1 Dec 2001
By CHRIS HARRIS
IF the VT Commodore of 1997 was a sales phenomenon, then its two-door offshoot – the evocatively named Monaro – turned out to be a modern legend on its late 2001 launch.
It began as the surprise “Commodore Coupe” styling concept at the 1998 Sydney motor show, as part of Holden’s 50th Anniversary celebrations as well as the 20th anniversary of the release of the original Commodore, the 1978 VB.
Excited punters and press alike were astounded at the ‘rightness’ of the exercise, virtually forcing Holden to tackle production feasibility studies. Ironically it wasn’t since the VB’s launch that a Holden created as big a buzz as this.
It was also a defining moment in the career of its stylist, Mike Simcoe, who has since risen very highly in the ranks of General Motors design.
Of course the car – as the reborn Monaro – received the green light not long after, and Holden prepared it as a premium two-door luxury coupe alternative to models as disparate as its own Statesman as well as the BMW 3 Series coupe.
Only two engines were offered – the CV6 (using a 171kW/375Nm supercharged version of the contemporary VX Commodore’s 3.8-litre Ecotec OHV V6), or the far nicer 225kW/460Nm 5.7-litre GEN III V8 CV8.
Only the latter offered a six-speed manual option as well as the standard four-speed automatics.
Holden fashioned a suitably pleasant four-seater interior, using many VT-VX Commodore parts, although the body aft of the A-pillar was bespoke.
Standard features included dual front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction, climate and cruise controls, leather upholstery and electric front seats.
The Monaro’s success was immediate, and Holden intended to keep buyers keen with a Series II from December ’02, which incorporated some of the suspension improvements of the significantly facelifted VY Commodore, as well as its redesigned dashboard.
The CV8 also gained a 235kW/460Nm version of the GEN III V8, as well as parking radar. When Holden released the VY II Commodore update in August ’03 Holden discontinued the slower-selling CV6, and added more oomph to the V2 Series III CV8 thanks to yet another power hike (245kW/465Nm) to its venerable Chevrolet V8.
During this time two limited editions were released – a CV8-R Series II (July ’03) and a CV8-R Series III (May ’04). Both added larger wheels, more standard features and racier trim.