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My 1969 HT Monaro GTS 350

The Monaro Bathurst Special cost about $4000 new and Michael paid $12,000 for it in 1997.
Mark Hinchliffe

6 Oct 2009 • 4 min read

He is the proud owner of a 1969 HT Monaro GTS 350 "Bathurst Special" with a 224kW Chevrolet 350ci (5.7-litre) V8, 25 gallon (113.5-litre) fuel tank, four-speed manual transmission, two broad "go-faster" stripes down the centre and twin air scoops in the bonnet which serve no real purpose.

In 1969, this was the car that won Bathurst and in which a young Peter Brock drove his first Mt Panorama race, finishing third. "I remember the first time I clapped eyes on one when I was four or five and I'll never forget it," the Brisbane restaurateur says. "I just fell in love with it. It was just like a big shiny bell that kept ringing in my head. "I knew I had to have one, one day."

The Monaro Bathurst Special cost about $4000 new and Michael paid $12,000 for it in 1997. Shannons auctioneer of 26 years Bill Wellwood said that before the global financial crisis HT Monaros were fetching about $250,000 but values had dropped to about $150,000. "It's only worth what someone pays for them," says Michael. "But I'd never sell it. Never. It's a part of my life." When he bought it, the car had about 90,000km on the odometer, the paint was faded, and it was mechanically "tired". "But there was no rust in it — not a skerrick," Michael says. "I could have just cleaned it up and had it driveable, but I wanted it to be perfect so I started a four-year restoration to build it back to new and then let it age gracefully. "She's perfect now."

Wellwood agrees: "It is the best one I've seen."

Michael has paid a lot of attention to a faithful restoration even down to the original rubber mats and tyre jack in the boot. It was first sold in Sydney and features a new "From Savell Bros, Hurstville" sticker on the back window. "I tracked down the last Savell brother (I think it was Bruce) in his 90s and he sent me a batch of stickers, key rings and stuff," he says. "It took me a year to find the rear sticker. I tracked him down from the electoral roll. "I've also got all the original paperwork."

Michael claims it was the fourth of the first seven "prototypes" produced as a press evaluation vehicle. "When we took the car apart it had three times the sound cushioning and the gearbox and mechanical parts had number four hand punched into them," he says. "Monaro experts have gone through it and they reckon it was blueprinted by Holden which is what they did with the first seven of any model made."

Michael says the Monaro is "quite a smooth car to drive". "There is that feeling of power underneath you with a constant V8 rumble. There's no radio; she plays her own music," he says. "I don't push it too hard, but I take it for long rides and lose myself back in time. It's my last link to the good old days."

Michael has only ever had one problem with the car. "That was the master cylinder because I didn't use it often enough," he says. "With a lot of old cars, you tend to let them sit as you want them to remain perfect, but you have to exercise them."

And that exercise can be expensive. "The fuel economy ain't good. It probably costs 10 bucks just to back it out of the driveway, plus I always give it a bit of a boot. "I drive it every second weekend, but I never let it get wet."

The Bathurst Special will get a run this weekend around to a mate's place to watch the race. "It's a bit of man day," he says.


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