Chevrolet Monza #84 – Spark

1975 Chevrolet Monza #84
Pilots: B. Frisselle, R. Kirby, J. Hotchkis
Team: Brad Frisselle Racing / Wynn's Belgium
Race: DNF (IMSA 2.5+ class) at Le Mans in 1978
Spark - S4384 (resin)

Published 09/08/23

In 1970, Chevrolet introduced the Vega, a small and cheap subcompact. Powering the Vega was a 2.3 liters aluminum block inline-4, and not exactly powerful. Initially, the Vega came either with a single-barrel or a two-barrel carburetor. That translated to 67 kW (90 hp) or 82 kW (110 hp) respectively. Far from jaw-dropping yet adequate for the time and purpose. However, in 1973, with the Arab oil embargo, Chevrolet needed something with better fuel efficiency. That being so, the engineering department proposed the use of a Wankel (!!) engine. For the new engine, in 1975 Chevrolet released the Monza, based on the Vega, with the same wheelbase and width. Unfortunately though, a Wankel engine proved to be terrible in terms of fuel economy and emissions (oh, really?). With the car ready yet with no  engine, Chevrolet decided to use the same inline-4 from the Vega.

The first DeKon Monza to run at La Sarthe was chassis #1006, in 1976.

With the Monza ready for sale and in showrooms, concurrently Chevrolet developed a racing version of the car. For that, Chevrolet contacted DeKon Engineering, and in late 1974 they sent them 17 Monza chassis. Chevrolet also assisted DeKon with the design and development of a tube frame for the car. Powered by a small-block 5.0 Chevrolet V8 (delivering up to 650 hp), the DeKon Monza weighed only 1089 kg. Purpose-built for racing, the only production parts used were the roof and the windshield. All that made the Monza very well balanced and uber quick. The first chassis (#DeKon 1001) was ready in early 1975 for the newly-created All American GT (AAGT) class in IMSA. Produced in 1975, chassis #Dekon 1003’s first owner was Michael Keyser, who bought it in 1976. Brad Frisselle bought #1003 in 1977, and raced it extensively in the IMSA’s GTO class in the USA.

Though the engine could deliver 485 kW (650 hp), for Le Mans Friselle tuned it to 447 kW for reliability.

In 1978 Friselle decided to spice things up and race in Europe. So he established a partnership with Wynn Belgium and took his Monza to Le Mans. For the race, he upgraded his Monza to so-called “Phase 5” specs – banana style rear wing, larger front cow catcher air dam, different door extensions and a 3” hood bulge. He also used a bigger 5750 cm³ V8 that with direct fuel injection delivered 447 kW (600 hp). Unfortunately though, Lady Luck was not on their side. During practice the team suffered a blown engine, twice! Undeterred, they used parts from the two ruined V8s to make one good engine, and they qualified in 26th. The race began and by lap eight the Monza #84 climbed to 18th place! However, at the fourth hour a cracked engine block and gearbox issues forced them to abandon.

American iron, in the 70s, was uncommon at La Sarthe.

As far as American cars goes, they were truly scarce at Le Mans. For instance, in 1976 only four cars participated, and none in 1977. And Frisselle Racing’s Monza was the only American car entered in the 24 Heures du Mans in 1978. Nonetheless, even though in real life this Monza #84 was a DNFer, in scale it’s a winner. As expected, Spark did a helluva job on the model, and it looks stunning. The paint job is awesome and the detail level is most excellent. Therefore, a true gem of a model, that will look good in any racing car collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *