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