As a child, Juan Juarez remembers falling in love with a third-generation Monte Carlo. As he thinks back, he remembers his neighbor having one and there were plenty of days when Juan used to help him wash it.
At an age when most are infatuated with Hot Wheels, Juan remembers admiring the lines of the Monte Carlo. Once in high school, Juan and his friends used to cruise Bristol Street in Santa Ana on Sunday nights in his dad’s old Chevy van. As they cruised, they took the time to look at all the lowriders and his immediate goal was to get a job to buy and build his own 1979 Monte Carlo.
In 2006, after moving to Houston, Juan purchased one for $1,200. The car had been parked in front of a tire shop for two months before he had purchased it. The car was primered, missing all the moldings, and the interior was faded and ripped. Externally the car was a wreck, but mechanically it was complete and ran with ease. As eager as he was to start the project, Juan was not able to start building his car out until 2011—three years after he moved back to California.
With the help of his friend Sergio Garcia, Juan finished the bodywork of his Monte Carlo, which included shaving the door handles, door locks, trunk lock, and firewall. Luckily his friend, Tony Hernandez, owned a shop called SoCal Customs where the car sat for two years. Juan eventually landed a job at his buddy’s shop and this is where the car was painted. Once the car was painted, it was time to work on the upholstery. He went to LOWRIDER magazine for inspiration, looking at the interiors of cars from Lifestyle and Elite Car Clubs.
After getting some ideas, he searched the wrecking yards where he found front seats from a Toyota Camry and a rear seat from a Mercedes-Benz. Juan wanted a custom dash but he did not know how to make one. So he got one from a 2014 Nissan Altima that was being broken down for parts. Since the dash did not fit, he cut it and customized it to make it fit perfectly. To complete the interior, Juan added a Boyd Coddington billet steering wheel. The build was slowly coming along, except for the moldings.
Per Juan, parts for 1978-1980 Monte Carlos are hard to find since they don’t make or sell them anymore. Luck came his way when a customer came into the body shop and found Juan’s car parked there. He told Juan that he had brand-new moldings from the dealer that he bought back in 1985 for his 1978 Monte Carlo, which got wrecked before he could build it. He offered to sell him all the moldings, including the bumper moldings, for $350. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so Juan bought them on the spot. That was one of his most memorable experiences while building his car. Finishing the build was a great accomplishment for Juan because he did most of the work himself. It took him three years to finish the build.
1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Santa Ana, CA
1979 Chevy 305
Bodywork by Sergio Garcia and Juan Juarez; paint from House of Kolor/Majik Blue; painted by Tony Hernandez and Juan Juarez at So Cal Customs in Santa Ana; pinstriped by Oscar Mendoza at Oscars Graphics; custom tube grille by Greg DeAlba, and chrome by New Years Plating
two pumps, two dumps, two switches, four solenoids, 8-inch cylinders (front), 6-inch cylinders (back), four batteries, two blocks, installed by Alex Gaitan and Herman
13-inch Zenith 72-spokes, Straight Lace/Premium Sportway 5.20
Custom dash installed by Juan Juarez, upholstery by Mario in Santa Ana
Amplifier: Rockford Fosgate; front and rear speakers: Pioneer 6×9; subwoofer: Audio Bahn 10 inch; installed by Juan Juarez