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Holden Monaro Gen 1 Car of the Week

The first generation Monaro was Holden’s response to Ford’s 1967 Bathurst winning Falcon XR GT. These two cars can be credited with establishing the Australian Muscle Car genre as well as starting the Holden v Falcon racing rivalry that continues today.

Named after the NSW Southern Tablelands region and in particular the Highway that runs to Cooma, the word Monaro is Aboriginal for "high plateau".

The V8 version of the Monaro was Australia’s take on producing a ‘muscle ’ to its original American definition, ie; “a two-door rear wheel drive mid-size car with a large V8 and sold at an affordable price”. Later the Australian take on the muscle car genre brought in the four door sedan to the definition.

Never has the adage "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" rung truer than during this period. The car you could buy in the showroom has never been closer than the version that was raced at Bathurst, (you can see in one of the Official Holden images in our gallery number plates on while racing at Bathurst).

While Ford fans had bragging rights in 1967 with the GT’s Bathurst win, they were left having to defend the Falcon’s somewhat square design with the launch of the stunning and curvaceous Monaro coupe. The Monaro got the buying public excited and the motor press were equally impressed. Wheels awarded it Car of the Year for 1968.

The significance of the Gen 1 Monaro can not be overstated. It was the first Holden V8, the first Holden Coupe and set Holden on its path as an exporter of motor vehicles. Completed cars and later components for assembly were exported to General Motors South Africa who sold the Monaro as the Chevrolet SS.

Previous to the Monaro, Holden’s racing success was very limited. The only wins of significance were the 1958 Ampol trial and Bathurst race in Easter that year.

The Monaro’s inaugural victory was at the Sandown 3 Hour in 1968 with the team of Tony Roberts and Bob Watson. This was soon followed by the win that started one of world motorsport’s most legendary pairings - Holden and Bathurst. The Monaro filled all podium positions at the Hardie Ferodo 500 in 1968 with Bruce McPhee/Barry Mulholland, Palmer/Phil West, Tony Roberts/Bob Watson respectively.

Bathurst therefore gained immense significance for Ford and Holden as the record for the new V8 era stood at one victory each - the bragging rights and the potential resulting sales were of enormous importance for the two manufacturers. The implication of the success of ‘68 was not lost on Holden chief executive John Bagshaw who wanted to build a new factory team. During this period however, General Motors would not allow any of its divisions to directly enter motorsport. Bagshaw therefore developed the Holden Dealer Team ostensibly owned by Bagshaw poached Harry Firth, the Ford team manager and he in turn hired two young new talented drivers named Colin Bond and Peter Brock. As HDT was to enter both rally and circuit events, Bond was the new rally young gun who also doubled in the touring car events.

Bond went on to win the 1969 event with Tony Roberts while Brock came in third with Des west.

This was to be the last win for Holden for three years as Ford were developing the all-conquering GTHO for '70 and '71 and Firth went down a different road with the more nimble Torana XU-1. The two-year domination of the Monaro ended and development did not continue.

The victories at Bathurst were not the only significant high profile outings for the Monaro. In Brisbane a teenage entrepreneur, Lloyd Robertson, was developing a small precision driving team with his mates using Volkswagen Beetles. The success of the initial outings prompted Robertson to take the team to the next level. He approached the Brisbane Holden dealer network for sponsorship and the use of Holden Monaros. The first gig was the Brisbane Royal Show and the professionalism of the team lead to further similar bookings. The Monaro Precision Driving Team was born. The next step in the successful venture was for Robertson to approach Holden directly. John Bagshaw came to the fore again and with factory backing this time the team became the Holden Precision Driving Team.

Forty years on from the Bathurst victory the allure of the Monaro has not diminished and current values for genuine 1969 HT Monaro GTS 350 remain strong. Even the lowest spec in-line sixes are difficult to find as most are in the hands of enthusiasts for restoration and upgrading.

Holden HK, HT, HG Monaro Engines - 1968–1971
L6 161 in³ (2.6 L) (base model)
L6 186 in³ (3.0 L) (GTS with an up rated 186S only)
V8 253 in³ (4.2 L) – GMH engine
V8 307 in³ (5.0 L) – Chev engine
V8 308 in³ (5.0 L) – GMH engine
V8 327 in³ (5.3 L) 186 kW – Chev engine
V8 350 in³ (5.7 L) 224 kW – Chev engine

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