New Zealand Classic Car - - FRONT PAGE - Words: Ash­ley Webb Pho­tos: Adam Croy

With the HZ GTS, Holden put its iconic Monaro name­plate into hi­ber­na­tion for two

decades — Ash­ley checks out the fi­nal it­er­a­tion of the orig­i­nal Monaro

By the mid 1970s, Holden’s em­pha­sis was well and truly fo­cused be­hind the scenes on the next gen­er­a­tion of fam­ily sedans, and what was to be one of GM Aus­tralia’s most dra­matic model shifts ever as it geared up for the re­lease of the VB Com­modore in 1978. Not only was the Com­modore sig­nif­i­cantly more compact than the ag­ing HZ model it re­placed, it was also loosely based on the Ger­man 1977 Opel Rekord body shell, while bor­row­ing front-end styling from the Opel Sen­a­tor.

The HZ Holden, an up­date from the HQ Holden model line that was first in­tro­duced in Aus­tralia in 1971, was re­leased in 1977, and was the last in the lon­grun­ning se­ries.

In an at­tempt to give the HZ some de­gree of dig­nity be­fore low­er­ing the cur­tain on what had be­come a true Aussie icon, Holden fit­ted the full-size sedan with Ra­dial Tuned Sus­pen­sion (RTS) — that ac­tu­ally meant it could han­dle the twisty bits, tam­ing lo­cal road con­di­tions with rel­a­tive poise, and had the ca­pac­ity to stop with Euro­pean-style com­pe­tence, thanks to op­tional rear disc brakes.

In fact, the re­vised sus­pen­sion sys­tem was so suc­cess­ful at pro­vid­ing the big sedan with a de­cent set of road man­ners that the re­main­ing mem­bers of the ‘Big Three’ — Ford and Chrysler — re­sponded by of­fer­ing cus­tomers their own up­graded sus­pen­sion sys­tems.

Need­less to say, the long over­due and much ac­claimed Ra­dial Tuned Sus­pen­sion set-up to­tally trans­formed the en­tire HZ Holden range — and none more so than the best per­form­ing Holden of them all to roll off GM Aus­tralia’s pro­duc­tion line, the GTS sedan.

Premier per­for­mance car

When the HZ GTS ap­peared on the scene it was in­stantly ranked by many Aussies as the flag­ship of Holden’s com­pre­hen­sive HZ model line-up, as well as Aus­tralia’s premier per­for­mance car — a po­si­tion that was con­sol­i­dated in May 1978 when the 5.0-litre V8 be­came the model’s stan­dard pow­er­plant. Whilst many claimed the more up­mar­ket and lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed States­man de­served to be crowned with that ti­tle, GM was du­bi­ous about pro­mot­ing it as a Holden.

In­ter­est­ingly, the HZ GTS came with one glar­ingly ob­vi­ous omis­sion — the Monaro badge that had proudly adorned pre­vi­ous GTS mod­els was miss­ing. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the lit­er­a­ture and brightly coloured brochures dished out to the pub­lic at lo­cal Holden deal­er­ships, the car was in­deed of­fi­cially des­ig­nated a Monaro GTS sedan. Con­trary to the

lack of Monaro badg­ing, it seemed as if Holden had af­ter­thoughts, and per­haps was loathe to sit and watch the leg­endary Monaro name dis­ap­pear into the abyss of Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing his­tory — es­pe­cially when this fi­nal in­car­na­tion, a true mem­ber of the pres­ti­gious Monaro fam­ily, would take it out on such a high note.

De­spite all this, not only did the HZ GTS of­fer re­mark­able ad­vances in ride and han­dling with the in­tro­duc­tion of Ra­dial Tuned Sus­pen­sion, it cer­tainly looked the part, its vis­ual im­pact suit­ing its new un­der­pin­nings.

A sporty mesh grille com­plete with hand­some chrome sur­round and GTS badge mounted in the lower left cor­ner was flanked ei­ther side by four headlights set in a black sur­round — men­ac­ing to say the least, es­pe­cially when in full view of one’s rear-vi­sion mir­ror. Sub­tle body stripes, body-colour front and rear spoil­ers and bumpers, as well as a ‘hon­ey­comb’ sports-wheel pack­age helped to make the HZ GTS stand out in fine Monaro tra­di­tion.

At the busi­ness end, the HZ GTS boasted a 4.2-litre V8 as stan­dard equip­ment, and for those want­ing ef­fort­less power, a 5.0-litre V8 op­tion box could be ticked on the or­der form along with a few other niceties such as power steer­ing, plaid cloth seats, a lim­ited slip dif­fer­en­tial, elec­tric win­dows and air con­di­tion­ing. By May 1978 the 5.0-litre V8 had be­come the stan­dard en­gine for the GTS. At the busi­ness end, the HZ GTS boasted a 4.2-litre V8 as stan­dard equip­ment, and for those want­ing ef­fort­less power, a 5.0-litre V8 op­tion box could be ticked

De­spite the re­lease of the VB Com­modore in 1978, de­mand for larger four-door sedans re­mained, and Holden kept the HZ pro­duc­tion lines run­ning un­til 1980. In­deed, GMH in­tended to con­tinue pro­duc­tion fur­ther, re­plac­ing the HZ with the larger WB Kingswood — based on the States­man plat­form — but, alas, with a world­wide fuel cri­sis in full swing and over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence that large car sales were de­clin­ing, the WB was canned.

From Ford and Hum­ber to Holden

When teenagers John and Ch­eryl Read got mar­ried back in 1980, and with a child on the way, in­dulging in ex­pen­sive hob­bies and own­ing a nice car weren’t an op­tion de­spite the fact that many of their friends were driv­ing up­mar­ket cars. John had al­ways been a car guy, but with a fam­ily petrol bud­get of just $15 per week, his al­lo­cated $10 would only be suf­fi­cient to run his Zephyr MKIII to work three days of the week, while Ch­eryl could man­age a full week in her Ford Es­cort on the re­main­ing $5 bud­get. Un­for­tu­nately for John the writ­ing was on the wall from very early on, and some­thing had to give — which meant that his prized Zephyr had to be re­placed with some­thing a lit­tle more sen­si­ble. And what could be more sen­si­ble than a trusty, not to men­tion highly eco­nom­i­cal, Hum­ber 90.

As the years flew by, John al­ways knew in the back of his mind that one day he would own a nice car, prefer­ably a V8, and as his 40th birth­day loomed ever closer, it seemed like the per­fect time to treat him­self. At the time John was work­ing for a tex­tile com­pany, and re­ceived a yearly bonus that he and Ch­eryl squir­relled away for sev­eral years to pro­vide the where­withal to splash out on a nice ve­hi­cle.

John had been qui­etly keep­ing an eye out for a suit­able car when he found out about a Holden HZ GTS Monaro that was tucked away in a stor­age shed in One­hunga.

As it tran­spired the Monaro’s owner was liv­ing in Welling­ton at the time, the car be­ing looked af­ter by a friend in Auck­land. When John fi­nally got to open up the shed’s door he was in­stantly im­pressed by what he saw — de­spite atro­cious, dark and dreary weather the yel­low glow com­ing from within the shed was more than enough to brighten his day.

John was lucky enough to track down a com­plete orig­i­nal dash and ra­dio in Mel­bourne — only to dis­cover that the dash was also out of a Premier

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