Reader’s Ride: Paul And JJ Sonday’s 1977 Pro Street Monza

When it comes to cool cars, there are many reasons for their “coolness.” In the case of Paul and JJ Sonday’s super-cool 1977 Pro Street Monza, there’s a list of reasons. As if having a blown small-block stuffed in a tiny Monza isn’t cool enough, JJ explains that his father has owned the car since 1995. Before that, the car made a splash in the street machine world when it appeared in the January 1984 issue of Car Craft. To top all that coolness off, the car has been preserved as a timepiece into the early days of the Pro Street movement.

In the early ‘80s, the world was just waking up to all the coolness of the Pro Street movement. As a street-ready reaction to the Pro Stock-style cars that tore up the quarter-mile, Pro Street sought to take that same vibe to the highways and byways of America. And it did, with everything from street rods, station wagons, and even Nash Metropolitans wearing sneakers wider than anyone ever imagined. In true hot rod fashion, enthusiasts stuffed big engines and huge tires into a variety of econoboxes to make the most of the visual modification. This 1977 Pro Street Monza is a direct result of that era.

1977 Pro Street Monza

David built the entire Pro Street-style chassis from the ground up, including the 10-point rollcage, four-link suspension, and fabricated wheel tubs to fit those massive Mickey Thompson tires.

The brainchild of David Pelletier of Caribou, Maine, the monster Monza was built in the very early ‘80s. David built the car mostly by himself in the back of his auto parts store, Pelletier Auto Parts, on a very tight budget. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at the work he completed.

…it was built on a budget that is several thousand dollars less than the cost of driving a brand-new Z/28 off any showroom floor. – Car Craft, January 1984

His work was so well executed that it garnered him a Third-Place trophy at the 1983 Street Machine Nats East, held in Indianapolis, Indiana. David and his 1977 Pro Street Monza came in third place in the “Best Car,” “Best Engineered,” and the “Competition Engineering Pro Street Award” categories. Considering that the number-one spot went to Rick Dobbertin’s Chevy II and Rod Saboury’s Camaro solidly held onto Second, you can see how David’s economical econobox was in good company.

David's 1977 Pro Street Monza found itself amid royalty when it took third place behind Rick Dobbertin's Nova and Rod Saboury's Camaro at the Street Machine Nats East.

JJ’s father, Paul Sonday Sr. bought the car in September 1995 from Peter Amato. JJ’s dad had always dreamed of having a small Pro Street car to take out for a spin now and then. He learned about the car through his good friend, Mike Duffy. After a few weeks, and with Mike’s help, he made a deal with Peter to buy the car.

The same Dyer's 6-71 blown small-block still resides in the engine bay and no self-respecting Pro Streeter would be without a set of wheelie bars out back.

The car was mostly original from when it was built many years ago. It has the 350 cubic-inch block and heads, Dyers Supercharger, Turbo-hydro 400 transmission, 4:11 gears, and many other engine parts, including the Venolia pistons, that are the same as when David Pelletier built the engine decades earlier. The only changes are the Edelbrock carburetors, which replaced the old Carter units. Also, the original air cleaners, known to be fire hazards, were swapped out for a shotgun-style scoop.

A few items were removed from the build for a variety of reasons. The hood was taken off to help the boosted engine cool better. The Sondays also removed the parachute to avoid trouble with the local police, which had been a problem. They put on a set of Weld wheels because the original Centerline wheels had tarnished and lost their shine over time. Everything else—all the Fisher body panels, glass, paint, interior, roll cage, headlights, taillights, wheelie bar setup, four-link suspension, and instrumentation—stayed the same. The car was kept in perfect condition, free from rust, thanks to the careful attention of each owner over the years.

1977 Pro Street Monza interior

The interior of the Monza is unaltered from when David created it back in the early ’80s.

Paul continued caring for the car, only taking it out on very nice days with no chance of rain. He never drove it in temperatures below 50° F and always cleaned it thoroughly after every cruise or car show. In 2020, Paul and his family managed to get in touch with the car’s builder, David Pelletier. Paul sent David photos and a short video of the car running. He was shocked to learn that the car still existed and was in such great shape. David sent Paul an autographed copy of the January 1984 issue of Car Craft that he had held onto for decades.

The Monza at the '82 Car Craft Nationals (left) and the '83 World of Wheels show in Boston.

Over the past 29 years, many people remembered seeing the car in the magazine and at events. Recently, someone posted pictures of the car on Facebook from the 1982 Car Craft Nationals in Syracuse and the 1983 Boston World of Wheels. The car has had an incredible journey and, if you ask us, is completely dripping with coolness.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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