Fancy a big, strong V8 en­gine pow­er­ing, of­ten over­pow­er­ing, the rear wheels of an Aussie-born coupé? John Evans re­ports on the no-non­sense Vaux­hall Monaro

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

The clo­sure of the Holden plant in Aus­tralia last year is a blow for not only the work­ers but also fans of the bonkers mus­cle cars that, via Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, emerged from it. In re­cent weeks, the last of the UK’S al­lo­ca­tion of the Vaux­hall VXR8 GTS-R saloon and VXR8 Maloo pick-up have been sold.

So where now is a lover of HSV’S brand of back-to-ba­sics, rear-drive brawn to get their kicks? A spankers 2009-reg VXR8 will set you back around £33,000 but you don’t have to spend that. For just £6500, you could be in its fore­bear, a 2005-reg Monaro 5.7i V8 coupé (also called the CV8). Ad­mit­tedly, it has done al­most 145k miles but it has full ser­vice his­tory and, at least in pho­tos, looks tidy.

Its sim­ple, all-al­loy, small-block Chevro­let en­gine (co­de­named LS1) should still be pro­duc­ing close to 328bhp and a still more im­pres­sive 343lb ft. You want more? Con­sider the rarer and more pow­er­ful VXR ver­sion with 376bhp and 376lb ft. As­sum­ing you can keep the back wheels under con­trol, it does 0-62mph in 5.4sec com­pared with the CV8’S 6.0sec.

Both mod­els were launched in 2004. With their six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sions, sim­ple sus­pen­sion and, apart from trac­tion con­trol, ab­sence of driver aids, they were an an­ti­dote to more so­phis­ti­cated fare such as the Mercedes CLK 55 AMG and BMW M5. Four­teen years on, this sim­plic­ity is serv­ing them well as used mo­tors, al­though sourc­ing body pan­els and ma­jor bits is be­com­ing harder. For­tu­nately, Monk­fish Per­for­mance and other spe­cial­ists such as LSX V8 (it breaks Monaros for spares too) should be able to sup­ply that elu­sive com­po­nent.

In 2005, a facelifted ver­sion of the Monaro ar­rived with air scoops in the bon­net, a more ag­gres­sive nose and twin tailpipes. The CV8’S power rose to 344bhp and the VXR dumped the 5.7 in favour of a 6.0 V8 (co­de­named LS2). It was re­lated to the LS1 but pro­duced 397bhp and 390lb ft and the 0-62mph sprint fell to 5.1sec.

The fol­low­ing year, 2006, was the Monaro’s last, and to mark the oc­ca­sion, a su­per­charger was added to the 6.0 VXR to cre­ate the limit­ededi­tion VXR500. It packed 479bhp and 500lb ft. It might have been the Monaro’s fi­nal year but slug­gish sales meant that some cars weren’t reg­is­tered un­til 2007.

To­day, many Monaros have been through the hands of en­thu­si­asts keen to sharpen their car’s re­sponses. So long as the work has been ex­pertly done, you should have no wor­ries. Things to be more con­cerned about are trans­mis­sion noise and rust: rusty sus­pen­sion, rusty pipes, rusty chas­sis legs and rusty pan­els.

In­evitably, with only around 550 Monaros re­main­ing and very few for sale at any one time, prices are be­ing eased up by cries of ‘rare clas­sic!’. Be care­ful, since prices for the later VXR8 6.0 saloon of 2007 start at £15,000, about what you’ll pay for a nice Monaro. On the other hand, the Monaro is the pret­tier car.

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