MONARO MAG IC

IS THIS THE BEST-LOOK­ING CAR WE EVER MADE? MAYBE. SEE OUT GI­ANT 50-YEAR CEL­E­BRA­TION

Unique Cars - - CONTENTS -

“THE TWO-DOOR HQ THAT AP­PEARED IN JULY 1971 WAS IN ITS OWN WAY EV­ERY BIT AS SPEC­TAC­U­LAR AS THE HK”

Few will deny that Holden’s Monaro when it ap­peared in 1968 ranked as the most sig­nif icant new con­cept in Aus­tra lian au­to­mo­tive his­tor y. No man­u­fac­turer in t his countr y had ever of­fered such a range of en­gine, trans­mis­sion and trim in com­bi­na­tion with a shape that com­manded hy pnotic at­ten­tion.

Yet just t hree years would pass be­fore t he sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion HQ Monaro set a new bench­mark with its head-snap­ping st yle.

The t wo-door HQ that ap­peared in July 1971 was in its own way ever y bit as spec­tac­u­lar as t he HK. The fast­back prof ile was re­placed in t he HQ by a squarer C-pil­lar and dis­tinc­tive wrap-over rear win­dow which mod­ernised the shape while main­tain­ing t he model’s inv it­ing pilla rless look. No prizes t hough for pre­dict­ing that the t wo-door HQ would in time be joined by a sedan.

The 350 cu­bic-inch, 5.7-litre Chevro­let V8 was of­fered only to buy­ers of GTS and LS-spec Monaros. With no fur­ther need for a big and pow­er­ful car to un­derta ke com­pe­ti­tion dut y, t he out­put of t he 5.7-litre mo­tor was pared back from 224kW in t he HG man­ual to a still-ef­fec­tive 205kW.

Insta lling a 350 in your GTS in­creased t he price by a sub­stan­tia l $ 850. At $4630 t he t wo-door re­mained slight ly cheaper than the sedan t hat joined t he range in early 1973. Then came the op­tions.

Stan­dard GTS f it­tings in­cluded pressed steel sports wheels, a ‘turned metal’ dash and GTS steer­ing wheel. A ba­sic push-but­ton ra­dio cost $110 and lam­i­nated wind­screen an ex­tra $ 55.

Power steer­ing was of­fered as an op­tion but only in con­junc­tion with au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Turns lock-to-lock re­duced from a fairly snappy 3.7 in man­ual steer cars to a rea lly rapid 2.6 wit h power steer. The down­side was a loss of feel at t he straight-a head and ten­dency for in­ex­pe­ri­enced drivers to f lick on too much op­po­site lock when the HQ – as they

did fre­quently – got out of shape on a wet road. Ra­dial tyres were stan­dard but only on the GTS.

One of sev­eral road tests to fea­ture the HQ Monaro 350 was by Mod­ern Mo­tor mag­a­zine and in­cluded an in­ter­est­ing in­sur­ance com­par­i­son be­tween an LS and the GTS. Us­ing quotes from the NRMA, a Syd­ney-based driver over 25 on max­i­mum No-Claim bonus would pay $112 an­nu­ally to cover a the 253-en­gined LS and just $12 more if you chose a GTS 350.

Chev-en­gined HQs were most likely to be spec­i­fied with three-speed Turbo-Hy­dra ma tic au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, how­ever the per­for­mance heavy-hit­ter was still the Mun­cie four-speed man­ual. Top speeds were vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal (193 km/h for the man­ual ,190 with the auto) but off the mark the four-speed was 0.7 sec­onds faster to 80km/h. By the time both cars reached 160km/h the man­ual had streaked to a three sec­ond ad­van­tage.

Back when hit­ting 140 km/h while over tak­ing wasn’t go­ing to cost your li­cence, t he man­ual Monaro demon­strated a dis­tinct ad­van­tage. While dead-heat­ing at 2.7 sec­onds for t he 50-80km/h dash, the four-speed car was more than a sec­ond faster in the 80-110k m/h in­cre­ment than the au­to­matic.

A year be­fore the world was thrown into tur­moil by soar­ing f uel prices and oil short­ages, any­one who even asked about econ­omy while in­ves­ti­gat­ing GTS 350 own­er­ship prob­a­bly wasn’t all that se­ri­ous about hav­ing one.

Cir­cum­stances to­day are dif­fer­ent. With t he 65 litre tank cost­ing $1.60-1.80 per litre to re­fill (98 Pre­mium is nec­es­sary) and drain­ing it­self at a rate ap­proach­ing 22 lt /100 km a GTS doesn’t need togo very far at all for it to chew through $100 worth of fuel.

ON THE ROAD

All-coil sus­pen­sion had been the main­stay of Gen­eral Mo­tors’ mid and large-sized cars for many years how­ever the par­ent com­pany

“HOW­EVER, THE PER­FOR­MANCE HEAVY HIT­TER WAS STILL THE MUN­CIE FOUR-SPEED MAN­UAL”

“ON ROUGHER, TIGHTER ROADS THE HQ’S UN­DER­STEER BE­CAME MORE PRO­NOUNCED”

avoided re­plac­ing rear leaf springs with coils in its Monaro-sized Ca­maro and Fire­bird.

In Aus­tralia the de­ci­sion to change was taken with ef­fect across the HQ pas­sen­ger car range and that in­cluded the Monaro. In some re­spects the softer feel made HQ and later Monaros eas­ier to drive than big-en­gined HK-HG ver­sions but on rougher, tighter roads the HQ’s un­der­steer be­came more pro­nounced.

Buy­ers who couldn’t aban­don the no­tion that cars like theirs should still be grid­ding up for the an­nual Bathurst stoush would nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards the man­ual HQ. Those who would rarely see an un­re­stricted road more of­ten went for an auto with power steer­ing and per­haps an air-con­di­tioner and still en­joyed them­selves.

Road test writ­ers praised the GTS seats for com­fort but they surely could not have been in­clud­ing lat­eral grip in their eval­u­a­tion be­cause there is none.

Throw an HQ into a bend fast enough to in­duce tyre squeal and the f lat vinyl seats with their op­tional ‘hound­stooth’ cloth in­serts would tr y to dump driver and pas­sen­ger into the same corner of the cabin. Seat belts were sup­plied but in those days their use was a sug­ges­tion not a rule. To­day’s in­er­tia reel belts are a big help.

Vis­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially in two-door cars, is out­stand­ing al­though you do need to take a bit of a guess when park­ing as to where the edge of the boot lid is. The coupe doors are huge and

“SEAT BELT USE THEN WAS A SUG­GES­TION, NOT A RULE”

heav y and if t hey don’t close wit hout be­ing lifted you might be fac­ing prob­lems wit h t he hinge boxes.

Oc­cu­pants who in the back of a Hard­top X A Fal­con could see a lmost noth­ing en­joy a ver y de­cent v iew from the back seat of a t wo-door HQ. Those who choose the sedan as plat­form for t heir ‘350’ pow­er­train miss out on t he panoramic v iews but do en­joy sim­i­larly gen­er­ous lev­els of leg-room.

Head­lights are poor for a car wit h t he per­for­mance po­ten­tia l of a GTS and an up­grade to halo­gens is worth­while, even if t he car will rarely leave t he sub­urbs. Bra kes are a big­ger is­sue and can’t be im­proved sig­nif icant ly wit hout com­pro­mis­ing t he aut hen­ticit y of now-va lu­able ve­hi­cles.

Look­ing back to mag­a­zine tests when the HQ was new shows heav y weight trans­fer un­der max­i­mum bra k ing ef­fort and lock ing of front and rear wheels – ap­par­ently quite at ran­dom depending on sur­face im­per­fec­tions.

A rem­edy for the nose-down an­tics can be found at your loca l sus­pen­sion cen­tre while bet­ter-qualit y pads can slow t he rate at which heat af­fects bra ke per­for­mance. How­ever for rea lly top stop­ping per­for­mance t he only an­swer is a switch to rear-wheel discs.

RIGHT The HQ’s driver presided over a cock­pit that was up with the best of them in the ana­logue era.

LEFT The stance says agility, the styling is smart and the twin pipes prom­ise per­for­mance. TOP RIGHT The 350 lost a few horses for HQ, but there’s still grunt aplenty on tap.RIGHT Op­tional hound­stooth cloth in­serts were the bee’s knees back in the day.

TOP RIGHT With the scrib­bling done the sales­man had come up with the right deal, just for you.

TOP The 350 SBC V8 was rightly re­garded as one of Detroit’s finest en­gines.

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