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The Monaro is an automobile which was produced by Holden, the Australian branch of General Motors from 1968 to 1977 and then re-introduced onto the Australian and New Zealandmarker markets in 2001. It was discontinued in late 2005. Since 1968, three generations of the Monaro have been produced.

First generation (1968–1971)

HK

1968 Holden HK Monaro GTS (fitted with aftermarket wheels).


Named after the Monaro region in New South Walesmarker (although pronounced differently), the Monaro was introduced in July 1968 as a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe available in three models: the basic Monaro coupe, Monaro 'GTS' coupe and Monaro 'GTS 327' coupe. The GTS versions had "full instrumentation" which included a tachometer mounted on the centre console. This proved to be a bad location as the drivers knee would obstruct the view and it often rattled (Spotlight on Holden Monaro Page 6-7). The cars could be ordered with a choice of six cylinder engines of capacity (base only) or two versions of capacity (GTS with the uprated 186S only), or a capacity Chevrolet-sourced V8. The exclusive 'GTS 327' model was powered by the Chevrolet V8.

HT

1969 Holden HT Monaro GTS 350 coupe.


In early 1969 the Monaro range was awarded Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1968. The model then continued through two minor facelifts, with firstly the HT Monaro range released in 1969 followed by the HG Monaro in 1970. With the HT Monaro, 'GTS 327' became 'GTS 350' following the replacement of the Chevrolet 327ci (5.4 L) V8 by the Chevrolet 350ci (5.7 L) V8.There was also an automatic version of the 'GTS 350' introduced which used a lower power version of the 350ci (5.7 L) engine coupled to a 2-speed Powerglide transmission. HT Monaro also marked the phasing out of the 5.0 litre Chevrolet V8 and the introduction of two locally made V8 engines, the 253 ci (4.2 L) and 308 ci (5.0 L). Just prior to introduction of the HG range, Holden made available as an option - except with the Monaro 'GTS 350' - a new locally-produced 3-speed automatic transmission, called the Trimatic.

The HT and HG models of the Monaro can be distinguished from the HK by the adoption of plastic grilles (previously metal), a round speedometer instead of "strip" style allowing for bringing the tachometer into the main instrument cluster instead of on the floor console, rubber front suspension bushes instead of the HK's sintered bronze, and larger taillights where the turn indicators also wrapped around the now slightly undercut edges. Bodywork 'go-faster' stripe designs (delete options) varied for each series; HK stripes were offset to the driver's side of the bonnet (hood) and bootlid (trunk), the HT had two broad stripes down the centre of the car, and the HG had subtle "sidewinder" stripes running along the top edge of the fenders, under the windows and finishing just before the rear pillar. HT and HG models also had twin air scoops / vents incorporated into their bonnet, which served no real purpose in delivering air into the engine bay.

HG

1970-1971 Holden HG Monaro Coupe
In July 1970, the HT was replaced by the HG. Although it was a new model, it was merely a cosmetic fix up of the HT model. The HG Monaro also sported different striping (delete options) which were known as "sidewinder" stripes which rang along the top edge of the fenders, under the windows and finishing just before the rear pillar. The 'GTS 350' models no longer had the 350 Chevrolet badge on the fender, but rather a bold decal stating '350' as well as blackouts that covered the air-vents on the bonnet. The GTS badge originally above the gills in the fenders would be removed and would now be black instead of red (with the badges being placed on the passenger side of the grille and boot). The tailights had a cleaner look to them and the grille was redesigned. Because the HG would not be participating in Bathurst (the Torana GTR XU-1 taking over from the HT), the suspension was softened allowing for more comfort. The HG would be the final model for the generation and the last to use the original body shell.

South African market

Some HT series Monaro 'GTS' coupes were exported to or assembled in South Africa from imported parts by General Motors South African (GMSA)at the Port Elizabeth assembly plant. Later the HG series Monaro was assembled and sold in SA badged as the Chevrolet SS. At this time GMSA had made a decision to market most of its products as Chevrolets. The Chev SS as it became known in SA was based on the HG Monaro with revised front styling unique to the SA model and incorporating four headlights and large turn indicators in the front edge of the fenders above the bumper. Most of the Monaro / Chevrolet SS Coupes assembled in SA were fitted with Holden 308 engines. The Chevrolet 350 in³ (5.7 L) engine was available as an option in the GMSA assembled Chevrolet SS.

Second generation (1971–1977)

HQ

A completely new generation body design emerged with the HQ series in July 1971, including the new Monaro 'LS' (commonly believed to mean "Luxury Sports") model. There were no longer any six-cylinder versions of the Monaro GTS, just 253 or optional 308 V8s or the top level GTS350 coupe. The base model Monaro standard engine was enlarged to whilst the Monaro LS had a broad spectrum of engine options from a six through to the 350 ci V8. The new coupe design had a much larger rear window and a squarer rear quarter window; it was somehow seen as not as sporty looking compared to the earlier HK-HT-HG series, but is often now considered one of the best looking body designs to come from an Australian producer.

Up until 1973, the HQ Monaro GTS did not wear any body stripe ornamentation and the 350 cubic inch (5.74 L) Chevrolet Small-Block V8 engine was a little less potent than in previous HT/HG versions, especially with the optional Turbo-hydramatic 3-speed automatic transmission. This, and the fact that the same 350 engine was also available as on option in the large Statesman luxury sedan, probably contributed to a downgrade of the Monaro GTS range in muscular image terms, as did the replacement of the bigger coupes with the six-cylinder Holden Torana GTR XU-1 as the chosen GM car for Australian touring car racing. The introduction of bonnet and bootlid paint-outs in 1973 coincided with the release of the HQ Monaro GTS in four door sedan configuration. It is generally considered that Holden created the bold contrasting paint-outs in order that the new Monaro GTS sedan would not be mistaken for a humble Kingswood sedan.

The continued erosion of the GTS350 cache was compounded by the deletion of specific '350' decals on the post-1973 cars, with all Monaro GTS coupes and sedans now being externally labelled with the generic HQ series 'V8' bootlid badge. In the final year of HQ production, ie 1974, the manual transmission version of the GTS350 was discontinued and sales of the automatic version were minimal prior to the engine option being quietly and unceremoniously deleted.

A factory 350 HQ GTS Monaro is very valuable today, with a 350 sedan fetching as much as $50,000, and close to $100,000 for a 350 GTS Coupe.

HJ

1974–1976 Holden HJ Monaro GTS sedan.


A heavy facelift was applied to the 1974 HJ Monaro range, plus along with it some model rationalisation. Gone was the 350 V8 engine option and gone was the base Monaro coupe. The Monaro GTS continued to be available as a coupe or sedan with V8 power, or the optional V8 engine. The Monaro LS coupe also continued within the range, but still with the 3.3 litre six-cylinder engine as its base power unit.

The body paint-outs were discontinued in the HJ Monaro GTS range, but for the first time, the Monaro could be dressed up with optional front and rear spoilers. It seemed that Holden were no longer interested in promoting the Monaro GTS coupe as a performance machine and this became all the more obvious with the HJ coupe series having retained the HQ model's rear body styling.

The HJ Monaro LS coupe is close to being the rarest regular production car ever made in Australia with only about 300 units produced. There were approximately 600 HJ Monaro GTS coupes produced up until the phasing out of the HJ-series in mid-1976.

HX

New emissions regulations heralded the mildly facelifted HX Monaro GTS in June/July 1976 and with it, the decision by Holden to cease manufacturing the Monaro in two-door coupe form. The HX Monaro GTS sedan was quite distinguishable, with liberal splashes of black paintouts contrasted against a range of bold body colours, and a choice of traditional chrome or body painted bumper bars.

Holden HX Limited Edition

Holden HX Limited Edition
However, Holden soon worked out that it held more inventory of coupe bodyshells than could be reasonably palmed off as 'spare parts'. The solution was to have a send-off of sorts by announcing a limited build HX coupe, appropriately called the Holden Limited Edition, or 'LE' for short, and all painted an exclusive metallic colour called 'LE Red'. Surprisingly, the LE was not referred to or badged as a Monaro. The LE was an amalgam of prestige parts,(they also raided their junk boxes so it was installed with a 8 track cartridge player well after cassette tapes were common) in effect a combination of Monaro GTS and Statesman Caprice components, with a price tag to match, in the order of $11,500. The cars were built at the now-defunct Pagewood (Sydney) plant. Production totalled 606 vehicles.

The distinctive 'honeycomb' wheels fitted to the LE, which at first glance appeared identical to the wheels fitted to the second generation Pontiac Firebird, were actually plastic 'hubcaps' fitted to steel wheels.

Holden HZ GTS

Holden HZ GTS
Although the Monaro name had survived into 1977 as the HX Monaro GTS sedan, with the coupe now a part of history Holden decided to delete the name altogether from the new HZ Holden range. With the development of Radial Tuned Suspension, Holden transformed the bland characteristics of their full-size sedans and introduced a sporting variant called simply Holden GTS. But, with the November 1978 introduction of the new mid/full-size VB Commodore sedan and its availability with V8 engine power, the days of the HZ series appeared numbered. The HZ GTS was however a great driver's car and featured a four headlight grille and front and rear spoilers as standard equipment, and in its final year of production in 1978/79 the 5.0 litre V8 became the sole powerplant for the last of the GTS badged sedans.

Ultimately, the VB Commodore proved very popular in both six-cylinder and V8 form, such that all full-size HZ Holdens were phased out of production in 1979/80. The remnants of the H-series lived on in panel van, ute / one-tonner form - and the totally revamped Statesman sedans - in the compressed WB Holden range released in April 1980.

VH

The possibility briefly existed in the early 1980s for a revival of the Monaro badge based on a combination of the Holden VH Commodore and the Opel Monza with serious exploration of the concept and a Monza was shipped to Australia by Peter Brock but the project was shelved as it was a busy time at Holden with engineering work being done of Statesman and Gemini revamps and the launch of the JB Camira.

Third generation (2001–2005)

V2 / VZ

Some 20 years had passed before the Monaro reappeared in the form of a Holden Commodore Coupé prototype, codenamed 'Matilda', that was shown at the Sydney Motor Show in 1998. Using the existing Holden Commodore, already based on the Opel Omega B modified chassis, Journalists quickly christened it the Monaro, encouraging Holden to build it. Public interest in the car grew and orders came flooding in. Eventually, Holden took the Matilda and redesigned it for production and by 2001, the V2 series Monaro was launched after General Motors spent A$60 million over a 22-month gestation period (although 12 to 18 were targeted). It was available in CV6 (production ceased in mid 2004) and CV8 models with a supercharged 3.8 L V6 and a 5.7 L Gen III V8, with a choice of a 6 speed manual or 4 speed automatic gearbox. A series 2 model debuted in early 2003 with a revised dashboard from the VY series Commodore, a new wheel design and some colours dropped and new ones added. The CV6 model was dropped after disappointing sales (reputedly 10 times as many Monaros were built as CV8s) when a Series 3 model appeared in 2004.

2003–2004 Holden V2 III Monaro CV8


Two special edition CV8-R Monaros were released, the first in a grey colour and the second in a more muted red. Each had special wheels and other distinguishing features.

In late 2004, Holden introduced the VZ range of Commodore vehicles which in 2005 were upgraded to feature the 6.0 litre L76 V8 engine in SS sedans and other variants. The Monaro CV8 was similarly upgraded and also received revised front and rear bumper assemblies, to be now referred to as the VZ Monaro CV8. The revised rear bumper and new ducted bonnet pressing would soon find their way onto the export Pontiac GTO. However, in July 2005 Holden announced that production of the current generation Monaro CV8 would soon be coming to an end. A run of 1100 of a limited-edition model, called the CV8-Z, was produced to farewell the legendary Monaro name, much as had been done with the LE coupe back in 1976. The CV8-Z had unique features including special wheels and a sunroof along with a choice of body colours, including a bold new orange/gold metallic called 'Fusion'.

2003–2004 Holden V2 III Monaro CV8


The last Holden Monaro-badged coupe was purchased by Emerald, Queenslandmarker businessman Darryl Mattingley for $AUD187,355.55— around three times the normal retail price, on 19 February 2006. The car was bought through eBay, with the money going to the Leukemia Foundation, setting an Australian eBay record for highest price to date in the process. Mattingley, a huge Ford collector, has stated that his only Holden will not be registered, but will make appearances at auto shows.

Despite an end to production of the Holden Monaro-badged coupe it remained in production for HSV and for export markets until 14 June 2006 when the last model, a Pontiac GTO, quietly rolled off the production line bound for the US.

2001–2003 HSV Coupe (V2) GTO.


Holden Special Vehicles

A HSV version (not called Monaro, but simply Coupe) in 'GTO' through and 'GTS' tuned by Callaway) versions debuted soon after Holden's release of the V2 Monaro editions.



Due to high cost and low sales, the HSV 'GTS Coupe' was later dropped, but in its place in 2004 there appeared a 270 kW four-wheel drive version called 'Coupe4'.

The highest-spec HSV Coupe conceived was the HRT 427 (Holden Racing Team ). This car used the C5R Chevrolet racing engine, based on the GM LS7, modified by HRT and HSV to suit the Monaro. The 2002 HRT 427 featured a full carbon fiber body, two Sparco seats, a semi–roll cage, race suspension, six-piston racing brakes and ram air induction as well as other modifications. It produced 420 kW and could sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under four seconds. Unfortunately, to the disappointment of Holden fans, plans for production were dropped due to a reportedly unworkable business case. As a result, only two concept HRT 427's exist, each of which cost about $500,000 to build. One is not for sale and is slated to remain with the Holden concept vehicle collection. The other was sold to a collector for the record-breaking price of $920,000, making it the most expensive Australian car sold.

However, a GT racecar version of the HRT 427, built, not by the Holden Racing Team, but by Garry Rogers Motorsport, went on to win the 2002 and 2003 Bathurst 24 Hour races.

Export markets

2006 Pontiac GTO
Vauxhall Monaro VXR


The third generation Monaro was exported to several overseas markets. It was sold as a (right hand drive) in South Africa as the Chevrolet Lumina. It was also sold, in left hand drive, in the Middle East as the Chevrolet Lumina Coupe, and in the United Statesmarker as the Pontiac GTO, reviving another classic muscle car icon. However, at least one commentator has described it as a 'flop' because of its poor US sales. It was withdrawn from the US market in 2006, although a few were still on dealers' lots in 2007.

Pontiac GTO

Complaints from Americanmarker consumers about the Pontiac GTO's more modern styling saw the addition of two hood scoops in 2005 with the VZ series Monaro to recall the later muscle-car variants of the late 1960s' models; the hood scoops serve no functional purpose. In the eyes of the Australian press, the scoops have spoiled the lines, while the American media seemed to accept them. The 2005 and 2006 GTO also received a Gen IV 6.0 L engine putting out 400 hp (298 kW); the Australian HSV GTO coupe got a similar engine in its Z series; and Vauxhall launched this as the Monaro VXR in the UK.

Vauxhall Monaro

The Monaro was also sold in the United Kingdommarker as the Vauxhall Monaro where it won Top Gear's best muscle car award.

To the delight of British motorists, Vauxhall offered the Monaro buyer a special treat prior to the discontinuation of the model: the VXR 500. A Harrop supercharger was installed onto the standard GM 6.0 LS2 engine by Vauxhall dealer Greens of Rainham in conjunction with tuning firm Wortec, bumping up power to and bumping up torque as well to 500 lbf·ft (677 N·m). In addition to this, a shorter gear linkage was added to enable quicker shifts. The resultant acceleration times were impressive at 4.8 seconds from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h).

With the end of production, Vauxhall opted to replace the Monaro in 2007 with a version of the HSV Clubsport R8 4-door sedan. The new model sports sedan is simply referred to as the Vauxhall VXR8.

Concepts

2008 Holden Coupe 60 (concept).


Marilyn Monaro

The Holden Monaro convertible, codenamed 'Marilyn', was built as a fully operational one-off in 2004, and was never intended to reach production. Unusually for a Holden-badged concept, it was left hand drive.

Coupe 60

Built in 2008 but not approved by GM for Production.

References


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