For Jimmy and Antonio Mora, their nightmare is a dream come true.
That’s what happens when a passion for lowriders finds the perfect project car, in this case their 1984 Chevy Monte Carlo — aka the “Nightmare Monte” — the Laramie father-son duo have spent the better part of the last decade building.
While their blinged-out lowrider now is a nightmare for everyone else competing against it at car shows, that’s not what earned the car its appropriate nickname.
Why It’s The ‘Nightmare’
Jimmy paid $700 for the rusted-out beater he had to pull out of a puddle of mud. And with its blown transmission, it would only drive in reverse.
And for a long time, he said he didn’t know what to do with it. He grew up building cars and lowriders with his father, but wasn’t sure whether this 1984 Monte Carlo was worth the effort.
“It kind of sat around for a long time,” said Jimmy, who owns High Plains Janitorial in Laramie. “We weren’t planning on fixing it and were going to sell it.”
But when he couldn’t even give the thing away — heck, it had holes rusted through the floor — Jimmy said that’s when he and his son, Antonio, decided to build it out for the best reason ever.
“It was spite,” Jimmy said. “We built it out of spite. We decided we’re going to build this thing and show everybody what it could be.”
What it could be was a nightmare, he said. That’s because every step of the way creating the lowrider, “that’s what it was — a nightmare.”
“Every single shop and person we took it to — the upholstery guy, the paint guy — while we were building it … it was messed up in so many different ways and had so many problems that every time somebody saw it they’d say, ‘This car is a nightmare.’”
Chrome And Gold
Fast forward about a decade and Jimmy and Antonio, now 17, have the Nightmare Monte at the recent WyoTech car show in Laramie, their home turf.
The deep wine-colored paint with gold flake sparkles in the sun, as does the prodigious amount of chrome and gold leaf plate cut by hand in intricate patterns. There’s no detail overlooked, including the keyholes, door locks and window trim.
In the past few months, they’ve also added two-toned chrome and gold panels inside the doors, all along the dash, the floor pedals and even added gold plate to the gas tank straps.
“When I have the back up, you can look under there and see all the chrome,” Antonio said.
For this year’s show season, Antonio said they worked underneath the car, getting all those details that aren’t visible at first glance.
“We tore it all apart last winter and put an all-chrome suspension underneath it,” said Antonio, who shows the car.
Go big or go home is what showing lowriders is about, he said.
“I’ll tell you what, just the lowrider scene in general is competitive with the added engraving and gold plating and all the extra stuff, this is so far from where it was when I was younger,” Jimmy added.
As usual, the Nightmare Monte wins the People’s Choice award at the WyoTech show. It won again a couple weeks later at a lowrider show in Loveland, Colorado.
Now it’s Antonio’s car and he shows it, but the Nightmare Monte is very much a team effort, Antonio said.
“Technically, it’s my car, but I think of it as me and my dad’s,” he said.
Now the car Jimmy said he couldn’t give away after he first got it and built out of spite is a showpiece that generates offers to buy it nearly everywhere they show it.
“How much do we have into it? I couldn’t even imagine,” Jimmy said. “I would say probably close to, maybe, $40,000, $50,00 or so. And yes, we’ve had a lot of people reach out wanting to buy it.”
The answer is always no. That’s because the value of the Nightmare Monte can’t be measured in dollars. For Jimmy and Antonio, it represents a huge investment of time together.
“Emotionally, every time I look at it, I don’t necessarily see a hunk of metal or just a normal car,” Jimmy said. “I see all of the artistic design and all of the time and effort me and my son have worked together.
“I remember those moments of me and him spending time in the cold garage trying to get this to where it needs to be. Those are all the things I think about more than it just being a nice car.”
Antonio said he feels much the same. He also remembers helping his dad work on the car when he was little, then finally be allowed to work on it with him.
“The first time I did any actual work on it was when I was 13 or 14,” he said. “It’s when we started to do the upholstery on it. I helped put together the dash and worked on the air-ride.”
At WyoTech, Jimmy and Antonio spend the day showing off the Nightmare Monte and talking with other wrench-turners.
It soon becomes apparent why their car won People’s Choice.
“This one is my favorite car I’ve seen so far,” said Brandon Weir. “The attention to detail on this car is insane. The pinstriping goes smooth just around the body lines, the hand-turned gold leaf, that emblem on the hood, the door jams, the seats.”
Even WyoTech owner Jim Mathis, someone who’s no stranger to things with engines and at least four wheels, appreciated the Nightmare Monte.
“This is beautiful, just beautiful,” he said. “I’m not a big car guy, but that is very cool.”
Tom Slider of Laramie also was impressed with the hand detailing that’s all over the car.
“The amount of work and the detail is just amazing,” he said. “I admire it. The craftsmanship is just unbelievable. Very impressive.”
Probably the best complements came from Arthur Silva, a WyoTech student studying street rod and automotive from Valejo, California — the heart of lowrider culture.
Even the top-end lowrider builders would be impressed with the Nightmare Monte, he said.
“Wow, that’s a lot of work, from paint to the engravings to gold leafing and all that,” he said. “Definitely a lot of workmanship is into it.”
Asked what feature he liked best, Silva said, “The whole thing. There’s nothing you can pick out. The dash is immaculate, absolutely immaculate with all the engravings. That’s beautiful. That’s real hard to do, and they got it all the way to the pedals, too.
“I’m from California and lowriders are big there. This is on par with most of the California cars I’ve seen.”
Father Vs. Son?
Jimmy watched Antonio graduate high school this spring, which means the days of the pair working in the Nightmare Monte together may be waning.
But Jimmy has instilled the same love of lowriders and working on cars that his father did with him, he said.
“I’ve been building cars for a long time, ever since I was a little kid, with my family,” Jimmy said. “So, I have a lot of background in it. I just kind of passed it on to Antonio. When he was 4 years old, we built him a lowrider bike out of an old Schwinn.”
Learning from his dad “has been really fun,” Antonio said, adding that, “he’s shown me this is really hard and to pay attention to the details. The whole reason I’m going to WyoTech is because of my dad.”
Jimmy said Antonio is going to go on to build ridiculous cars he could never conceive of. And they may compete against each other in future lowrider shows.
That’s because both are building their own Impalas. Jimmy has a 1962 and Antonio a 1964.
Antonio admitted he’s thought about one day beating his dad with the Impala.
“We’re both building them, so we’ll see whose comes out nicer,” he said.
That got Jimmy’s attention.
“Oh, it’s a challenge now,” Jimmy said. “I’m way ahead of him, though. I’ve been building mine since before he was born.”