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A clear and deliberate statement of national identity in its design, title and marketing concept, the Monaro was conceived and developed in an era of massive social and cultural change.
It reflected a more exciting, youthful image and broke new ground by embracing the concept of personalised transport. Along with its HK counterparts, the Monaro delivered the biggest choice of options yet offered by Holden and, with a full-throated roar, ushered in the golden era of the Lion-badged V8.
The sleek, pillarless two-door was introduced six months after the rest of the range and soon took pride of place in Holden dealer showrooms across the country. Its 'boy racer' appeal was universal - a tribute to the foresight of the then Managing Director of GM-H, Max Wilson, who was instrumental in the development of the Monaro design and engineering concept and who recognised its long-term potential.
The Monaro was available in three variants: standard, GTS and GTS 327. It boasted potent performance and looked every inch the part with its long, wide body, flared wheel arches and sweeping roofiine.
In GTS guise, the Monaro sported black rally stripes, unique wheel trims, paint finishes and tail light treatment. The standard Monaro was powered by a 3.05 litre (186 cubic inch) six-cylinder engine teamed with a column shift three-speed manual. Other engine choices included a higher-spec 186S six and an imported 5.0 litre 307 V8, matched with four-speed console mounted manual or two-speed Powerglide auto transmission.
Not long after the first Monaros hit the streets, the GTS 327 began to be hurled around Australian racetracks with sensational success. A first-up win by Tony Roberts and Bob Watson in a GTS 327 Monaro at the 1968 Sandown 3-hour enduro set the scene for Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland to pilot their Warwick Yellow Monaro to victory in the '68 Hardie-Ferodo 500 at Bathurst. Named for its 5.3 litre 327 Chevrolet V8, this gutsy performer sported a Chevrolet Saginaw four-speed manual transmission, bigger wheels and tyres, a larger fuel tank and improved engine cooling. The first 'Great Race' proved a clean sweep for the Monaro marque, with the combinations of Jim Palmer/Phil West and Tony Roberts/Bob Watson claiming second and third for a classic all-Holden, all-Monaro podium finish.
The following year, Monaro again proved its mettle, with Colin Bond and Tony Roberts claiming victory and the young Peter Brock, also driving a Monaro, finishing third. The Mount Panorama circuit proved a fitting battleground for the fastback coupe named after an Aboriginal word meaning 'high plateau' or 'high place'.
These successes fuelled the now-traditional Holden/Ford racetrack rivalry and earned Holden the Bathurst 'King of the Mountain' title it retains to this day. Current titleholders Russell Ingall and Larry Perkins will vie for Bathurst honours this year in an all-new VT Commodore racer.
The popularity of the Monaro marque remained high throughout its model life - a period that spanned 11 years of manufacture and seven model ranges (HK to HZ) - and its legions of admirers keep the flame burning bright. On 18-19 July, more than 10,000 enthusiasts turned up over two days for a 30th birthday bash at Wangaratta, Victoria. Three hundred and four lovingly cared-for, restored and modified Monaros - the biggest collection ever gathered in one place - basked in their admiration.
HK Monaro Fact-File
Base Monaro coupe, GTS coupe and GTS 327 coupe
Base $2,575, GTS $3,090, GTS 327 $3,790
3.05 litre six-cylinder 186, 3.05 six-cylinder 186S,
5 litre 307 V8, 5,3 litre 327 Chevrolet V8
Column-shift three-speed manual, console-mounted
four-speed manual, two-speed Powerglide automatic,
Saginaw console-shift four-speed manual
186 - 94kW @ 4600rpm
186S -108kW @ 4600rpm
307 - 157kW @ 4600rpm
327 - 186kW @ 4600rpm
Length - 4699mm, Width - 1816mm, Wheelbase - 2819mm
1,300kg, 1,333kg (GTS), 1,495kg (GTS 327)
75 litres, 114 litres (GTS 327)
Popular songs and films of 1968:
Hey Jude (The Beatles);
You Keep Me Hangin' On (Vanilla Fudge);
Mrs. Robinson (Simon & Garfunkel);
Sadie The Cleaning Lady (Johnny Farnham);
What A Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong);
Chain Of Fools (Aretha Franklin);
Hello I Love You (The Doors).
Barefoot In The Park (Robert Redford, Jane Fonda);
You Only Live Twice (Sean Connery);
Camelot (Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave);
They're A Weird Mob (Walter Chiari, Chips Rafferty);
Dr. Dolittle (Rex Harrison);
Dr. Zhivago (Omar Sharif, Julie Christie).