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