Way back in 2004 when the Vauxhall Monaro first arrived in the UK, its mix of big capacity V8, manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive were decidedly old-school. Today, this formula is almost completely extinct.
The latest generation of all-wheel drive turbocharged sports cars may be the surgeon’s scalpel to the Monaro’s hammer, but it’s the Monaro’s muscle car character that makes it so appealing. Relatively low sales figures and a devoted following have kept values stronger than most rivals, but they still represent one of the most affordable ways into a big V8 sportscar.
Which Monaro to buy?
When it arrived in the UK in 2004, it won arguably the highest accolade at the time, with Top Gear’s Clarkson waxing lyrical about it and the magazine naming the Monaro Best Muscle Car in its annual awards.
A year later, the Monaro gained Vauxhall’s flagship VXR branding, as the engine changed to the 6.0-litre LS2 and, with it, power grew to almost 400bhp. One of the VXR series characteristics was beefier bodywork and the Monaro was no exception, with a tougher front bumper, bonnet vents and bigger wheels, as well as uprated brakes and suspension.
The swansong VXR500 version of 2006 gained a Harrop supercharger, boosting power and torque to the magic 500bhp and 500lb ft: perfect for those with a penchant for oversteer. We doubt there’s a Monaro in Europe that at some point in its life hasn’t done a burn-out, but there’s more to it than just shredding tyres.
Available solely in two-door coupe guise, there were no major changes carried out during the production run. The only noticeable difference was that the fuel tank was relocated during the 2005 model year and subsequent cars had less boot space as a result. The interior is decently built if a bit low-rent compared to German rivals, with hard-wearing switchgear.
With only 800 Monaros finding homes in the two short years of UK-bound production, it might take a while to find the exact model you want. Happily, they are all great fun, although as prices are similar across the board we would try to find one of the uprated 5.7-litre or 6.0-litre models.
Performance and specs
2004 5.7-litre Monaro CV8
||5665cc, 16 valve OHV V8
||329bhp @ 5600rpm
||343lb ft @ 4000rpm
Dimensions and weight
• Fuel consumption is heavy in most driving conditions but the extra-long gearing does aid matters on long motorway cruises.
• Thanks to the hefty overall mass, suspension bushes and tyres can wear out with alarming regularity. Dampers in particular take a beating. Replacing bushes and bearings can transform the handling of older cars.
• The Chevy LS1 5.7-litre and LS2 6.0-litre engines are well known for their durability. A noisy cold start is normal but prolonged ticking or tappety sounds need checking. 6-litre engines can develop sticky throttle bodies leading to a slow responding accelerator pedal which can be an expensive fix.
• Gearboxes can be notchy and vague which is normal, but excessive play or crunching could indicate a hard life. A quick-shift kit can sharpen up the changes too.
• Rust can develop on the underside of the body thanks to rustproofing treatment that is more suited to a warm dry climate. Check the usual suspects such as the wheel arches, drainage holes and footwells too.
• Exhaust systems are commonly replaced with more free-flowing items and as long as a reputable specialist has carried out the work this should not be an issue. The same applies to any other modifications such as remapping, intakes and even supercharger kits which are popular with these cars.
• One recall was carried out regarding faulty side airbags. Check your particular car’s VIN number to see if it was affected. Recalls affected the VIN numbers between: 6G1VX14F84L193858 and 6G1ZX14U15L525799.
2001: Holden Monaro introduced in Australia
2003: Revised VZ range introduced – it is this version that the UK cars are based on
2004: Holden rebadged to Vauxhall and the Monaro is introduced to the UK. 329bhp 5.7-litre LS1 Chevy small-block V8 initially only engine option and six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission options available. VXR versions produced 377bhp
2005: LS2 6.0-litre engine introduced now producing 397bhp. Fuel tank repositioned curtailing boot space and exhaust pipes now exit on either side of the rear bumper
2006: Supercharged VXR500 limited-edition model introduced with 493bhp. Final year of production. Replacement dubbed the Vauxhall VXR8.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.vxronline.co.uk – Enthusiast forum
• www.monkfishperformance.co.uk – Aftermarket parts supplier
• www.vodc.co.uk – Vauxhall drivers club
• www.walkinshawperformance.co.uk – Parts and modifications specialists
Summary and prices
An early, high-mileage CV8 can be had for as little as £7000. A lower-mileage version will cost closer to £10,000 while a VXR will start at around £13,000. A VXR500 will set you back roughly £20,000 but you’ll have a longer search – of the 13 cars available for sale at the time of writing, only one is a VXR500.
The Monaro may be a bit of a blunt tool in today’s high tech automotive world, but that relaxed power delivery and intoxicating exhaust note still mark it out as something just a little exotic. And no, according to many long-time owners, the allure of that rumbling V8 doesn’t wear off.