This is the Ronseal of the car world. There’s no pretence that it’s a premium, refined car to waft about in high-end-executive bliss. It’s not pretending to have the smartest interior, with plush plastics and exquisitely made switches. It’s not even claiming to be the fastest mode of transport from A to B, or the edgiest. It’s just a biggish, two-door coupe, with a herculean pushrod V8 driving the rear wheels, and a lever in the cabin to change gears. It’s earthy, that’s what this is. And that’s why we love a Monaro.
It feels like the Monaro has been around forever, but there have actually been just three generations. The car that kicked things off was the HK in 1968, which took the Monaro name from a region in New South Wales. Back then it came with a straight-six in its cheapest format, but setting the stage for what was to become its trademark V8 was a Chevrolet-sourced 5.0-litre unit. As time went on, the V8 grew to 5.4-litre in the Monaro GTS 327, and by the time the HT facelift was launched in 1969, the pinnacle was a 5.7-litre Chevy engine banging out 300hp. At this point, Holden added its own V8s into the mix, in 4.1- and 5.0-litre capacities. The first generation was relatively short-lived, bowing out as the HG in 1971.
The second generation arrived the same year. That was called the HQ, which stuck with the same mechanical theme but added a fresh new look, and when that was facelifted in 1975, it marked the point when the GTS began sprouting various spoilers that diluted the purity of its design. It was also when the coupe died and the four-door models arrived, and by 1977 it was all over for the Monaro. The Commodore had arrived in ’78, which we’d recognise as the Vauxhall Carlton, and with a range of six- and eight-cylinder engines, it sold very well.
That led to a 25-year hiatus for the Monaro, but come 2001 it was back by popular demand. Holden had previewed a coupe concept at the 1998 Australian Motor Show, based on the Commodore of the day. It went down a storm, and by just after the millennium it was in production and as the Monaro V2. As ever, model-year changes were surprisingly often and the Series 2 was out by 2002, with a new dash and restyled alloys. And this is the iteration that the first Vauxhall Monaro was based on, which is the car we have here.
It comes with GM’s small-block LS1 V8 with ram-air intakes developing 333hp and 343lb ft of muscle. That may only have mustered a 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds, but with enough torque to induce tail-out antics at will. And thanks to the six-speed T-56 manual gearbox – as opposed to the four-speed auto that was also available – you are fully involved with the action at all times.
If you’re after engineering excellence and a delicate handling balance, it probably isn't for you. This is not a car that works at ten-tenths, all-out attack mode. It’s best to keep a bit in hand to allow for the Monaro’s slightly heavy-handed modus operandi, relying more on its mid-range grunt and solid grip to make swift progress, accompanied, of course, by the melodic tunes being played up front. It’s a rare car, too; this is the only Monaro in the PH classifieds right now. So a sticker price of just under £12,000 seems like a pretty good deal for what is still a fairly discrete muscle car and in good nick.
SPECIFICATION | Vauxhall Monaro
Engine: 5,665cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 333 @ 5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 343 @ 4,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 79,000
Year registered: 2004
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £11,990
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