Dial M for Monaro Mention Monaro and Holden fans get misty-eyed. Will the new incarnation of the legendary coupe live up to the hype? By JONATHAN HAWLEY Thursday 11 October 2001 At exactly 9.06 this morning, Holden unveiled its new Monaro and invited you along to join in the celebrations. The show actually started at 8.52am at the Sydney Motor Show, but anyone with Internet access can go to a live Webcast (www.holden.com.au) and watch the action of this year’s most significant new model launch unfold. It is indicative of Holden’s approach to the new Monaro that a car with a 33-year-old name could appear in such a 21st century manner. Make no mistake, despite the badge, there’s nothing of the original HK model in the car that was launched in Sydney today. All that remains is the concept of a very large coupe with rear-wheel-drive and a big-capacity engine under the bonnet. And, of course, the name. Like its Kingswood-based predecessor, the new Monaro is unashamedly based on a prosaic family sedan, in this case the latest VX Commodore. Carefully leaked photographs, such as those appearing on Holden’s own website or the disguised Monaro that appeared at Sunday’s Bathurst 1000, show a car that looks a lot like a two-door Commodore. But be assured, once the Holden marketing machine goes into overdrive, they’ll be telling the public it is anything but. The facts are that the Monaro is significantly changed car to the standard Commodore, but also similar in many ways. There is little about the way it looks that has changed from the original design study that was shown at the Sydney Motor Show exactly three years ago and was then known simply as the Holden Coupe. That means actually only the bonnet and front fenders are interchangeable with a four-door Commodore because all other exterior panels are different. The windscreen has a greater rake, meaning there’s a new roof and swoopy C-pillars, and of course the doors are much longer, necessitating a shift backwards of the B-pillar by about 150mm. The boot has also been shortened by about 100mm and given a small, raised lip, and while the tail lights retain the same basic shape as the Commodore, expect to see different lenses incorporating circular elements for either the reverse or brake lights. The pictures on Holden’s website show that the front bumper and air dam assembly, which on the show car was basically taken directly from a Commodore SS, has also been given a more rounded appearance with a wider opening. Holden is also moving away from what in recent years has been a trademark "twin nostril" grille design. Next year’s VY Commodore is expected to have a single-slot grille, and it looks like the Monaro will get something similar, with one hole between the headlamps and a big Holden badge smack-bang in the middle. One significant change from the three-year-old show car is the Monaro’s ride height, which instead of being a visually pleasing but less practical ground-s****er, has been raised to meet engineering requirements of ride quality and clearance. Holden By Design will offer a lowering kit as well as an optional spoiler kit. The show car’s 18-inch alloy wheels look like being retained, at least on the range-topping model, and the suspension has been recalibrated to give a blend of good handling and reasonable ride quality. As previously revealed in Drive, there will be two Monaros available when they make it into showrooms early in December. The first and cheapest is called the Monaro CV6, which, as the name suggests, is powered by the same supercharged V6 engine that goes into several other Commodore-based models. Don’t expect to see a power hike in the two-door, mainly because Holden doesn’t see the Monaro having the same "boy racer" image of its SS sedan. So the CV6 will have a still respectable power output of 171 kilowatts, driving through a four-speed automatic transmission. Topping the range will be the Monaro CV8, powered by Holden’s standard 5.7-litre V8 and producing 225kW of power. This car is the spiritual successor to the classic Chev V8-powered Monaro muscle cars of the late 1960s and early '70s, but customers from those days could only have dreamed of the technology on board. Expect to see electrically powered seats, a six-stack CD player, anti-lock brakes, dual and side airbags and the choice of either six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. The CV8 is $56,990 in both automatic and six-speed manual form, and the automatic-only CV6 is $47,990, making the Monaro reasonably expensive by Holden standards but dirt cheap in the world of large, rear-drive coupes now built virtually by only BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The design job on the Monaro didn’t stop at the exterior either, for while there is still plenty of Commodore in there, including the dashboard, instruments and centre console, much is also new. However, given Holden’s wish for the Monaro to be seen as a sport luxury car, fuzzy dice are unlikely to be on the options list. The Commodore’s rear bench seat is replaced by two heavily contoured buckets, making this strictly a four-seater, but because the Monaro retains the Commodore’s wheelbase, there will be plenty of space. There is the choice of highly individual yellow, blue or red leather on at least the CV8’s seats and longer door trims. The technicolor approach also applies to the exterior, with new hues of orange, yellow and green on the new car. That the Monaro has made it to production at all is something of a miracle, given that the period between Holden announcing it would go to market and today’s unveiling is barely 22 months. That’s a short time by international standards, and Holden has pooled huge technical resources to design most of the car on computer and eliminate many of the prototype phases, relying instead on a form of virtual design. Back in October, 1998, the Monaro was nothing more than a hastily constructed concept, but it had the backing of a whole company including chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger, who at that stage hadn’t even joined the company but was one of the few people inside General Motors to have seen the show car. Now the new Monaro is a reality, and it remains to be seen whether it can continue the icon status of the original legend whose name it bears. The models CV6 Price $47,990 171kW supercharged V6 engine Leather interior Four airbags Anti-lock brakes Power windows, mirrors, seats CD sound system CV8 Price: $56,990 (manual and automatic) 225kW V8 Premium 10-CD sound system Dual Priority Key system Twilight auto-on headlights Dual zone climate control air conditioning Footwell, reading and courtesy lights Variable instrument dimming How the Monaro differs from a regular Commodore The name Shorter overall Shorter boot with spare tyre protruding into bumper Lower roof line Steeper-raked windscreen Longer doors Only four seats Unique front and rear styling New-look face to flow through to future models Unique suspension package HSV holds tight By TOBY HAGON It doesn’t take a genius to work out that HSV is just itching to show the world its version of the Monaro. It’s just that Holden wants the initial glory, so has ordered HSV to hold tight for a month or so while it stands under the spotlight of the media frenzy. But when it does arrive, the HSV versions will drop the Monaro name, instead opting for simply Coupe, in two specification levels: GTO and GTS. The GTO will make do with the 255kW engine from the "regular" HSVs, while the GTS will get the more potent 300kW version along with the premium cross-drilled brake package. Expect the Coupe GTO to sell for about $70,000 and the Coupe GTS for somewhere around $100,000. HSV has already declared that its Monaro derivatives will be the best-handling HSVs ever. The basic shape of the first-ever HSV coupes will be identical to Holden’s Monaros, but you can bank on an appropriately radical body kit that screams HSV. ----- Monaro may hit the road in America By Toby Hagon, Motoring Editor The Age Wednesday February 20 2002 Holden's Monaro and Commodore utility could soon be sold in the US as part of an export plan being evaluated by General Motors executives. The move is being pushed by the company's vice-chairman of product development, Bob Lutz, who has breathed life back into GM's North American operations. "There are obviously export opportunities with Holden," Mr Lutz said. "Nothing is certain. We still have to analyse the business case and see if we can ... (justify) the considerable engineering effort that would be required for the Monaro to meet US federal regulations." What is certain, though, is the strong push from the US to make Australian exports work. Mr Lutz considers the Monaro a perfect replacement for America's Pontiac GTO and the Commodore ute as a modern-day version of the Chevrolet El Camino. GM is interested in the V8-powered versions only, with potential for up to 20,000 sales annually, beginning as early as 2004. "Assuming affordability, there isn't one guy in the US that wouldn't want it (the Monaro) sooner rather than later," Mr Lutz said. "GM has a history of getting things done when everyone wants them done." But the Commodore-based vehicles would require significant structural modifications to make them eligible for US consumption. The main issue is the stricter safety regulations in the US, especially the position of the fuel tank, which may rupture in a severe rear impact. GM also has to evaluate whether to commit to modifying the existing vehicles, which would take at least two years to make eligible, or to wait until 2005, when a Commodore will be built. ----- Monaro is the new Pontiac GTO Holden's Monaro will be exported to the US with General Motors chiefs firming in their intention to buy the Aussie coupe and re-badge it for the North American market. smh.com.au Thursday March 28 2002 The Holden Monaro will be exported to the United States with General Motors chiefs firming in their intention to buy the Aussie coupe. Holden and GM have been working on a plan to export up to 20,000 Monaros a year to the US, but as recently as last month it remained a feasibility study and a hopeful outcome rather than a done deal. But overnight, GM's North American chairman Bob Lutz has declared his intention to take the car, badging it in the US as the latest interpretation of the Pontiac GTO. Speaking at the New York Motor Show, Mr Lutz said he'd driven the car in a recent trip to Australia and loved it. He said GM is expected to debut the American Monaro at the Detroit motor show next January. Holden has confirmed it's working with GM on the business case for the Monaro and recently appointed planning executive Brett Vivian to lead the cross-company project. If Holden can secure 20,000 Monaro exports to the US each year the deal will triple current production levels for the new car. AAP ----- Monaro exports avoid US union collision Hyped as the jewel in Holden's crown and the successor to the Pontiac GTO muscle car in the US, the Monaro may not be such a big export deal after all. By John Lamm The Sydney Morning Herald Friday April 19 2002 Hyped as the jewel in Holden's crown and the successor to the Pontiac GTO muscle car in the US, the Monaro may not be such a big export deal after all. When the powerful United Auto Workers union in Detroit heard about the GTO replacement, it contemplated industrial action to protect jobs. But when the UAW found out that just 20,000 Monaros were headed for the US, it effectively said, "So what?" That number represents one-fifth of the annual capacity of Holden's Adelaide plant, but it barely troubles the tally clerks in the Big Three's mega-factories. US car sales last year, including imports, exceeded 17 million. GM spokesman Tom Kowaleski told Drive the Australian import "very clearly fills in an existing niche in our product lineup, but is not a replacement for any one of our mass-produced products. "The UAW is well aware of the situation and we don't foresee any problems." He said if GM were to import, for example, 150,000 Monaros from Australia instead of building a car in the US, "that would be a whole different situation". GM, he said, wanted to get the Monaro as soon as possible. The Monaro would make its debut as a Pontiac at the Detroit motor show in January and go on sale soon after. "It fits perfectly in terms of what we'd like to have for Pontiac as an image leader," he said. Given that the GTO was a classic US muscle car, how did GM expect Americans to react to it being built down under? "We don't think [it's an issue] because the piece of the whole product that's really going to stand out is the good old American-made 5.7-litre V8," Kowaleski said. "We're still working on exactly what we're going to do, in terms of what engine we're going to put in the car, but it will be a 5.7-litre V8." GM's worldwide product boss Bob Lutz, who visited Australia last month, was apparently so impressed by the Monaro he is understood to have fast-tracked the budget approval for US engineering changes. Beyond being left-hand-drive, the GTO will look different from the current Australian Monaro. It is likely to have front panels and interior borrowed from the updated VY Commodore due in August. Stop press: Holden's Monaro has been awarded two major Australian design awards. The Monaro has won the 2002 Australian Design Award in the Industrial Design Category and a special accolade from the Design Institute of Australia as its Industrial Design Selection. ----- Getting our Goat – the war of words over America's 'new' GTO By Peter McKay The Sydney Morning Herald Monday May 20 2002 A war of words has erupted over whether Holden's Monaro can replace Pontiac's GTO. General Motors product tsar Bob Lutz waxed lyrical about the Holden Monaro when he announced it would be sold in North America as a revived Pontiac GTO, but he may have a battle winning over fans of the original muscle car of the '60s. The hot topic in West Coast burger joints and Midwest Walmart auto shops is whether an Australian-built two-door can ever replace the "Goat", as aficionados know it. Australians love the Monaro's swoopy, clean styling; Americans reckon it is, well, a bit bland and they're worried that its performance will not live up to the grand old name. Re-engineering for export will see the Monaro's fuel tank moved to meet tough US crash regulations, and the airbags must have a disable switch. GM is working on several styling options to satisfy the tastes of the Pontiac clan. But the hardest task likely will be overcoming the Archie Bunker mentality. The 1964 original inspired Ronnie and the Daytonas' Top 40 song, Little GTO, which turned the four-on-the-floor, 360-horsepower 389-cubic-inch coupe into the baby boomers' dream ride. (Pictured, a '65 model.) GTO clubs across the US are split on admitting the Holden version to their ranks, but with an aging membership, most are in need of some new blood. Joseph Genera, the president of the Connecticut chapter of the GTO Association of America, welcomes a new GTO – but only if it stays true to its original form. "It has to exude 'muscle car'," said Genera. "It has to look strong standing still, should be able to perform the way it looks, with power." One GTO enthusiasts' Web site thundered: "Hopefully, they will get a real big clue and listen to us GTO enthusiasts about what we want." Goat tragic Stephan Wright of Wichita, Kansas, said: "If they can't dazzle us old goats, don't insult us or even waste our time, right! She better have the looks to get us laid like my '69 did and the horsepower and performance to go with it!" Forbes magazine weighed in: "... the Monaro shares mechanical innards with GM Australia's Holden Commodore, a car the ... press has excoriated for failing engines, erratic transmissions and bad brake lights." Forbes and other US critics seem not to have twigged that the "failing" 5.7-litre engines and "erratic" gearboxes are imported from the US. They must be equally fault-prone in Corvettes et al sold in the US. It also might be a fact that the Monaro-cum-GTO may handle and stop a little too predictably for the average Pontiac owner. Among the Holden loyalists responding to the slights was Grant Whitehorn, who works at Holden's Elizabeth, SA, plant where Monaros are made. "We have had very few reports about engine and transmission malfunctions (if any) and there are no problems with failing brake lights," he said. US-bound GTOs were likely to go through three separate quality checks before they were shipped. In an email spray to a GTO Web site, Australian Dan Guralnek went into the Monaro's hero image, its rich racing heritage and its popularity as a muscle car in the '70s. "It is loaded with street cred," he said. "It's fast, very fast ... Lutz has said that Holden is going to become the new benchmark for GM. "Our cars have far superior build quality than yours and we can build 'em for less. I don't think the worry is whether the Monaro is good enough for the Pontiac GTO tag but rather, is the Pontiac GTO tag good enough for the Monaro?" A Holden spokesman took the diplomatic line: "It's great that Pontiac fans are expressing what they love about the old GTOs. But this is not about designing a new GTO – it's about providing a modern performance car. "The new GTO is the car that Bob Lutz drove and loved. The US version will be similar in appearance, taking into account the requirements to make it look like a Pontiac." Lutz is banking on plenty of hip performance car enthusiasts queuing up at US dealerships to buy a GTO. The price should be right – import tariffs range up to 25 percent on rivals for the staple US conveyance, the pick-up truck. On the Australian car, the tariff will be 2.5 percent. ----- Raging thirst for success When the Holden Monaro hits the road in the US as the Pontiac GTO, it will arrive with a big, bad reputation. By Bob Jennings The Sun-Herald Tuesday June 25 2002 General Motors product boss and Monaro enthusiast Bob Lutz, he's prepared to subject it to the government's "gas guzzler" tax to ensure it has the right performance image when it arrives there late next year. "For a car to be credible, accepted as a rebirth of the rear-drive American muscle car, it has got to have that rocket-sled acceleration off the line," Automotive News quoted Lutz as saying at a media event in Germany last week. "We'll offer American style off-the-line performance of squealing tyres," he said, indicating that the company would change long-standing practice and subject the car to the fuel consumption federal tax. It was confirmed on Friday that Holden would export 18,000 Monaros a year to the US, starting in September 2003. There will be a name change for North American consumption. The Monaro will revive the Pontiac GTO badge and some US performance enthusiasts are less than pleased about the appropriation of their jealously guarded nameplate to an Australian interloper. GM's decision to go with the gas guzzler classification is all about image. Only two US models are subjected to the tax – the Dodge Viper and the Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. The fact that they are classified as wanton environmental offenders is practically an endorsement for traditional buyers of American muscle cars. The gas guzzler tax is a sliding scale which penalises cars with fuel consumption worse than 22.5mpg, or 10.46 litres/100km. (The American gallon being smaller than the old imperial gallon which was formerly used in Australia.) The US Internal Revenue Service tax is levied on top of the new price of the car. The lowest rate is $US1000 ($1790) and increases progressively in line with the tested average fuel consumption of the car. GM's Chevrolet Corvette avoids the tax with what it refers to as a "skip-shift feature" that locks out second and third gears under moderate acceleration, and which has the effect of improving the car's required economy to beat the 22.5mpg barrier. Lutz said that the Monaro's Chevrolet Camaro-adapted 5.7-litre V8 would be modified to give the GTO more power and higher torque at low speeds for faster acceleration. He said that 350 horsepower (260kW) V8 would be "in the right neighbourhood" for power output. The standard Monaro V8 develops 225kW (about 306bhp) at 5200rpm. However, there's no need for Lutz to send his Detroit engineers back to the drawing board; the Holden Special Vehicles versions of the Monaro give him the power he requires. The HSV GTO has 255kW of power, which definitely puts the car into the right neighbourhood, while the GTS, with its 300kW would give Lutz around 400bhp. Australian fuel consumption requirements don't align with the US average consumption combining, which combines city and country use but according to the Australian standard method of testing, the CV8 Monaro V8 uses 13 litres/100km (US18mpg) during the city driving cycle and 8 litres/100km in the country. ----- Monaro designer says US style changes are no improvement By Toby Hagon The Age Thursday June 27 2002 Holden's chief designer, Mike Simcoe, has distanced himself from the styling of the US-bound Monaro, which goes on sale in America next year badged as a Pontiac GTO. Despite overseeing the Pontiac's styling – Simcoe still prefers his original Holden design to the GTO with its bold twin-nostril nose or the wing-clad HSV variants. "We designed the car that we're producing right now and any iteration beyond that is, in my mind, not as good as the original," said Simcoe. Despite his preferences, Simcoe added that the GTO suited the Pontiac image and would fit in with future models from the marque. "The performance of the car will be the thing that sells it," he said last week at Holden's announcement that the export deal had finally been signed. Wearing the Pontiac badge, some 18,000 Monaros a year are to be sold in the US – almost triple the number expected to be sold in Australia. The two-door Commodore, which revived a 30-year-old classic and has been an image leader for Holden since going on sale last December, will be displayed at next year's Detroit Motor Show before rolling off the company's South Australian production line in September next year. Speaking from GM's head office in Detroit last week, Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger said: "We all win from having an industry promoted overseas. Holden has been handed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with this contract and we will look at it as a platform for further growth." The Pontiac GTO will be sold with the Chevrolet-sourced 5.7-litre V8 engine and a four-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission. ----- Do I really want you? Uncle Sam to Australia's export Monaro Holden's two-door export showpiece, due in the US next year, faces a fickle market and premium prices. But, says Bob Jennings, it has fans in high places at General Motors Friday July 19 2002 The Monaro won't have an easy ride when it arrives in the US next year -- already there are concerns that it might not live up to expectations. "By the time it gets here, the platform will be 10 years old, and for the money it doesn't look like an attractive deal," says Don Sherman of US Automobile magazine, who has tested the Monaro. "The only similar things to the original are the name GTO, a V8 engine, rear-wheel drive and two doors." The Monaro's acclaimed local design also appears to be too subtle for American tastes. "I think it is a good car with lots of potential," Sherman says, "but how well it will go in the US will depend on how much Pontiac pumps it up for US consumption, in terms of performance and appearance. "At the moment, the Monaro looks attractive, though a bit understated; people are going to expect spoilers and hood scoops." Sherman believes that at about $US30,000 ($53,000) to $US35,000 the car will be too expensive. "Because of the price, it will only appeal to wealthy, older enthusiasts." Certainly it will be compared to the venerable Ford Mustang, whose latest Cobra version is priced at $US34,750. power from the 4.6-litre V8 is lifted from 239kW (already in excess of the Monaro's output) to 290kW with the use of an Eaton supercharger. At least the Monaro has a fan in the chairman of North American operations for General Motors, Bob Lutz. His enthusiasm percolates through the Pontiac organisation, which is in desperate need of resuscitation, with sales down 16 percent last year on the previous year, and a further 4 percent to May this year. Holden's success in reworking the Monaro to meet US regulations and reflect GTO styling cues within half the customary development time will be crucial to Pontiac's revival strategy. "It will be a 'halo' vehicle for us. We won't have a problem with this car," says confident Pontiac general manager Lynn Myers. She says it will be an "icon" for Pontiac, whose future models will have more contemporary designs with "character" cues. Vitally, these cues include performance, the hallmark of the original GTO, and that's where the first reservations appear. Lutz and Myers vow that the new GTO's performance will maintain the badge's high-performance tradition -- but they admit 225kW, the output of the Monaro's standard 5.7-litre LS1 V8, isn't enough. Engineers in Australia and the US are working on lifting the power, especially at the low end of the rev-range, in an attempt to give the car the obligatory off-the-line acceleration. Lowering the overall gearing would help, especially with the six-speed manual. But they don't want to go to the expense of fitting the HSV versions with high-performance engines developed by US specialist Reeves Callaway. Pontiac's design director for international programs and prestige vehicles, John Mack, admits GTO fans in the US are "very fickle". In styling adaptations, he would prefer to "err on the side of classic simplicity". The clay modelling for the GTO's twin-nostril grille, integrated front fog lights and new bonnet incorporating twin air scoops is reaching the final stages -- not in Detroit but in the Holden design studios in Port Melbourne. Mack says Lutz's enthusiasm for the Monaro is reflected by those insiders who have seen it and driven it. "I haven't seen excitement like this around a car for a long time," he says. "We have a black one here and it looks very sinister; the body has a very liquid shape. Graphically, it is a little mild but its gesture and stance are right." Sherman is right about the pricing; the GTO will be a premium model in the Pontiac range and will be priced to rival the Audi 3.0-litre A6 quattro and BMW 330i. The GTO will have a dual introduction in the US for maximum impact. It will make its first official appearance at the Los Angeles motor show, which will open early in January, and a few days later it will be at Detroit's North American International Auto Show, one of the world's major shows. The Monaro with the new suit will be the first Australian-built General Motors car to sell in the US since General Motors-Holden's was established in 1931. It will go on sale in the second half of next year as a 2004 model. ----- XXX-rated Monaro movie debut By Alexander Corne The Age Tuesday November 19 2002 Holden is cock-a-hoop about its first export to the United States making a highly public Hollywood debut just months after going on sale. Vin Diesel will drive the 2004 Pontiac GTO (nee Monaro) in the sequel to his latest film, XXX. US buyers will get their first chance to view the new Pontiac GTO in the metal at the LA and Detroit motor shows early next year. Two cars have been shipped to America, with full US specifications, including exterior and interior changes, many of which will be seen in the Monaro V2 Series II update due here in 2003. The Pontiac GTO's bulbous nose, as hinted at in official pre-release sketches, has been toned down, insiders claim. The "sleeker" show cars have special paint schemes. One is believed to be a ruby red similar to that used on previous Pontiac concepts, while both cars have the Federal 260kW 5.7-litre V8 engine. Now showing around Australia, XXX stars Vin Diesel as Xander XXX Cage, a new breed of secret agent who drives a highly modified 1967 Pontiac GTO. In the sequel he will update to the 21st-century Monaro-based car. Pontiac hopes the XXX films will help resurrect its muscle-car image. Its last significant on-screen presence was in 1977 when Burt Reynolds steered a black Trans Am to immortality (and near-destruction) in Smokie and the Bandit. Smokie delivered a phenomenal sales and image boost to the brand. The intensity of car placement in movies is reaching new levels. Mercedes-Benz used Men in Black II to introduce the new E Class (it was scooped during filming a year before release, much to the company's anguish) and the latest James Bond movie, Die Another Day, which opens later this month, is a rolling billboard for Ford's Aston Martin, Jaguar and Thunderbird. Agent 007's 1964 Aston Martin DB5 complete with ejector seat is probably the best expression of product placement, catapulting the company to worldwide fame in the 1960s and 1970s. The sequel to X-Men is being shot with the heroes driving prototypes of Mazda's rotary-powered RX-8 sports car, while one of the most famous "car films", The Italian Job, is set for a modern-day remake in the US using the new BMW-built Mini Cooper S. ----- Coupe coup as Holden goes to Hollywood Actors are not alone in feeling the need for plastic surgery to make it big in Hollywood. It happens with cars, too. By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor, in Los Angeles The Sydney Morning Herald Monday January 6 2003 The Holden Monaro's much awaited nose job for the United States has been unveiled at the Los Angeles Motor Show. In a move likened to selling coals to Newcastle, the Australian icon will replace a US icon, the Pontiac GTO, in the US from the end of the year. It is the first vehicle Holden has exported to the US in significant numbers since a handful of sedans were sent to Hawaii in the early 1950s. The car already has a movie contract. Thanks to product placement, the Pontiac GTO will feature prominently in the sequel to the action film XXX, starring Vin Diesel. The sports coupe is visually identical to the Monaro except for the bold front bumper. General Motors executives took the glory at the unveiling while the Australians who made the vehicle a reality watched from the sidelines. Holden's intensely proud designer, Mike Simcoe -- who first sketched the Commodore coupe on his lounge-room wall to create what was intended to only be a display car for the 1998 Sydney Motor Show -- said the export program was "beyond our wildest dreams". But the father of the reborn Monaro has mixed feelings about the US nose job and said the coupe would remain unchanged in Australia. "I have always said from the beginning that I prefer the original design, because that's what we designed in the first place," Mr Simcoe said. "We didn't set out to design a Pontiac. That said, we understand that to sell it as a Pontiac, the US fans wanted a different look, with cues that remind buyers of the original Pontiac GTO." When it was revealed that the new Pontiac GTO would come from Australia, US enthusiasts flooded internet chat sites with protests -- and suggestions. "We read what enthusiasts were saying on the internet and looked at the pictures they created, but the reality is, that didn't have any input on the result," Mr Simcoe said. Rock legend and car collector Chubby Checker prefers the Monaro, and ordered one during his recent visit to Australia. The export program effectively secures the future of the coupe in Australia and marks a significant turning point for Holden. The firm's chairman and managing director, Peter Hanenberger, said he wanted to transform the company from a big player in a relatively small market to a niche player in the global market. Holden sold fewer than 5000 Monaros in Australia last year but expects to export 18,000 as Pontiacs annually. In the US, where 16 million vehicles are sold each year, it is not economically viable for car factories to build cars in such small numbers. The Monaro will also be exported to the Middle East later this year, and Holden has plans to export the Commodore and Statesman to China by 2005. The company is already testing vehicles there. ----- Commodore in race for US market By Joshua Dowling, Los Angeles The Sun-Herald Monday January 6 2003 The home-grown Holden Commodore could follow the Monaro to the US as part of the push by the car maker to become a major global force. Just hours after the Monaro was unveiled as a Pontiac GTO at the Los Angeles Motor Show, General Motors vice-chairman of product development Bob Lutz said the next generation Commodore range, due in 2006, could join the Monaro -- but only if it was built in the US. He said General Motors was looking into the feasibility of duplicating the tools required to build the next Commodore -- and assembling various models, including the ute and the luxury Statesman, in America. "The whole line of Holdens could be produced in the United States," Mr Lutz said. "We are at an early stage of investigating working with Holden to let them engineer the successor to the current Holden rear-wheel-drive architecture and then work with us to ensure all US safety and all US requirements are taken into account." Building the Commodore in America would allow General Motors to overcome the 25 percent tariff on imported vehicles.