by Bill Krause
Upon learning the news of the sudden passing of Davy Jones, every hot rodder, custom fan and car guy thinks of only one thing: The Monkeemobile.
Despite being linked to the television program, the car was actually quite separate. The entire concept of the Monkeemobile came from the head of Model Productions Corporation - or MPC to all you 1960s era modelers. They were looking for an idea for a custom car that they could make a model of and capitalize on the popularity of the NBC show. At the time MPC was working with Dean Jeffries who was one of the hottest young customizers in Hollywood. As luck would have it, Jeffries was also under contract with Universal Studios which was producing the show.
As the players came together, MPC contacted Jim Wangers, who was handling Pontiac PR at the time. Wangers quickly saw the opportunity and persuaded Pontiac brass to donate two 1966 red GTO convertibles and allow Jeffries to work his magic. Both cars were equipped with the tri-carb 389-ci V8, 4-speed and the 3:55 "Safe-T-Track" rear ends.
Of course, it was a rush project and all the players wanted to call the shots. MPC wanted a radical hot rod to sell models while Pontiac wanted something tamer that would sell GTOs. Dean Jeffries had his own vision and forged ahead paying no attention to corporate suits. In one month he delivered a highly modified car that screamed 1960s Hollywood custom. When it was unveiled you could recognize the Pontiac roots but it didn't really stay true to the GTO design. The genius of Jeffries work is the simplicity of his design.
Chrome bumpers are the first thing to go on any Jeffries project. The original grille assembly and entire tail section were removed and both ends of the car were elongated with basic sheet metal formed to match the existing panels. The ubiquitous Pontiac split grille was exaggerated and severely raked with an almost shark-like appearance. The hood was cut and dished with a large hole in the center to give way for the chrome-plated Art Chrisman 6-71 supercharger. Very de rigueur for the day.
The factory windshield was cut off and tilted up. A chrome strip was glued to the center to give the illusion of a tall and split windshield. Jeffries also lengthened the aft portion of the front wheel wells to provide room for functional chrome exhaust trumpets on each side. There was a bi-pass rigged for a quieter exhaust the exited the rear.
At the rear were exaggerated tail lights, a quick-fill gas cap plus the drasteresque parachute. Jeffries also removed the trunk and fuel tank to provide a third row of seats that were upholstered to match the original interior. Finally a permanent hardtop was created to give the appearance of a convertible top. The rest of the car is all original GTO. Simple, yet brilliant.
There are suggestions that the wheelbase was altered but it was not. This is the illusion Jeffries created by changing the sheet metal at each end. No fiberglass was used.
According to Jeffries none of the band mates could handle driving the car with the modified engine. Especially after he changed the rear axle to a solid mount and put weights in the rear to enable easier wheelies. For filming, the faux supercharger was fitted over top of a single carb set-up.
When it was unveiled MPC loved it but Pontiac did not. They were livid. Thanks to some quick thinking by Wangers and a highly successful Monkees sweepstakes on Rice Krispie cereal boxes, the Monkeemobile and the GTO became as big as the band and remains an icon of 1960s customs.
Photo courtesy of SpeedTV.com
Bill Krause is the author of: Hollywood TV and Movie Cars (2001)