The ’70s — a time of big hair, too-tight T-shirts, bell-bottom jeans, and funky-smelling ciggies. It was also a period where an oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries sent shockwaves throughout the global oil market — the death knell for the all-American muscle car, heralding a new era of fuel-efficient econoboxes in a bid to reduce the consumption of petroleum. 

The Chevrolet Monza was one such car, released with a range of engines, from a 140ci four-cylinder through to a 350ci small block V8. With a two-barrel carburettor on top and woeful compression ratio within, the once-mighty small block had to make do with a claimed power output of just 125hp. But it fit perfectly in the Monza’s engine bay, and, as far as hot rodders are concerned, that’s half the battle won. 

Fast-forward four decades, and Auckland-based AV8 Motorsport are cementing a name for themselves as local Monza experts — who would have thought the combination of a lightweight economy car and a high-output small block would go so well together? They are currently building their second and third Monzas, styled after the Monza Mirage — a special Monza with bolt-on wide-body kit originally built by Michigan Auto Techniques, under contract to GM. 

The shell and basic structure is all Monza, but this is, first and foremost, a purpose-built circuit weapon. Being built to compete in the Enzed Central Muscle Cars (CMC) series, there is a series of guidelines in place that needs to be adhered to, for the sake of retaining a modicum of period authenticity. However, that doesn’t mean we’re looking at an overpowered ’70s shitbox with the handling prowess of a squid — that should be clear enough from the photos. 

Power is provided by a dry-sumped 409ci small block Chev, built and tuned by Edgell Automotive, and it delivers the goods. Try a peak of 699hp at 7000rpm and 597lb·ft at 5500rpm, the full fury of which is delivered through a beautifully crafted set of tuned-length headers terminating in Corvette-style lake pipes.  

The gearbox is a Nascar-style Emco four-speed with dog-engagement gear set, not actually fitted at the time that these photos were taken. It’s a transmission that the AV8 Motorsport team know will hold up to the abuse it’s in for, and do so without compromising on-track performance. 

A nine-inch diff finishes off the tough driveline package, suspended by a factory-style three-link system, with a custom Watt’s linkage for good measure. These are aided by a full set of KW remote-reservoir adjustable coilovers, and the suspension package includes a plethora of rose-jointed custom arms. Fat Simmons FR17 wheels wrapped in Hankook Ventus control tyres finish off the package, ensuring class legality and, of course, seriously tough looks. 

The exterior features a full Monza Mirage fibreglass wide-body kit, and AV8 Motorsport have plugs for it, ensuring perfect panels can be made in the event of an — inevitable — on-track mishap. However, it’s impressive to note the attention to such detail as panel gaps and paint quality on a car that’s been built to trade paint. 

Inside, it’s more of the same attention to detail, with a driver-oriented cockpit, and beautiful fabrication work throughout. This will be one seriously cool car to occupy the driver’s seat of, but we’ll quite happily settle for the next best thing — sitting trackside and watching it scream past at 7000rpm. You will be able to see this car at CRC Speedshow in Auckland on July 16–17, and it is set to be ready to compete in the upcoming CMC season.