Few cars flexed Australia’s design muscle like the late Holden Monaro. Crafted after-hours by a crack team including GM’s design vice president Mike Simcoe, it stole the 1998 Aussie motor show and demanded a production greenlight.
The first-gen based on the VX Commodore burst onto the scene in 2001 with an LS1 V8 engine packing 225kW/460Nm. Imaginatively called the ‘CV8’, with a 3.8-litre blown V6 version alongside appropriately labelled ‘CV6’, a Series II followed in late 2002 with the VY Commodore’s improved dash and gear knob, while a limited run CV8-R injected 10kW, extra leather and new design 18-inch wheels.
The Series III model integrated an aerial into the rear windscreen and offered 245kW, before the divisively styled VZ generation arrived in late 2004 with bonnet nostrils and bazooka exhaust tips to suit the US market’s, um, taste.
Want a reborn Monaro for yourself? It’ll pay to review our thorough rundown on the VX-VY CV8, given the CV8 outsold the CV6 almost 17-to-one in the first three years.
Classic MOTOR: Twin-turbo V2 Holden Monaro review
CV8 Monaro vital checks
The Monaro packed Holden’s revvy all-alloy 5.7-litre V8 that debuted in the VT II Series Commodore SS in 1999. And although its pushrod operation kept things simple, it was not without its dramas. They’re well known for piston slap, thanks to a pressed gudgeon pin that would allow the piston to rock around in the bore until it expanded under heat after start-up. It’s not much to worry about, despite Holden going so far as to Teflon-coat the pistons in VYs and then install a floating gudgeon pin, which quietened it down somewhat. More important is quality oil being used on a frequent maintenance schedule. Small sump capacity meant otherwise normal oil consumption on longer service intervals could starve engines of oil pressure and equal spun bearings or failed lifters. Servicing every 5000km should see one easily last more than 200,000km. But aluminium sandwich gaskets in the knock sensor valley, around the sump, on the rear cover and front timing cover go after 10 years or 150,000km. So look out for leaks, or ask if they’ve been replaced. Expect to replace all of them for about $1500 including labour.
The options were a six-speed manual or four-speed 4L60 automatic. Both are fairly robust depending on what sort of life they’ve had. If you suspect the car’s had a hard life, then an auto transmission tune for higher line pressures in its history is a must. Autos on borrowed time will jump from first gear to third without selecting second – and a full rebuild will ask $2200. As for the manuals, check the clutch fluid reservoir next to the brake master cylinder. It’s small, and if the fluid’s black and gluggy, it’s in need of a service. Otherwise a stiff pedal signals a seized diaphragm and a need for a new sports clutch, which can cost $1400.
The Monaro’s suspension was nothing new, sporting the Commodore SS’s front strut and A-arm arrangement backed by a semi-trailing arm at the rear. The shock absorbers last around 60,000km, so if the car struggles to hold its stance during cornering on a test drive, or won’t settle after pushing your body weight on a corner, then they’re probably nearing the end. Lowered cars tend to smash the bearing tops in the front strut towers. Inspect.
Body and structure
The body’s floorpan and front-end are shared with the Commodore and resist rust in dry low-salt climates. However, check drain holes for blockages. Meanwhile, the optional spoiler taxes the boot’s gas struts that are about $40 to replace. The Series III CV8-R introduced a sunroof and was recalled in 2011 as the bonding material deteriorated. Check it’s been done, or the glass might dislodge. Long heavy doors will wear out roll pins quicker than you’re used to with sedan doors. You’ll know they’re close if the door bumps up on the catch. They’re about $5 to replace excluding labour.
Brakes and steering
Monaros employed a lower steering ratio and a stronger torsion bar to reduce what engineers called “phase delay”. While this theoretically should extend power steering pump life, they’ll leak from the rear O-ring when worn. Expect to pay $300 to replace with a quality item. Brake-wise, Monaros used a front ventilated disc and rear solid item, both sized 286mm and paired with sliding calipers, that present no real faults. Check pad life for wear.
Interior and trim
Interiors sported leather and power adjustable seats. The electronics are known to last a while, but the HVAC system can change temperature or air-angle under engine power. This is a VT-VZ Commodore bugbear. It’ll require replacing a vacuum actuator underneath the dash to fix for $100 before labour. Your mechanic should be able to access it without removing the dash.
Improving the breed
Given you’re starting with an example in good condition, $5K will buy an intake, camshaft and tune that, according to tuner gurus CSV Australia in Mildura, can take a stock LS1 from 210kW at the rear wheels to 285kW. For another $5K, an exhaust is recommended next and a transmission with a stronger clutch, or stronger converter and gears for autos, to improve acceleration. Next, the sky’s the limit with turbocharging or supercharging, but if you’re budgeting $20K for a blower, then look into an LSA 6.2-litre drop-in for 400kW at the wheels before driveline upgrades.
Other options you may want to consider:
1. Mercedes-Benz AMG CLK55
Benz’s CLK55 washes up as a rival in the classifieds, with high-kilometre 2003 examples asking as little as $20K (it cost $191K new). The SOHC 5.4-litre V8-powered 2+2 coupe put 270kW and 510Nm through a five-speed auto.
2. Ford Mustang cobra
The Ford Mustang that sold here from 2001 to 2003 was drive-side swapped by Ford Oz’s Tickford operation. The 4.6-litre DOHC V8 is nice, yet while they’re not that much to drive, 2001 coupe manuals are still around $25K
3. HSV GTO
HSV’s take on the Monaro was less revered, but the LS1-powered GTO upped power to 255kW and had Mark Skaife tune the suspension. Its bodykit is a lairy point of difference, but manual versions still command at least $50K for a well used one.
2001 Holden Monaro CV8
Body 2-door, 4-seat coupe
Engine 5.7-litre V8, OHV, 16v
Power 225kW @ 5200rpm
Torque 460Nm @ 4400rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual (4-speed auto optional)
Used range $17,500 to $70,000