The Holden Monaro is a car that was produced by GM Holden Ltd, an Australian subsidiary of General Motors, between 1968 and 1977 and between 2001 and 2005. Since 1968, three generations of the Monaro have been produced.
First generation (1968–1971)
Named after the Monaro region in New South Wales (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 161 cu in (2,640 cc) capacity (base only) or two versions of 186 cu in (3,050 cc) capacity (GTS with the uprated 186S only), or a 307 cu in (5,030 cc) capacity Chevrolet-sourced V8. The exclusive 'GTS 327' model was powered by the 250 bhp (186 kW) Chevrolet 327 cu in (5,360 cc) V8.
In early 1969 the HK Monaro range was awarded Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1968.
HTIn June 1969 the HK Monaro was replaced by the facelifted HT Monaro. The 'GTS 327' became the 'GTS 350' with the replacement of the Chevrolet 327 in3 (5.4 L) V8 by the 300 bhp (224 kW) Chevrolet 350 in3 (5.7 L) V8. There was also an automatic version of the 'GTS 350' introduced which used a lower power version of the 350 in3 (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 in3 (4.2 L) and 308 in3 (5.0 L).
Late in the HT model run, a new locally produced 3-speed automatic transmission, the Trimatic, was offered as an option, although it was not available on the 'GTS 350'.
The HT 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. HT also had twin air scoops / vents incorporated into their bonnet, which served no real purpose in delivering air into the engine bay.
Released on the 26 July 1970, the HG Monaro was the last of the original coupe design concept. HG had cleaner lines with brightwork reduced and some re-designed. The HG 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 "Monaro" badge on both rear pillars was introduced to all models. For the HG GTS, the "GTS" badges now featured black paint fill, received new black-out paint on rocker panels, with the GTS 350 getting bold treatment with new "sidewinder" stripes and bonnet scoop black-outs. "GTS 350" designations now featured gutsier decals on the fenders and boot lid. Wheel arch moldings were deleted on all models. 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 taillights had a cleaner look and the grille was redesigned.
Most mechanical specifications remained the same as HT series, with the exception of Monaro GTS (non-350), which had softened suspension, resulting in a smoother ride. Manual HG GTS 350 retained the suspension from the HT GTS 350. Other upgrades included thicker (HT GTS 350 style) power front disc brakes, now standard for all V8 and the 6-cylinder Monaro GTS. The HG would be the final model for the generation and the last to use the original body shell.
South African market
HT series Monaros were 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 South Africa badged as the Chevrolet SS. At this time GMSA had made a decision to market most of its products as Chevrolets. The Chevrolet SS had revised front styling unique to that model, incorporating four headlights and large turn indicators in the front edge of the fenders above the bumper. The Holden Monaro and Chevrolet SS models were both available with Holden 308 in3 (5.0L) and the Chevrolet 350 in3 (5.7 L) engines. South African sales totalled 1828 Monaros and 1182 SS models.
Second generation (1971–1977)
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 173 cu in (2,830 cc) whilst the Monaro LS had a broad spectrum of engine options from a 202 cu in (3,310 cc) six to the 350 cu in (5,700 cc) 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 the humble Kingswood sedan upon which it was based.
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, i.e. 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.
A heavy facelift and some model rationalisation was applied to the HJ Monaro, which was released in October 1974. The 350 V8 engine option and the base Monaro coupe were both discontinued. The Monaro GTS continued to be available as a coupe or sedan with 253 cu in (4,150 cc) V8 power, or the optional 308 cu in (5,050 cc) V8 engine. The GTS sedan was now a model of its own - in HQ the GTS sedan was an optioned Kingswood. 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 337 units produced. The HJ Monaro GTS coupe was discontinued during 1975 due to falling demand, 606 examples having been produced.
New emissions regulations heralded the mildly facelifted HX Monaro GTS sedan, announced in July 1976. The HX 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 found that it held more coupe bodyshells than could easily expended as "spare parts". The solution was the Holden Limited Edition, or 'LE', which was released on 27 September 1976. All were painted an exclusive metallic colour called LE Red. The LE was not badged or officially referred to as a Monaro. The LE was an amalgam of prestige and surplus parts (including an eight-track cartridge player well after cassette tapes were common), in effect a combination of Monaro GTS and Statesman Caprice components. The LE had a price tag to match: $11,500. The cars were built at the now-defunct Pagewood (Sydney) plant. Production totalled 580 vehicles. The distinctive honeycomb wheels fitted to the LE, which resembled those of the second generation Pontiac Firebird, were created by a plastic mould adhered to the outside of conventional steel wheel rims.
Holden HZ GTS
Although the Monaro name had survived into 1977 as the HX Monaro GTS sedan, the coupe configuration was no longer in production and Holden decided to delete the Monaro name altogether from the new Holden HZ 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. Released on 5 October 1977, the HZ GTS featured a four headlight grille, front and rear air dams, four-wheel disc brakes, sports wheels and a 4.2-litre V8 engine as standard equipment. The optional 5.0-litre V8 became standard in June 1978. 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. Production of the GTS ceased in December 1978, an estimated 1,438 having been built.
Ultimately, the VB Commodore proved very popular in both six-cylinder and V8 form, such that all full-size HZ Holdens passenger cars were phased out of production in 1980. Remnants of the H-series lived on in the Holden WB series commercial vehicle range and in the revamped Statesman WB sedans until 1985.
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.