ALL-ORIGINAL MAZDA RX-3 COUPE
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