Beautiful but too hard-core? By Julian Edgar Published: 7 May, 2002 Preconceptions can be a dangerous thing. I mean, take the Holden Monaro. One of the most eagerly awaited cars ever produced in this country, it mixes what can only be described as stunning looks with a strong 225kW all-alloy V8, well-sorted suspension and Holden practicality and price. Just the sort of car to sprint down a twisting country strip of bitumen, and just at home swanking down an inner city street populated with sidewalk coffee shops. Well, that's what my preconceptions told me... But the reality is a little different from that. This isn't a European-refinement-meets-American-V8 type of car. It looks beautiful - sure. It seems to be practical - and within the confines of having only two doors, it certainly is. But - at least in CV8 form - it's also a hard-edged, heavy and slightly ponderous car to drive. The suspension - which works well on smooth and near-smooth blacktop - bottoms-out on the poor bitumen secondary roads that are so common; the gearbox baulks when you try to change gear quickly; and the steering has lost the sharpness and speed of response which makes the other large Holdens feel wieldy and nimble despite their size. Intake noise is pleasant in note but loud - too loud for many potential buyers, we're sure. On the road this is an old-fashioned, rumbling, snorting, traditional performance V8 muscle car, not the svelte nimble and sweet performance coupe that its looks would lead you to expect. It's indicative that the Monaro is quite tiring to drive, especially over long distances on indifferent roads. Of course, just as it is, the Monaro will suit many buyers' expectations perfectly. But surely a far greater number would be attracted to part with their dollars by test-driving a car that is quieter, still handles very well, rides far better and has less sheer masculine weight and bravado about it? Funny thing is, the CV8 Monaro has more than just a touch of an aftermarket hottie about the way that it rides and drives. But let's look at the good news - cos there's plenty of that as well. Looks, beauty, styling excellence, visual impact, grace, elegance, power, aggression, flow, detail, aura, poise. As happened way back when the original Monaro turned an ugly Kingswood duckling into a metaphorical swan, so the current Monaro makes from the bulbous and unexciting Commodore a car that is visually superb. It looks wonderful in pictures; it looks evocative passing you on the street - and it looks even better parked at your house! And that body has more than just looks - it works well too. The long doors open to allow easy admittance to the very comfortable and supportive electric seats. These must have been designed by a completely different team to the one that did the suspension and intake noise suppression - had the engine team worked on the seats, carbon fibre competition shells with minimal padding would be crushing you! But nope, the Monaro seats are a perfect example of a design that would suit someone after some enthusiastic cornering support - or someone else easing a well-padded businessman-lunch bum into their shapes. Lift the lever on the side of the backrest to tilt it forward and the whole seat electrically moves forward, allowing better access to the rear pair of seats. The young, the nimble and/or the small will easily be able to get in and out of the rear pews; the rest of us can struggle a bit. But once back there (and with the front seat electrically returned to its previous position) the accommodation is pretty good. Headroom is a little tight for the tall, and the claustrophobic won't like the lack of opening side glass. But the Commodore vents on the back of the centre console give plenty of ventilation, and foot- and leg-room are both fine. Just as they should be - after all, the standard Commodore 2788mm wheelbase is unchanged in the Monaro. Front accommodation is sprawling, and despite vehicle height being 53mm lower than an Exec sedan (most of the drop in the lower roofline), headroom is quite adequate. The boot is also very capacious, although the floor - that lifts up to reveal a speed-limited spare - is a little flimsy. The interior is generic Commodore, with some exclusive touches that could probably advantageously have been dispensed with. The instrument panel in the test car was an odd yellow. This background colour served to make the numbers hard to read at a glance - at night it was much better cos the background couldn't be seen! In the manual trans car the traction control 'off' button is out of sight to the right of the steering column, just next to the foglight button, which is exactly the same size and shape. And while there is a clear dashboard indication of when the traction control button is switched off, people make mistakes - and the buttons shouldn't be next to one another. In fact, we know of one Monaro that would not have had an airbag-inflating incident with a wall, had the traction control and foglight switches been far apart. (And nope, it wasn't this writer!) The sound system is the same 10-stacker-in-the-boot CD system used in the Calais - to be frank, it's not very good. But the individual-setting climate control works well, and the other controls - including the new stalks - are simply labelled and easy to use. With the good-looking seats and black trim of the test car, the interior doesn't look at all downmarket, as its base Commodore origins could lead you to suspect. In fact, we've read some consumer criticism that suggests the Monaro is too expensive. But in exterior and interior looks, equipment and packaging, we'd suggest just the opposite - that it is well underpriced! But what does it drive like? Well, there the story is not all good. On smooth roads the CV8 is very, very grippy. The special development 235/45 Z-rated Bridgestone Potenzas wrapped around huge 18 x 8 wheels cling tenaciously - get the turn-in right and the car squats under power and just grips and grips on exit. Get the turn-in wrong or be on the power too early and the car will understeer; with the application of even more power, the traction control will start shutting down the power oversteer slide before it begins. Well, most times before it begins, anyway. One of the disappointments in the way in that the Monaro drives is that the traction control is inconsistent. At times it allows a superb power-oversteer attitude tweak of the tail, while at other times the message is an emphatic 'no'. Once, on a bumpy roundabout, the traction control behaviour degenerated into an unedifying series of kangaroo hops as the power came and went in quick succession. Even more oddly, when the traction control system can be felt operating, there is distinct and disconcerting kickback through the throttle. The brakes - standard Commodore anchors - aren't something that you'd put your faith in for many high-speed decels, but even so, on good roads the Monaro is very quick point-to-point. But on rougher bitumen? W-e-l-l. Mostly - if you can put up with the hard ride - it's OK. But certainly not always. On one stretch of road on which we drive all of our test cars, there is a corner from hell. It is a big dipping left-hander, with multiple off-camber bumps that catch the car with the suspension already compressed. And here the Monaro was absolutely lousy. As in, suspension bottoming out several times, the body shaking with the harsh impact and the car being thrown around the road. That's not what we are used to from a factory car; it's more the expectation of the results of visiting a spring-cutting merchant at Joe's Local Suspension. The Monaro uses 'Coupe FE2 Sports Suspension' that incorporates new changes such as "opening the primary valving (bleeds) of the shock absorbers and struts and tightening up high speed valving, new shock absorber and strut damping characteristics, and revised front springs and re-designed rear springs". From our perspective, this suspension should be an option, and something with a bit more travel and bad road forgiveness should be standard. Another puzzle are the changes made to the steering of the Monaro. Given its identical wheelbase and very similar track to the Commodore (the latter quoted as being 10mm narrower front and back on the Monaro), we wonder why the steering ratio has been made slower by 13 per cent and its weight has been increased. Perhaps this is a change that will flow through to the other Holden big car models at the next update? We hope not, because even before we looked up the steering specs, it was obvious that the car was harder to place on a quick and winding road. It simply feels more ponderous, a description we would never have previously applied to Commodores. And the engine? Well, we love the 5.7. Despite the one in this car feeling off the pace compared with our last test of it in the VT SS Commodore, it's still a superbly responsive and strong engine. With the 3.46 diff ratio the gearing of the six-speed remains ludicrously high (sixth is very rarely used) but the all-alloy V8 is a delightful workhorse. This time, though, we found it rather thirsty, with around-town figures as high as 18 litres/100km. Conclusion? Well, the CV8 Monaro will find many happy customers, just as it is. But we think that the car would be a greater success if the suspension and steering distanced itself from the muscle cars of the past and were spec'd with the realisation that not everyone wants to listen to a bellowing V8 as they drive around only on smooth bitumen. But, in the grand scheme of things of a whole new model, these are aspects that can be easily fixed. Perhaps even by introducing an LS model... after all, it's been done before. Oh, and did we say? We love how it looks... Holden Monaro CV8 Fast Facts... Superbly beautiful body Practical, roomy coupe Engine noise loud, especially on acceleration Handling and ride on smooth roads excellent Handling and ride on rough roads much less acceptable Good equipment level Some question marks over build quality Good performance but can be thirsty Low price for car of this type ------ First Look: Holden Monaro By Jeff Bartlett Motor Trend, 2001-10-01 Holden has taken the covers off the new Monaro sports coupe, a rear-drive coupe that resurrects a classic Australian moniker and embodies the Camaro spirit. The two-door kin to the Commodore sedan has us scratching our chins, asking, "What if?" When we researched the future vehicle report on the next-generation Camaro for the September 2001 magazine, and followed up with our own online Camaro prescription, we had a couple insiders tell us to keep an eye on Holden. Now we know why. Much of our muscle wish list is largely addressed in the new production model, aside from a 1967-1969 Camaro three-box shape dripping in romantic heritage cues. Here is a true rear-drive coupe offered with choice of supercharged 3.8-liter/229-hp V-6 or Gen III LS1 5.7-liter/302-hp V-8, matched to a four-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox. The suspension employs McPherson struts up front and an independent rear with trailing arms -- no Salisbury rear axle here! The CV8 model wears massive 18x8-inch aluminum wheels shod in 235/40R18 Bridgestone tires, enhancing handling from the sport-tuned suspension. Power transfer and control are aided by traction control, four-channel ABS, and limited-slip differential. This tempting hardware is packaged in a car that measures 5 inches shorter, 1.6 inches narrower, and 3.8 inches taller than the current Camaro. The tidier Monaro coupe rides on a longer wheelbase, stretching 8.7 inches beyond the Camaro for minimal overhang and maximum road holding. Inside, the CV6 features basic power amenities, cruise control, 80-watt stereo, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, side airbags, trip computer, and power seats with slide function for rear access. The CV8 steps things up with more leather accents, dual-zone climate control system, three-driver memory settings, and 260-watt stereo with 10 disc changer. The price converts to $24,000 for the CV6 and $28,500 for the CV8, both coming standard with an automatic transmission. Will this Monaro come to the U.S. as a Camaro? Despite hints from a couple internal sources, it doesn't look likely. Will Chevrolet keep an eye on the Monaro as it works through its future product plans? You bet. The fourth-generation Camaro may be in its final year without a public commitment to an imminent replacement, but General Motors has proved on the global market that it can still produce exciting muscle cars. ----- GTOz: We drive the Holden Monaro, tomorrow's Pontiac GTO from Australia Holden design chief Michael Simcoe led creation of the Monaro in quasi-secret seclusion from corporate execs. It took 90 days to get from the idea to a rolling concept car displayed at the 1998 Sydney auto show. By BOB HALL (15:01 April 08, 2002) Whaddya say to a sexy- looking coupe with 5.7 liters and 302 horsepower of V8 oomph, capable of getting to 60 mph in less than 6.6 seconds with a superbly tuned, rear-drive chassis? What if it cost less than $30,000? If you say “Yes!” you’ve got company with GM’s product master Bob Lutz, who announced March 26 that this car will form the basis of the 2004 Pontiac GTO. Watch for it to debut at the 2003 Detroit or Los Angeles show. Unlike most people in the States, GM’s new Resident Car Guy can hop in a corporate jet and go quick fang in whatever wherever whenever—more or less—the urge hits him. So he decided to visit Australia for a close-up look at the Holden Monaro CV8, a unique bit of kit produced by GM’s Australian division, as well as the gang building it. Regular readers already know Lutz is no shrinking violet. Before any scribe had the opportunity to ask what he was doing in Australia, he stated that he had come to the Island Continent “to get a shot behind the wheel of the Monaro coupe and see if we can’t take it back to Detroit with us and put it in Pontiac dealerships across the United States.” You can’t get more straightforward. Yeah, but an Australian Pontiac GTO? Why not? Sure, it’s not LeMans-based, but with no LeMans to base it on (and the last LeMans—a Daewoo-built Opel Kadett—hardly a useable starting point) Holden’s Monaro coupe is an acceptable alternative. The Holden is broadly in the correct vein: It’s a rear-driver, seats four adults, has a bent eight living under the bonnet, oops, hood, and is about the proper size for a traditional GTO. Most importantly, the Monaro has a combination of attributes that puts it at classic GTO levels in most cases, and a few orders of magnitude above them in the remainder. Like handling. The Monaro’s independent suspension at each corner brings a level of ride and handling sophistication—not to mention ability—that no Pontiac wearing a GTO badge could hope to match. Even with a set of red-stripe Tiger Paws. (If red-stripe Tiger Paws are unfamiliar and your dad likes cars, please ask him for details.) The muscular Gen III LS1 all-aluminum V8 in the Monaro CV8, familiar to Corvette owners, works superbly with the Monaro’s strut front and control-link rear suspension to give the car far more composure in corners than any GTO or Firebird ever unleashed on North America. Imagine this scene with Pontiac and GTO badges on the car, and the Golden Gate in place of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, and your imagination has taken you to 2004. Holden’s engineering team, under the auspices of Tony Hyde, one serious gearhead, has spent a lot of time and effort finessing the Monaro’s underpinnings, giving the car about the best ride/handling balance of anything made in Australia. And right up there with the best the world can come up with. The rack-and-pinion steering is sharp and well-weighted, not to mention fast, with three turns lock-to-lock. The Monaro turns in crisply and has transient response that makes the car feel almost half-a-ton lighter than its 3615-pound curb weight. Levels of grip with the Monaro’s 235/40ZR-18 Bridgestone RE-040 foot-wear are impressive as hell, contributing to confidence-inspiring dynamics while easily rivaling those of a base Corvette. Compared to the Corvette, the Monaro offers a lot more predictability over surface disruptions. And while the ride is firm, it’s still got loads of compliance and sufficient suspension travel to keep you from being beaten to death over trashy road surfaces, which abound in Australia. None of that crashing over mid-corner bumps or surprise lane changes if the curve you’re negotiating isn’t perfectly smooth that the unwary Camaro or Firebird owner might encounter—when the going gets rough the Monaro keeps going, and in the direction you want. Back in 1998 I drove a Holden VT- series Commodore sedan (“donor” car for the current Holden Monaro coupe) from Los Angeles to New York. The trip was a real eye-opener since it was my first chance at a transcontinental drive— odd I had to move to Australia for the opportunity to present itself, and that the made-for-Australia Commodore coped with U.S. conditions so adroitly. The Commodore’s suspension was basically the same geometry as the Monaro’s, although the Monaro (as well as the latest Commodores) has added a toe-control link to the semi-trailing arm rear end that makes the Monaro work even better than the VT Commodore did. It may be from Oz, but that’s a GM interior, including glossy black plastic that looks like black plastic, a navigation system, six-speed Tremec manual gearbox and airbags all over the place. The Gen III V8 is pre-certified for the United States, as found in Corvette. In addition to the Gen III-powered CV8 Monaro, Holden also produces one called a CV6, using a 230-hp supercharged Buick 3.8-liter V6 coupled to a four-speed TurboHydramatic. But the CV8 with a 302-hp Gen III underhood and a choice of six-speed manual or four-speed TurboHydramatic transmission is the Monaro that is prime GTO material. Performance is in the GTO mold, though the straight-line numbers may not be on par with the likes of a classic “Goat.” The six-speed Monaro will go from zip to 62.1 mph in 6.7 seconds, with a standing-start 400-meter (the metric quarter-mile measures 1312.3 feet vs. 1320 feet) in 14.9 seconds at 98.1 mph. The Monaro tops out—in fifth—at 151 mph, more than enough to get you in trouble in your choice of state. Even one of the six Australian states. Pity is the car feels good, real good, at that speed. Traction control is fitted as standard and it does make its presence known. Performance data cited here were taken with the traction control switched off, since leaving the system on made it a bit difficult to get the car off the line. Like all Gen IIIs with their oddball firing order, the Monaro sounds a lot better inside than it does from the outside. But with the person making the payments more likely to be inside than outside, that’s probably a good thing. If there’s a black spot to the performance, it’s probably the gear change, though it’s more of a pale gray than black. Throws of the Tremec six-speed box are longer and the gear change less precise than with the German-built Getrag six-speed Holden used on earlier Commodore VT-series cars. Brakes are four-wheel discs with the fronts ventilated and the calipers finned for better cooling. Brake performance is generally good, with a communicative pedal showing some increase in travel and softening of the pedal after repeated (as in six to eight) very hard applications. ABS is part of the package as well. The Monaro is a dedicated four-seater, with plenty of real estate in the front for those in excess of six feet. Things in the rear are more restricted, though people under five feet, 10 inches will have no problems whatsoever. Above that height and it’s possible for your head to become well acquainted with the headliner. Comfort in the pews both front and rear is excellent, and with standard leather upholstery there’s a soupçon of Grand Prix-like luxury inside this potential GTO. Instrumentation consists of speedo, tach, fuel level and temperature gauges, all set in a cluster with the face color-keyed to the car’s paintwork. Seats to match the exterior paint are a no-cost option with Flame (orange), Delft (dark blue) and Red Monaros. The interior is well presented for a mass-market car, and the glossy black plastic applique on the dashboard isn’t plastic pretending to be carbon fiber or wood, but rather it’s black plastic being black plastic. Now that’s refreshing. We’re told, though, that Australian plastics are unlikely to pass American cold-weather tests, so the Monaro’s interior won’t be the GTO’s. Only a couple of other hurdles are keeping the Monaro from showing up at your local Pontiac dealer. Left-hand drive is no prob, since Holden is already building left-hook Commodores and exports them as Chevrolets to the Middle East (Luminas) and Brazil (Omega). U.S. bumper systems have been studied, a remnant of the days in 1995-96 when Buick was looking at importing Commodore sedans and wagons, and the emissions hurdle is a non-factor since the Gen III already exists in Federal and California forms. Lutz tried to put things into perspective during his trip to Australia: “We need to see if it’s reasonable after the considerable engineering effort that would be required for the Monaro to meet U.S. federal regulations, which is also going to require some structural modifications, fuel system modifications etc.,” he said. “So there is still a lot to sort out before we know whether it’s a ‘go’ program. We have to take a long, hard look at issues like this when we sit around our conference tables and discuss options and throw out questions worth exploring. “Clearly, one of the questions is, couldn’t a Monaro coupe be a modern-day reinvention of the legendary Pontiac GTO?” It sure could. And it didn’t take Lutz long to make the call, either. For just a bit more... Holden has a local tuner, HSV (Holden Special Vehicles), a company owned by Tom Walkinshaw's TWR that does for Holden Commodores and Monaros what Reeves Callaway does for Corvettes-using many of Callaway's engine mods, in fact. Though it cannot use the Monaro name, the two HSV "enhanced" Monaros are slugged GTO and GTS. Both get a unique body kit, bigger brakes and more power. The GTO is the "runt" of the litter, with a mere 342 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The price is a reasonable $38,810 at current rates of exchange between the Pacific Peso (the Australian dollar) and almighty greenback. The GTS (which gets its name from the top- spec Monaro from the car's first generation back in 1968) has a more heavily Callaway-massaged V8 developing 402 hp with 376 lb-ft. The wheels go up to 19-inchers with 245/35ZR Pirelli P Zero rubber, brakes get enlarged, cross-drilled and grooved ventilated front and rear discs with six-pot calipers up front and four pots in the rear. The cost goes up as well, with the asking price for a GTS roughly $49,850. Nobody gets a prize for guessing a certain Mr. Lutz with GM really likes the GTS. -BH ----- GM's Bob Lutz has looked Down Under to find Pontiac's 2004 GTO By Mark Fogarty July 2002 In October of 1998, Holden, GM's Australian division, unveiled a 2-door coupe concept version of its Commodore sedan — Australia's top-selling car line — at the Sydney Motor Show. Built after-hours in secret by Holden designers, it was an instant hit. So captivating was this coupe that Holden put it into production in late 2001. The Monaro (say Mon-AH-row) would have remained an Aussie indulgence if its return hadn't coincided with the appointment of Bob Lutz as GM's car czar. Lutz saw in Holden's lineup what was missing from GM's North American portfolio: an intermediate-size rear-wheel-drive car that's big on power and excitement. In the Monaro, Lutz envisioned a new Pontiac GTO, so he ordered a study of the practicality of adapting the car to U.S. standards. Holden's engineers determined that the Monaro could be cost-effectively federalized. The main changes are the relocation of the fuel tank ahead of the rear axle and new interior materials that can survive sustained sub-zero temperatures of the kind not encountered in our sunburned country. The federalized Monaro will arrive in the U.S. next year as the 2004 Pontiac GTO. This reinvented GTO will be based on the Monaro CV8, an attractive coupe that combines hairy-chested muscle with precision and poise. It's more BMW than Firebird, and it will be a remarkably good value, coming in at less than $30,000. The first thing evident about the Monaro — it's a head-turner, attracting attention on the move and when stationary. The seats are comfortable and supportive, with thick side bolsters. It's a true 4-seat coupe, with enough space front and rear for all but NBA candidates. The only quibble is that the windshield header is a tad too low for a tall driver. The soul of the Monaro CV8 is the pushrod all-American Generation III LS1 5.7-liter V-8, the Aussie-spec version of which produces 302 bhp at 5200 rpm and 339 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 revs. That's enough to move the 3615-lb. coupe smartly. With a 6-speed manual transmission, the CV8 sprints to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.6 seconds, says Holden, and it does 400 meters (slightly less than a quarter mile) in 14.7 sec. at 99 mph. The top speed is just over 150 mph. A 4-speed TurboHydramatic is also offered. The linkage of the Tremec manual gearbox lies somewhere between cumbersome and quick, its positive action mitigated by long throws. With the V-8's abundant torque, however — kept in check by traction control — 3rd gear works for all but the sharpest curves. And when the road starts bending, the refinement of the CV8's suspension tuning is revealed. MacPherson struts at the front and a semi-trailing-arm multilink rear end may seem pretty basic, but it's calibrated with sophistication. Aided by excellent torsional rigidity, the Monaro soaks up bumps and other road irregularities with uncommon compliance. The car resists being thrown off line by all but the most severe mid-corner bumps, helped by sticky 235/40ZR-18 Bridgestone Potenzas mounted on 18 x 8-in. 5-spoke alloy rims. Cornering confidence is aided by responsive rack-and-pinion steering that gives more feel, feedback and accuracy as speeds increase. In fact, the CV8's dynamics feel better the harder you push. This is a superb example of a balanced rear-drive muscle car. The weakest link of the car is its braking. While the 4-wheel discs (fronts vented with finned calipers) provide powerful and progressive retardation, their activation is unsettling, especially when you're driving aggressively. Pedal feel is initially indecisive, with a mushy, overlong action. Around town, the Monaro is relaxed and tractable, with all the right V-8 sounds. At highway speeds, the engine is barely ticking over in 6th gear. Wind and road noise drown out the engine, however, to the extent that further refinement is needed for the North American market. Yet flat-out in 5th at 120 mph, the CV8's stability would be appreciated on the Autobahn. In spite of its humble origins, the Monaro feels better built than its American GM cousins, especially in the tautness of its chassis. Its handling dynamics are better as well, on a par with European sports coupes. And in Pontiac GTO guise, the Monaro will be a revelation, a modern muscle car worthy of the famous appellation. ----- Real Time Re-Mapping the Monaro CV8 - A whopping 14.5 per cent power gain on a 5.7 Gen III Monaro! By Julian Edgar Published: 14 May, 2002 Readers will know that when we tested the CV8 Monaro last week, we were not blown away with the power. The Holden 6-speed manual press car had a peak power of 164kW at the wheels - that's a 27 per cent loss between the claimed 225kW flywheel figure and the power at the treads, as measured by a (lossy) Dyno Dynamics machine. However, tuning experts ChipTorque suggested that 164kW was in about the ballpark for a manual 225, so we left it there. But on the road, we were disappointed. So when we heard that a private customer with a CV8 Monaro was about to have some dyno work undertaken - including a re-mapping of the standard engine management in real time - we leapt at the chance of spending the day watching it happen. But, we have to say, while the power gain made on the car was staggeringly good, in some ways the session raises questions as well as answers. The Car Chad Johanson changed places from a turbo front-wheel drive Mazda MX6 Turbo to a rear-wheel drive big motha of a V8 - and he couldn't be happier. He bought one of the first Monaros available, and like pretty well everyone we've ever met, reckons that the shape is just beautiful. But having previously taken the modification route with the Mazda, it wasn't long before he started having similar non-standard ideas about the big coupe. The first step was to have a set of Wildcat extractors fitted. These flow into a dual 2½-inch stainless system, complete with hi-flow cats and straight-thru mufflers. The exhaust cost "a touch under $2000". And did the new exhaust make any more power? Chad told us that while at first he wondered, once he'd had a chance to drive a manual 5.7 Gen III ute and then step back into his own car, he thought that his car felt much sharper. So he figured that there was a little more power than standard and probably a better throttle response. Not a huge lift, though... ----- Mild Mannered Monster - A 474kW at the wheels Holden Monaro that doesn't bite! Words by Michael Knowing, Pix by Julian Edgar Published: 2 March, 2004 With 474kW at the wheels (yes, you read it right!) it's fair to call this Holden Monaro a monster. But that implies something that's simply not true. This isn't a monster that'll stamp through your garden and torment your pets -nope, this monster is as well behaved as they come. A monster on a leash. Owned by Salem Hoblos of Melbourne, this 2002 Holden Monaro defines the modern age of V8 performance. Not only is its 474kW ATW output bloody well incredible, you'll also find that it drives sweetly and the motor is largely stock inside. Who said you had to get dirty to get down?! Salem didn't set off on this project with a specific dyno figure or quarter mile in his sights. "It started off with an exhaust, bigger brakes and suspension and it kept on going from there," he says. These initial mods came not long after the 2002 purchase of the car (a CV8 Monaro optioned with sunroof, leather and all the fruit). Salem made the most of what was available off-the-shelf and enlisted G-Tech Performance to install the Premium brake package from HSV. These were a nice bolt-on affair. The suspension, too, came in for a serving with Bilstein dampers, Noltec bushes and Eibach springs (which bring the ride height down about 2½-inches). Nineteen-inch VX GTS rims have also been whacked on for improved handling and looks.... ----- Be Careful What You Wish For... Holden builds it, and Bob Lutz brought it over, but the new GTO may, in part, be my fault. Back when I was a Hot Rod grunt filling news pages, I wrote half a page on "GM's Hot V8 Rear Drive Coupe You Can't Have" (May 1999, HRM), including a photo. It was only a concept then: slick, black, and immediately dismissed as an Oz-only treat. Soon, Hot Rod asked aloud if it was the basis for a replacement F-body. I stirred the pot, and enthusiasts at least knew what a Holden was. The Monaro was a reality just two years later. On the 2001 Power Tour, I drove a Holden Utility SS--essentially an El Camino version of Monaro ("13 Reasons Why America Needs This Car Now," September 2001, HRM). It was a delight to drive, and I said so. The chassis didn't re-align your spine, everything inside was nice to touch, the correct wheels received power, grunt was more than suitable, and the price tag, thanks to the exchange rate, was a friendly $19,000 US. Crash-testing was the only federalization obstruction, but like the story said, "Compare the cost of getting Holdens to pass U.S. crash regs to the cost of the emergency last-minute facelift on the '02 Aztek." Eight months after the "13 Reasons" story appeared, Mr. Lutz, the General's new VP of Getting Our Act Together, announced that the Monaro is coming to the USA as the 2004 Pontiac GTO. I'd like to think Mr. Lutz is a Hot Rod reader. Then the griping began. "Not a real Pontiac." "An insult to the GTO legacy." "Doesn't have a Pontiac engine in it." "Not built in America!" "Doesn't even have a hood scoop!" And so forth. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, far from the L.A. launch hype, a yellow prototype GTO pirouetted on its stand. I spent half an hour with it, examining it from all angles, contemplating my role in its presence here. Lordy, what had I done? Not having driven it yet in US-spec form, I can only venture opinion on styling matters along with everyone else. And as lovely as the GTO may be mechanically, it doesn't look outstanding. It's pretty, but not terribly butch. Whack the wing and install steelies, paint it beige, and you could see it in rental fleets; it could easily be mistaken for an '02 Grand Prix coupe, especially at the front. In 1999, this would have shattered jaws rolling by. Four years later, it's just ordinary looking. The only two items that truly offended the misshapen trunk-mounted wing that follows no other body lines and the yellow seat inserts and door panels. Good thing it'll be a sweetheart to drive, then. The next-generation Monaro/GTO, rumored to be based on the same chassis architecture as the Cadillac CTS sometime '05 or so, could receive some bespoke styling, rather than just the new fascias that the '04 model got due to time and production constraints. Maybe by then GTO could be successful enough that it shares a factory with the slow-selling CTS, and you can have your US-built GTO again. In the meantime ... surely this is better than a turbocharged Grand Am wearing the GTO name? -- Jeff Koch ----- Monaro Memories Revived - The cars before the 2001 model... When Holden took the covers off its new Monaro sports coupe at the Sydney Motor Show, it was just over 33 years since the first Monaro made its debut -and national front page news - in July, 1968. Back in 1968, the striking new HK model Monaro was described by Holden as "...the biggest step we have taken since the manufacture of the first Holden in 1948 ...it is indeed the first sports machine to be designed and engineered in this country." The first Monaro offered buyers a choice of no less than 19 engine and transmission combinations - including several Chevrolet small block engines with four on the floor to match. Drivers tapped into the excitement as the coupe's instant street credibility was soon backed by unprecedented race and rally success. This charismatic sports machine, its rakish good looks matched to the traditional Holden virtues of longevity and toughness, went through a variety of model changes during its 11-year reign. Of the thousands of examples that remain, the majority are in the hands of enthusiast owners who are dedicated to ensuring that the original Monaro legend lives on. The Origin of the 'Monaro' Name Late in 1967, a mere nine months before its introduction, Holden's sensational new sports coupe was still without a name of its own. Its strongly US-influenced design suggested something along the lines of Chevrolet's Camaro, or the Oldsmobile Toronado from which it took several styling cues - but although Holden had sifted through hundreds of suggestions, none seemed to have that special ring. Then Noel Bedford, a technical stylist and member of Holden's design team, was driving through Cooma, NSW, on holiday when a sign on the council offices took his eye: "It said 'Monaro County Council' in western-type lettering that reminded me of 'Marlboro Country' and Camaro. It seemed to me so simple and logical. Why didn't somebody think of it before? I was quite excited and couldn't wait to get back to work." On his return, the name was checked for copyright and dialect meaning, then instantly approved during an impromptu meeting held next to Noel Bedford's drafting table, by the Holden board of directors. As the original HK Monaro press release stated, the name 'Monaro' is of Aboriginal origin, meaning a high plateau or high plain. The coupe shares its name with the Monaro range, which is part of NSW's Snowy Mountains as well as the Monaro Shire, just south of Canberra, ACT. ----- The Engineering Behind the 2001 Monaro - The inside story from the people who designed it. By Andrew Hynson, Manager Special Vehicles, Holden Ltd The Monaro program presented an opportunity to test Holden's mettle in terms of its capacity to design, engineer and manufacture a car in a very tight time frame. "Business as usual" would simply not deliver a car in the time available. The Holden Monaro project represents a total investment of $60 million (AUD), consisting of $40 million for plant and tooling and $20 million for design and engineering. The design and engineering investment was halved by using the latest Computer Aided Engineering techniques. Non-Traditional Development Traditionally, when we're developing a car, we build physical prototypes to test both crash and durability performance, before committing millions of dollars to production tooling. But on the Monaro program we did all of the vehicle crash and durability development virtually. That is, all on computer. When we knew we had the design right, we went straight to production tooling. The final validation was completed using pre-production vehicles at our proving ground and on Australian roads. The total time taken from styling freeze to start of production was just 22 months. In order to achieve such a rapid acceleration in the way we engineer a vehicle, we decided to run the operation as a 'skunk works'. In October 1999 we pulled together a dedicated team of 12 engineers and set up a separate engineering office. We also assembled a team of approximately 20 CAD designers. Our mission was clear: develop a 21st century Monaro using some of the most sophisticated computer aided development tools in the world. And do it radically faster than we have ever done a program before.