2022 has marked the introduction of NASCAR’s Next Gen, the seventh iteration of the series’ velocity tools. However, we’re here for a trip down NASCAR memory lane. That’s because Richard Petty, the sports’ most successful driver, who is now retired but builds cars via the Petty’s Garage label (among many other activities), has just introduced a street-legal replica of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo that helped The King secure his 1979 NASCAR championship.
The son of three-time NASCAR champion Lee Petty, Richard is now 84 and, after having gathered one record after another across his 35-year career (e.g. he was the first driver to win the Cup Series championship seven times), he seems as active as ever.
Aside from operating the shop mentioned in the intro, which is based in North Carolina, The King (the said accolades easily explain his nickname) also owns the Petty GMS Motorsports NASCAR team. After all, we’re talking about a legend who got behind the wheel of racecars coming from all of Detroit’s Big Three over the years, with signing him as a driver even being linked to some of the most memorable stories the sport has delivered, some of which were closely tied to road cars (e.g. the aero cars of 1969/1970).
However, on this occasion, we can see the ace taking us through the recent project with his former crew chief Dale Inman. The latter is also a massively successful NASCAR figure (some consider him to be the top NASCAR crew chief ever), while most of his fame was earned together with Petty.
The tale takes us back to the Gen II NASCAR racers
Back in 1979, Petty won his final NASCAR championship (it was far from his last race win, though) in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo racecar with quite a story, which is the very racer that influenced this project.
You see, due to the Malaise Era restrictions we discussed in more detail here, GM switched intermediate offerings like the Monte Carlo, which had been born as Chevrolet’s first personal luxury car back in 1970, to a downsized platform for 1978.
Those were the years of the second-generation NASCAR racers, when the track cars still shared certain parts with production vehicles. And while Petty did give the new platform a chance behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Caprice motorsport machine, the newcomer just wasn’t up to standards. As such, the driver decided to keep racing the larger ’77 model for 1979.
In fact, here’s how The King describes the era in the video below: “Even though it [the ’77 racecar he used in 1979] looks real boxy, aerodynamically it was a pretty decent car. We tried to do a Caprice, which was a smaller car and it was terrible so we had to go back to these,“
The street car Petty just unveiled has a somewhat similar story
For some reason, the crew over at Petty’s Garage wasn’t able to get a hold of a 1977 Monte Carlo for this build, so they got a ’76 that was in running and driving order.
Of course, they had to strip it down completely and, once all the rust was gone, they could start fitting the new parts that would allow it to resemble the NASCAR hero and back it all up as far as the muscle goes.
We can see the two Chevys side to side, since the original, which has been fully restored, now sits in Petty’s museum, which shares the North Carolina location with the shop.
And while the street car comes with lights and doors that can be opened, it closely resembles its NASCAR inspiration, even when opening the hood.
It only looks like a carbureted engine
The team fitted the ’76 Monte Carlo with a GM LS3 V8. And, to keep the look closer to the original, the fuel injection intake manifold was made to resemble a Holley carburetor. For the record, NASCAR had only switched to fuel injection for the 2012 season.
The engine is mated to a Tremec six-speed manual, while a full roll cage adorns the cabin. However, the interior can provide accommodation for two, while a Vintage Air system brings extra comfort.
This is not the first road replica of Richard Petty’s NASCAR chariots—this 1984 Buick Regal is another example. However, on this occasion, we get to see The King comparing the racing that goes on nowadays to how NASCAR did things many decades ago, which is always a delight.
Update: The years for Richard Petty’s Monte Carlo NASCAR machine and his new street build were incorrectly stated in multiple places, including in the title of the article. All of these have now been corrected.