If you think all mod­i­fied Monaros fol­low the same path of tun­ing, get a load of this 400bhp Sting Red CV8 on air ride...

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS - WORDS Dan Furr PHO­TOS Dan Sher­wood

Get a load of this 400bhp Sting Red Monaro CV8 on air ride!

back in 2004, Vauxhall grabbed many of the head­lines gen­er­ated by sto­ries writ­ten about the year’s Sun­day Times Mo­tor Show. Au­to­mo­tive jour­nal­ists far and wide scrib­bled fevered ram­blings about the hugely ag­gres­sive se­lec­tion of cars on the man­u­fac­turer’s un­usu­ally large ex­hi­bi­tion stand, which was set up to pro­mote the launch of the now leg­endary VXR brand. Stand­out Griffins be­ing touted by the lads and ladies from Lu­ton in­cluded a new sporty per­for­mance As­tra pack­ing sus­pen­sion fine-tuned by Lo­tus. Pre­sented along­side the sharply dressed three-door was the VXR220, a low vol­ume pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the VX220 Turbo. Lim­ited to just sixty-five units, rid­ing on Oh­lins sus­pen­sion and sport­ing matte black Speed­line five-spokes, the rau­cous road­ster left lit­tle doubt re­gard­ing the se­ri­ous­ness of Vauxhall’s in­tent to cor­ner the per­for­mance mo­tor­ing mar­ket.

three cheers

For most car mak­ers, the launch of two out­ra­geously good high-out­put mod­els would be am­ple con­tent for a stand at Birm­ing­ham’s Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, but Vauxhall was rid­ing high on am­bi­tion fol­low­ing a plan of ac­tion ini­ti­ated by Ex­ec­u­tive De­sign Di­rec­tor, Martin Smith, who wanted to re­align the de­sign of the com­pany’s fam­ily of cars from what he saw as their in­of­fen­sive-but-bland ap­pear­ance in the 1990s. Un­der his guid­ance, this new, dy­namic di­rec­tion in­flu­enced the en­tire Vauxhall range, re­sult­ing in the de­vel­op­ment of the As­tra H, Vec­tra C and Corsa D, along with their sharply dressed – and supremely tune­able – VXR-kit­ted vari­ants. Up­stag­ing the VXRs on dis­play at the show, how­ever, was an en­tirely new flavour of Grif­fin pro­moted as the most pow­er­ful road car Vauxhall had ever of­fered for sale.

Es­sen­tially a re­la­belled im­port from Holden (GM’s Aus­tralian out­post), the Monaro is a V8-pow­ered coupe the likes of which car buy­ers couldn’t buy from Vauxhall main dealer show­rooms prior to the mus­cle ma­chine’s ar­rival on UK soil. Ini­tially sold in CV8 guise with power gen­er­ated by a 5.7-litre Chevro­let LS1 small-block lump, dis­place­ment was soon in­creased to six-litres. The inevitably pop­u­lar Monaro VXR ar­rived a short while later, of­fer­ing no­tice­ably more snarl, a beefy body kit and much big­ger wheels. There was a near-500bhp su­per­charged spe­cial edi­tion of­fered in the form of the VXR500 too!

“luke told me about the var­i­ous air ride op­tions at my dis­posal”

More than a decade has passed since the last new Monaros rolled out of dealer show­rooms, yet en­thu­si­asm for the model re­mains strong. Pre­dictably, Monaro VXRs are in higher de­mand than the ear­lier, lesser-pow­ered CV8, but it’s also true to say it’s dif­fi­cult to find a mod­i­fied Monaro that isn’t a stan­dard-look­ing VXR mak­ing use of the same tried and tested me­chan­i­cal up­grades as the next al­tered Monaro you come across. While this is tes­ta­ment to how good the VXR looks in stock trim (and how con­fi­dent own­ers are about the re­sults they ex­pect from the power-boost­ing gear they’ve in­vested in), it’s hard to find a Monaro with an ap­pear­ance sep­a­rat­ing it from all oth­ers.

look smart

With this in mind, you can imag­ine how ex­cited we were to learn about the ex­is­tence of the ground-hug­ging, Fif­teen52-wear­ing, facelift CV8 owned by 23-year-old Hinck­ley res­i­dent, Mitch Davis. The uncluttered lines of his Aussie bruiser – free of the trap­pings of the VXR’s mus­cu­lar ex­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion – of­fer a purer, cleaner take on the Monaro’s sleek shape, which is im­mea­sur­ably en­hanced by Sting Red paint­work.

“I re­call see­ing a Monaro when on a fam­ily hol­i­day in Aus­tralia many years ago,” he re­calls. “It’s been my dream to own an ex­am­ple of the model ever since, although my jour­ney to fi­nally see­ing my name on the log­book of a CV8 has seen me play­ing with var­i­ous Volk­swa­gens and BMWs along the way,” he adds, ref­er­enc­ing the var­i­ous Golfs and E36s he’s mod­i­fied over the years.

“I bought a Mk1 Golf in ad­vance of my sev­en­teenth birth­day. The car ended up rolling on big­ger wheels and coilovers. The same hap­pened with the Mk4 Golf I pur­chased be­fore ac­quir­ing my first E36, a car I adore due to my love of the BMWs cam­paigned dur­ing the BTCC’s Su­per Tour­ing era. The 3 Se­ries I ended up with was fault­less, but I was al­ways go­ing to lower it. The only ques­tion I needed to an­swer was whether I should fork out for air ride in­stead of an­other set of coilovers.”

Con­sul­ta­tion with Plush Au­to­mo­tive founder, Luke Massy, set him on the track that’s seen his Monaro hit the deck. “Luke told me about the var­i­ous air ride op­tions at my dis­posal, a con­ver­sa­tion which re­sulted in me buy­ing a com­plete air sus­pen­sion pack­age for my BMW. At the time, one of his em­ploy­ees was get­ting ready to move on to pas­tures new. Keen to learn more about bespoke sus­pen­sion so­lu­tions, I of­fered to help if an ex­tra pair of hands was needed. As luck would have it, Luke wanted to ex­pand the com­pany beyond the scale of its op­er­a­tion at that time. To my sur­prise, he of­fered me a job!” grins Mitch, now Plush’s first port of call for wiring, electrics and pre­ci­sion bend­ing of air sus­pen­sion hard­lines.

While his love of Ger­man au­to­bahn storm­ers con­tin­ues to this day, he found him­self look­ing out­side of the E36 realm at the start of sum­mer last year. “I fan­cied a V8 and 400bhp!” he smirks. “I was think­ing about buy­ing a four-litre E34 540i when I spot­ted the CV8 I cur­rently own be­ing ad­ver­tised for sale at Junc­tion 17, a dealer in Yax­ley, near Peter­bor­ough. I took the car for a test drive and was im­me­di­ately sold on the pops and bangs gen­er­ated by the loud Wortec switch­able ex­haust fit­ted by a pre­vi­ous owner!”

Be­fore long, the car was en­joy­ing life with its en­thu­si­as­tic new pi­lot. The in­stal­la­tion of a VCM in­take (fit­ted with a K&N air fil­ter) and the pur­chase of a pro­tec­tive cover fol­lowed. “Thanks to my ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing on a wide range of air ride in­stal­la­tions at Plush, I’d worked out how to bag the rear end of my new car be­fore I’d driven off Junc­tion 17’s fore­court!” laughs Mitch. The

in­stal­la­tion is supremely slick, with twin Vi­air com­pres­sors and the sys­tem’s ECU mounted on a cus­tom floor panel en­abling the parts to be hid­den in the spare wheel well. Much like the hid­ing of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing bespoke wiring, the well-con­sid­ered fit­ting en­sures an OEM fin­ish is re­tained in the car’s boot space.

covert cool

Mitch adopted the same ap­proach for his car’s ICE in­stall, a setup com­pris­ing Aud­i­son amps, speak­ers, tweet­ers and subs. Linked front-to­back with heavy-gauge ca­ble join­ing a dis­trib­u­tor box send­ing power to both ICE and air ride, you’d be hard pressed to de­tect any­thing out of the or­di­nary due to the amps be­ing mounted in­side the rear quar­ters, while the subs are fit­ted in the space be­tween the fuel tank and par­cel shelf. Even the stan­dard head unit re­mains, al­beit with an Airstream add-on to en­able smart­phone con­nec­tiv­ity. “I’ve spent money on Aud­i­son gear be­cause I’m a lover of crys­tal clear sound re­pro­duc­tion,” he tells us. “I’m not the kind of per­son who wants to shake the doors off their car through the ef­fects of mas­sive vol­ume and tow­er­ing heavy bass fre­quen­cies!”

Each arch had to be mod­i­fied to ac­cept the wide wheels and a se­ri­ous drop in ride height, which is now an inch lower at the front than it was when we took the pho­to­graphs you see on the pages be­fore you. “The kit I’ve been work­ing on is a first. In essence, it’s a pro­to­type de­signed and built by Plush with in­put from key stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the guys at Bil­stein, who man­u­fac­tured short­ened dampers specif­i­cally for this ap­pli­ca­tion,” smiles Mitch. There’s been a lot of work and many hours test­ing to get the nose to sit as low as the rear, a stance con­trolled by Ac­cuair eLevel dig­i­tal air ride man­age­ment matched to non-con­tact ro­tary po­si­tion sen­sors and rep­re­sented by a sub­tle Al­can­tatatrimmed switch panel po­si­tioned in the cen­tre con­sole of the car’s largely stan­dard in­te­rior.

More tra­di­tional sus­pen­sion up­grades have also been added, as ev­i­denced by the pres­ence of Ped­ders polyurethane bushes for the rear sub­frame, lower

arms and anti-roll bars. Other ar­eas of a Monaro com­monly up­dated by own­ers in­clude the brakes (even VXR calipers are less than ideal for the power many mod­i­fied Vauxhall V8s are pro­duc­ing) and a switch to forced in­duc­tion in the hunt for ex­tra ponies, up­grades Mitch has added to his ‘to do’ list now his car’s air ride sys­tem is com­plete.

“Plush is now in a po­si­tion to be able to of­fer air ride to Monaro own­ers as an off the shelf kit,” he beams, proud of a job well done. He’s not fin­ished with BMWs just yet (“I can’t shake my love of E36s!”), but it’s great to see a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to mod­i­fy­ing a Monaro from some­one com­ing to the Vauxhall scene from a back­ground tun­ing the out­put of a com­pletely dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­turer.

Bet­ter still, con­trary to the sneer­ing and neg­a­tive feed­back one might ex­pect from close-knit en­thu­si­ast com­mu­ni­ties con­cerned with lux­ury Ger­man barges, Monaro own­ers have wel­comed Mitch’s less or­di­nary way of mod­i­fy­ing the cool coupe, a ra­di­ant red fast-road riot quite un­like any other V8-pow­ered Grif­fin we’ve come across, and one in keep­ing with Vauxhall’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to try some­thing dif­fer­ent when the model was pre­sented to the gath­ered masses at the NEC in 2004.

“in essence, it’s a pro­to­type de­signed and built by plush”

fif­teen52 Tar­macs look great on all flavours of Vauxhall

400bhp LS1 is soon to be boosted by a su­per­charger

The front end is now an inch lower than it ap­pears here

Look closely, and you’ll see an eLevel dig­i­tal air ride man­age­ment switch panel

So, so, so com­fort­able!

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