drove like a bucket of shit when it came in, whereas now you can steer it with one finger down the freeway and it drives so nice,” says Graeme. “All that suspension work means it corners like it’s on rails, too; it stops and steers like a dream now.”
At the time of writing, Falbo was finally about to take delivery of the finished Monza. “I’m so excited; I can’t really put into words how awesome it’s going to feel to have the car back,” he says. “I’m not going to baby it so it can go in show halls, either; I plan on driving this thing everywhere – interstate, you name it!”
Graeme and his Down Town Kustoms crew have been 3D-printing custom car parts for years, and plenty of that kind of work went into this Monza.
A few years back we ran a feature on 3D-printing (SM, Nov ’19) that included the DTK team explaining how they use this kind of tech, and at the time they showed us a 3D-printed steering arm prototype (pictured above) that Graeme had whipped up for the Monza.
1976 CHEVROLET MONZA
|Paint:||PPG Dark Metallic Grey|
|Brand:||383ci small-block Chev|
|Carby:||Quick Fuel 750|
|Fuel system:||Holley pump|
|Diff:||9in, Truetrac, 31-spline axles, 3.25:1 gears|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Front:||Custom control arms, Ridetech coil-overs, power rack-and-pinion steering|
|Rear:||Ridetech coil-overs, Watt’s link|
|Brakes:||Hoppers Stoppers (f & r)|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||American Legend Super Elite Series Blackhawk; 17×8 (f), 18×10.5 (r)|
|Rubber:||Kumho; 205/40R17 (f), 265/35R18 (r)|