The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS

I'm loving the amount of love the GTO/Monaro is getting around these parts at the moment, so I thought it was time for a quick lesson on where the future classic really comes from.

The car you see above is one of the first generation Monaros, a 1969 HT Monaro GTS, a slight revision of 1968's HK. Based on Holden's popular series of Australian designed and manufactured sedans, utes and station wagons, the Monaro was Holden's first two-door that didn't have a tray on the back. The svelte, pillarless design, while reminiscent of American muscle cars, was entirely Australian, and it sold like hot-cakes. Several design cues, such as the vents on the front wings, and the bonnet scoops would find their way into many later hot Holdens, including the still-born Coupe 60. The top end GTS was powered at first by Chevrolet 327 V8, replaced in the HT with the 350. If you liked your coupes with slightly less hair on their chests, you could also have Holden's "Red" I6, in either 161ci or 186ci flavours.

These days, the HT is the one that floats my boat, but as a 12 year old, pouring over Classic Car and Street Machine, it was the second generation that had me all hot and bothered.

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS

The HQ Holden was launched in July 1971, and was a completely new design from the ground up. In V8 form, it was powered by Holden's own engine, the venerated 253/308 that would see service in one form or another until the SBC returned in 1999's VT Series II. Fans of the 350 need not have worried though, as the SBC was still available in the top-of-the-range GTS350. These days, a GTS350 coupe will easily fetch over $100,000 of your greenbacks.

The second generation also introduced the Monaro sedan, turning Monaro from a coupe name into more of a performance sub-brand. It was these Monaro sedans that captured a young eNZo's imagination, specifically the HZ GTS, with its vents and stripes and spoilers.

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS

I mean, look at it! Big (by our standards), loud (in both senses), and it looks like wants to beat up smaller cars, then go for a beer, but it'll be wearing sunglasses the whole time.

Unfortunately, the HZ was to be the Monaro's last hurrah (for the time being). The General saw fit to replace the locally designed, full-sized Holdens with the smaller and more economical Commodore, itself a reworked version of Opel's Rekord. The VB Commodore was launched in 1978, but the HQ platform lived on as the WB, underpinning Holden's Utes and LWB luxo-barges until the second generation Commodores (VN/VG/VQ) surfaced in the late 80s. There were brief plans to revive the Monaro name plate and slap it on the back of an Opel Monza. The great Peter Brock was very keen on the idea, but plans were shelved.

Then, 20 years later, the entire Australasian petrol-head community wet its collective pants.

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS

At the 1998 Melbourne Motor show, Holden pulled the covers of what was then called the Commodore Coupe. We all went mad. Every magazine had it on the cover. Dealers were being forced to take deposits by over-eager customers. It would be a few years before the new Monaro would make it into production, and when it did it sold very well. So well, in-fact, that "Maximum" Bob himself decided you Americans should get a piece. And you did! The Monaro also made it to the UK, where it put on a silly Vauxhall badge and set about making TV presenter giggle and powerslide.

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden Monaro

It went through a few iterations, including the HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) GTO pictured above. You can see the cross-pollination of the export versions starting to happen, with the inclusion of the Pontiac's hood scoops (but go back to the top and look at the HT's scoops. I think there may be some relation). A GTS was also available with slightly more power and different trim.

Alas, it was not to last. Despite the design of the 4th generation Commodore (VE onwards) just screaming to be coupefied (if that's not a word, I'll write to the dictionary people) GMH, in their wisdom, decided that sedan, ute and sportwagon were the only varients we were allowed. To rub salt into the wound, they showed us this:

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS

The Coupe 60. Its so pretty, I want to cry. This may very well be the last two door full-sized Holden ever make, as the Australian large car market seems to be eating itself. So I end this post with a request: Please buy the Cheverolet SS! If you guys buy it, Holden will be able to keep building the Commodore, and maybe, just maybe, they will see fit to bring back the most storied name-plate in Australasian motoring: Monaro.

The 04-06 GTO's REAL history - Holden MonaroS