Our club brother Matt (73Carlow) has been working on his 1973 Monte Carlo for the past ten years and has really done something special with it. Drawing from all corners of the custom car world, from Semi-Trucks to Hot Rods, Matt’s Monte Carlo is a perfect example of what happens when you take someone with a true passion for cars and put them in touch with brilliant and capable people that are able to help them actualize their vision.
I sat down with Matt and we recapped his decade long build over the phone a few days back. If you’re interested, I’d highly suggest going through his Build Thread on the message board, checking out his Instagram feed , or find him at a car show anywhere from British Columbia to San Diego. Here in its loosely edited form is our conversation: White Line Fever
Nic: So first off, thanks for sitting down and talking to me about your car, the pics of all the wheel changes you’ve been trying lately have been pretty exciting. I was scanning through your build thread on the LBCC board, and it’s massive, how long have you had the car now? Something like 10 years, right?
Matt: Yeah, I have had it about 10 years now. Before I had it, it belonged to a lady that had bought it in Texas. She then moved to Manhattan, but she also had a house on the Oregon Coast. She left the car in Oregon so she had something to drive for holidays, vacations and such. I found it sometime around 2005, with something like 76,000 original miles on it.
Matt’s Monte before air ride, c 2005.
Nic: When you bought it did you have an idea of what you wanted to do with it?
Matt: Ha ha, no, I mean, not exactly. Like all of us that are into the car scene, there are at least 50 dream cars that I wish I could own. I lived in a condo in Portland and I didn’t have a garage at the time, so there were a lot of older cars I’d love to own but I wouldn’t have the ability to really tear down and rebuild.
This car, I mean 350 with a turbo 350 transmission, you’re guaranteed to not have to do a lot of mechanical work on unless someone had really messed with it, and this car was a bone stock car. I mean, the guy that bought it from the original owner was actually, like, a retired GM mechanic. So he had tuned it, got it running really nice, so I was pretty confident going into it. That was one of the big decision factors, but there were a lot of more personal reasons I got it though.
I mean, when I was a little kid, I was born in 1975, and in 1977 my dad brought home a brand new 1977 Monte Carlo, so my whole life is in that car basically. The ’77 interior is in all my memories, I remember stupid things like keeping my hand in the door jamb, and my dad slamming my hand, I mean swinging that big ass door from the back seat, ha ha. When I was a little bit older and we moved to Colorado, I remember my brother had bought a 1973 Monte Carlo, same year as my Monte Carlo now, except for it was burgundy with a white vinyl top, a really classic look. I think they must have built like 50,000 Monte Carlo’s burgundy with a white vinyl top. I just always had a love for these cars, so that was the big part of the reason I bought it.
Vintage Advertising for the 73 Monte Carlo.
Nic: One big thing about this car that stands out is the name, White Line Fever. I mean the big rig influence is pretty cool, and probably a little unusual for Customs and Lowriders in general, it’s not something you hear very often.
White Line Fever Movie posters from: http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2011/11/heavy-machinery-in-trouble-wow-pics.html
Matt: Ha ha yea, it definitely throws people for a loop. To give you a little of my history, I come from a huge family in Iowa, so until I was about 10 years old I was in basically farm country in the middle of Iowa, and my uncles, about 10 of them, ran a trucking company. Almost all their interiors were diamond tucked, and all custom, freaking just you name it, TVs, everything. They were just totally done up. They had candy paint, scroll pinstriping, a ton of chrome, totally custom. It carries straight over to the Custom world; paint, custom interiors, a ton of chrome and pinstriping. It’s a very similar world.
I had never really made the connection or thought about it when I was in Iowa, but my dad was a Hot Rodder in the 60’s. My mom and my dad used to race a lot, my dad had a 66 GTO and when I was a little kid I grew up going to a lot of illegal drag races out in the country with my dad and all his friends. So I had this Hot Rod background, with a ton of customizing in the Hot Rods and muscle machines from the 70’s, and then I had my uncles that were big rig guys, but up to then I didn’t see a lot of Lowriders.
It must have been about 1986 after we moved to Colorado, we were out cruising in my dad’s Monte Carlo one night, I was sitting in the front seat with him, and in front of us was a brown Monte Carlo and a blue Monte Carlo. Both of them started hitting the hydros, like they started hitting the switches right in front of me. So dude, ha ha, as a farm kid from Iowa, ten years old, it blew my mind. They were sitting in the exact same vehicle as we were, of course it was a different color, but almost exactly the same one, but that thing was hopping OFF THE GROUND.
I mean, it completely changed me, and from that moment I was infatuated with Lowriders, the whole culture and everything. So as I got further into my teen years, I met a lot of kids in the neighborhood where their parents had built Lowriders for generations. Lowriding from anywhere in between Albuquerque, New Mexico to Denver, Colorado was really heavy, and there were Lowriders EVERYWHERE in the 80’s. There were a lot of older builds from the 70’s, and I remember making the connection then. I remember when I was a little kid and I would always talk to these Lowrider guys and say stuff like “Hey, that’s like the same interior that my Uncle has in his truck,” or you know, “My uncle has crushed velvet in the interior of his semi-truck,” and these guys would look at me like “who is this farm kid that’s hanging out with you”, ha ha, you know, that’s where I started to make the connection at that age.
The guy with the Lowrider, the Hot Rod guy, the Custom guy— they all went to the same interior shop, and there’s very little that separates the three worlds. I mean it’s all about wheel size, stance, the combination of how you put the paint down. Candy paint was in Hot Rods, on Lowriders, on a lot of semi-trucks; panels are really popular on big rigs and drag cars (of course Lowriders had taken panel paint jobs to a whole other level), but I always saw this similarity; the best painter is going to paint whatever you bring him. I mean, if you want a flashy paint job on a farm truck, that’s the guy who’s going to paint it.
Yea, so that’s sort of part of the story behind the name White Line Fever, and even besides all that just a lot of that influence is that I just love being on the road, I mean, car shows are great for meeting up with my friends and hanging out, but I love being out on the road, in the car, driving, and those cars drive awesome.
Nic: That’s really cool, and not something I’d really considered before. So how did you end up with the overall look of the car?
Matt: Of course, you know, I always wanted the car to look pretty, and eventually it would get painted by Alex Valdez in the Bay Area, but back when I got it I had these great ideas for the car but I was broke. When I got it I put bags in it, put Zenith wire wheels on it, and for like 5 years I just drove it around like that but it was pretty beat up. I mean, yeah, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, and I always thought it was beautiful, but looking back it’s no wonder I got pulled over so much back then in Portland.
One big thing we did that not a lot of people realize is the front bumper, it’s the wrong year, and you’ve never seen a picture of the car with the stock bumper. It’s kind of an odd ball thing, but for me there weren’t a ton of customs where I was from in Iowa. Of course, Lee Pratt I think is from Des Moines, so don’t let it get out that I’m saying there are no Customs in Iowa, in fact his ’58 Impala is hands down one of the biggest inspirations for my car, especially for keeping the Monte simple. But anyways I knew a lot about customizing so this is sort of a nod towards it, and 1973 was the year that the five mile an hour bumper law was passed, and you know how cars are usually designed for years at a time so the new ’73 bumper doesn’t really compliment the body lines, they must have rushed it to meet the new law. So when I bought it, one of my first plans was to get a 1970 Monte Carlo bumper, and man we took like 200 pounds off the front of the car instantly when that old bumper came off, with all the shocks and everything.
It’s one of the main things that catches some people where they can’t quite figure out what looks off about the front of the car. Some people think that maybe it’s a ’72 but it’s got different body lines, and when I tell them, some people think it’s crazy. So some people like it, if you’re a purist you might not, but for me it’s a nod to customizing that you might have seen back in the day. A buddy of mine in Portland helped me cut the ends off it and we rushed to bolt it on there, and amazingly after ten years it hasn’t fallen off yet. Other than that, it’s a stock ’70 bumper with the ends cut off. The plan is someday to have someone mold it into the body a little more, but it’s been tough finding the right person that wants to work on it. It’s tough, the hope is to work on it this winter, but to get it done I need some money and the right guy and so far I haven’t had both at the same time.
For the rest of the built, I think it was 2010, that was the big trip that put it in motion. I had met all the Los Boulevardos guys through the message board around ’08, and I was talking about it with my girlfriend (now my wife) trying to explain to her about this whole genre of cars that didn’t really get much coverage at the time, like the later Customs of the 60’s and even the early Lowriders, that I’d only seen in little articles over the years, and I found these guys on this website that just got it and were just cool as hell, so I said, “Let’s just bomb down there tomorrow at like 4 in the morning towards LA and go to my first Cruise to the Lake.” So we did, and when we got there, I was blown away man. I met a good portion of the club that day, cruised around there and the San Fernando Valley, and man that day was one of the best days of my life. I mean cruising around there with those guys reminded me of the car scene that I had grown up with when I was a teenager and man, I just really dug it.
Cruise to the Lake 2010
Nic: That’s really cool, man. I really wanted to ask about some of the paint decisions you guys ended up with, I mean in 2010 everyone was going big, and I think you guys came up with an awesome balance and made it a little more subtle; how did you guys decide go in that direction?
Matt: Well, you know, there were a lot of concepts going into it. Alex is an amazing painter and an awesome guy, I mean he has a ton of talent and a lot of ideas and does amazing stuff.
Alex Valdez, Alex’s mentor Ted Rodrigues (a famous painter in his own right, he’s the man responsible for a lot of the Candy that came out of Joe Bailon’s shop) , and Eryk Frias’ Hush Hush. Pic Courtesy of Junior Valdez posted to the LBCC message board
The concept of the car was sort of based on how the car was received in Portland. You know, I’d be driving nose up with the ass end laid out and they’d sort of give me a funny look, but when I drove by they’d turn their heads and see “oh shit, that car was pretty cool”, even though the car was pretty beat up back then.
Nose up back in Portland
So, based on that, I thought I didn’t want them to see any nice paint when I first rolled up, I just wanted it to seem like a normal car when it rolls up, but I want those panels to just slap them in the face when I rolled by, like “ah shit I should have looked harder”. You know, going back to my childhood no one was building show cars around me, no one had a ton of money for chrome or custom paint, so you’d only see maybe a panel or pattern here or there, or like a lot of my friends had subtle ghost patterns, Tru Classics, a lot of great builds using parts left over from the 70’s but they were getting put on a budget build of a teenager, so I never really wanted that flashy of a car.
I mean, with my background of growing up around Hot Rods, they were all badass but a little rough, so when I finally saw these beautiful Lowriders later on with candy paint and delicate wire wheels I just always thought that Lowriders were the most classy, sexy cars I’d ever seen hands down, so to some degree I’m trying to recreate the kind of elegant, classy car I wish I could have had when I was a kid.
I just always wanted to keep it classy and highlight the elegance of the car, I mean I think the lines are real elegant and they don’t really need to throw a panel over them to elevate that. The body lines really dance and move when you’re in motion anyways.
One thing about Monte Carlo’s is the taillight piece; I really think those are, like, a masterpiece. I mean John DeLorean had said that he designed that car before he left GM and I believe that, I mean especially in 1973 you’ve still got those horizontal Pontiac looking taillights that were a lot like the Pontiac’s he worked on in the 1960’s and you can kinda see part of that, so I always thought that between the taillights gave the perfect spot to lay a big panel, like it was just waiting for it.
Ultimately, it was Alex that was able to take what I was imagining and create something amazing about it, I really credit him for the design and the concept of the panels, and how we went with the car.
I guess the second part on the paint that really makes it what it is, is the pinstriping. When I had a conversation with the Tangiers car club and the pinstriper LG, I mean he just really got the vibe that I was going with on this car. I mean, I’d been looking a lot through early Lowrider magazines with Eryk Frias trying to find exactly what I wanted, to show LG how I wanted the lines to look, and as soon as I started talking to him about scroll work on old semi-trucks he flipped out. He’d been into that stuff for years, so it all came together just perfect. After Ventura 2011, I went over to the Tangiers club house out in the San Fernando Valley and LG started striping it. He kept working when we all left, and man I’d mentioned something about adding a rose, but I had no idea how badass that rose was going to turn out. He put in hours making this beautiful center piece, and his pinstriping really plays a big role in the character of the car, he really helped make the car what it is and keep it elegant.
Nic: For sure, it really came together nicely. It’s been fun lately seeing you out trying on different wheels and cruising around where you’re at now in Colorado. What’s the cruising scene like out there?
Matt: Sparse, ha-ha, I mean there’s a lot of great scenery. Not a ton of cars though, I mean I’m way up in elevation now at like 8500 feet in the middle of the Rockies, pretty far away from the big city, I can’t say it’s anything like it was in Portland or in any other big city. I like to take the car out at night when there are no cars on the road and take it for a spin for a couple hours. The roads are amazing up here, lots of nice cool air which is great for a big bodied GM car. I think I’ve ran into maybe two Lowriders and other custom cars in general while cruising way up here and each time I was blown away, like what the hell are you guys doing out here. It’s beautiful scenery, but yeah, it’s a big difference than cruising in, like, LA or up where I was at in Portland. I’ve put about 32,000 miles on it since I’ve had the car. I’ve gone up to Vancouver, Washington, British Columbia, San Diego, all over the Western states.
Nic: Well awesome man, it’s been fun to watch. Thanks for sitting down and talking about it.