1969 Holden Monaro GTS350 - Buyer's Guide

By: Main story: Guy Allen; Market review: Cliff Chambers - Unique Cars mag, Photography by: Alistair Brooke, Guy Allen

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Big, bold and brawny, you'd have to say the GTS350 Monaro is he epitome of a muscle car

 

Holden Monaro GTS350

It seems owner John Bertuzzi got this 1969 HT GTS350 after a long search, much frustration, and thanks to a mate who relented and helped him out. "At the time I just wanted a muscle car and everybody I’d see wouldn’t sell me their XU-1 or SL/R," he explains. "I came across this beauty 20 years ago and she’s been in the family ever since."

If it looks a little familiar, well-spotted. It has appeared in the mag before, most notably in the USA vs Australia feature we did six years ago, where it was pitted against a Chev Camaro.

| Watch the video: Holden Monaro Oz vs USA muscle cars, 2013

For this second-gen Monaro, Holden pulled in a GM-sourcecd 350 as the premium powerplant, in this case matched to a four-speed Saginaw manual transmission. In this trim it claimed 300 horses, while a reworked engine cradle and front end was promoted as giving much-improved steering feel and control.

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In the time we’ve known it, the Monaro has always stood out as a straight and honest car. "It is what it is," says John, "a 50-year-old 350 Monaro that still gets looked after really well, it’s a bit of a pride and joy for the family. I try to put back the proper parts. Like if it’s a battery it’s gotta be an AC Delco as per the original."  Has he had to do much to it? "Over the years, nothing. I actually bought it off a friend of mine who had had it sitting for 16 years before we even looked at it.

| Read next: 1969-70 Holden HT Monaro - 50 years of Monaro

"He sent me to see a few other cars he had for sale. One of the reasons no one would sell me their car was because they thought I was going to hotrod it.

"But I appreciated it even back then for what it was and to see it still in its original form, I love it."

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Of course top-of-the-range muscle cars like this have seen their prices soar in recent years. Is he surprised? John is understandably ambivalent. "It’s a lot of money. I can’t understand that sort of money, but I can understand somebody wanting one. But you know what? People work very hard and want something like this, then that’s the price you pay."

| 2017-18 Market review: Holden Monaro HK-HG

He bought in a very different market, though it would have still hurt the hip pocket.

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"At the time I paid a little bit more but then again I wanted the genuine thing, I wanted the log books, I wanted the car to be right," he said.

"People at the time said to me, ‘Oh it’s a lot of money,’ but I said, ‘Look go and find another one’.

"Pay the right money for the right car. I was lucky that friend of mine sold me the car (and hopefully he will sell me another one day) and these days I think he looks at me and the car and grinds his teeth a little! He’s still not happy. But at the time he did it as a favour because he knew how much I loved Australian muscle cars – for me it’s part of growing up in that time.

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What’s it like to drive? "Like a big old bus. Clunky gearbox, skinny steering wheel, you know it’s done its years. But it’s great – it’s fun. And the thumbs-up when you drive it, particularly from people of that generation, it’s good.

"As a kid, watching the older kids – my cousin had an HK 327 when I was about eight years old – I said to him one day I’m going to have one. He still drives a GTS today, but the current model. And now his son wants this!"

You’re never lonely with one of these. "There’s always someone wanting to go around the block in it a couple of times. I don’t use it as much as I’d like to, but it’s the nature of the beast – you can’t drive it every day.

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"You do have to drive them. There’s nothing better than getting on the highway and heading out and just cruising. It’s got plenty of power, plenty of torque, plenty of comfort – plenty of everything. It’s actually a really good highway car."

MARKET REVIEW - MONARO HT GTS

It was the win that hardly anyone expected but when Holden’s HT GTS350 delivered two podium places at Bathurst in 1969 the feat ignited a legend that has kept the Chev-engined two-doors bubbling in the collector market for half a century.

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Pretty much any GTS350 sold during the 1980s would reward its vendor with a decent profit. However it was during the 2005-08 Muscle Car ‘boom’ that ridiculous money began being sought and was sometimes paid.

The market since 2008 then contracted into a more conservative place where outstanding cars were hard-pressed to better $180,000. Then came 2016 with a couple of spectacular auction results and all of a sudden $300,000 was back in the sights of hopeful vendors.

Once again as seems to be the case in this boom-or-bust market, demand is matching supply and the money being paid has slipped again below $250,000. That’s still a great result if you bought your car during the GFC for $150K but not as much as it might realise if the bells start ringing again.

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Manual cars cost $15-30,000 more than automatics, however the two-speed Powerglide is an excellent choice for owners who just want to cruise rather than rush about in their GTS.

Scarce colours can add value as well but condition is the factor that will ensure a 350-engined GTS generates maximum money. Documents that track a car’s history right back to its original selling dealer can make a significant difference too.

VALUE RANGE - Holden HT GTS 350 Monaro
(GTS350 4-Speed)

Fair $75,000
Good $145,000
Excellent $235,000

(Note: concours & special cars will demand more)

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body & chassis

GTS350s in the market today should not be suffering any degree of body deterioration at all. A bit of paint fading and crazing might be evident and due to poor preparation back when these cars were not $250,000 collectors’ items. That said and when spending such significant amounts of money, an on-hoist professional inspection is essential. Initially look for bulges and bubbles in the rear quarter panels, turret edges and sills. Make sure when the doors close they sit squarely in the apertures and certainly don’t need to be lifted to shut properly. Reproduction bumpers can be found but it may be preferable to have original brightwork repaired and re-chromed.

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Engine & transmission

A GTS350’s value lies in its authenticity so documents confirming correct and preferably original mechanical items is essential to high prices. Cars with a non-genuine power unit, that have had cylinder head or transmission changes need to be returned to stock or suffer a price reduction. Cars claimed mechanically sound and roadworthy need to be just that, with no oil leaks, exhaust smoke (a puff at start up is OK) or reluctant oil pressure. Cars fitted from new with a four-speed manual are more valuable than autos and harder to drive. Gear whine and vibrations through the gear-lever are common, clunks or clicking aren’t. Don’t be surprised if clutches in seldom driven cars slip or feel heavy.

Suspension & brakes

Monaros with leaf springs worked better as competition cars than later models with all-coil suspension. Owners can use these attributes to their advantage, changing springs and shock absorbers to manage the amount of body-roll that occurs during fast cornering and whether the ride is rock-hard or feather-bed. New springs, bushings, ball joints and steering arms are available and not expensive so there is no reason why a car being sold in six-figure territory should be tottering about on ancient springs. The brakes even when new were absolutely inadequate for a car of this weight and performance and the one departure from original that is almost essential involves upgrading the entire braking system.

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Interior & electrics

Interior condition is what sets an exceptional GTS apart from one that is average. Seat frames crack and twist so ensure they move easily on the runners and the backs lock into place. Correct trim kits in vinyl and ‘houndstooth’ are still being made and cost around $2000 plus fitting. Be prepared for old, flat seats to need new foam cushioning and perhaps a few springs as well. Windows including the rear quarter glasses need to be checked for ease of operation. Jammed mechanisms can be due to infrequent use but also a symptom of water entry and rust.  

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1969-1970 Holden Monaro GTS350 specs

(all HT Monaro)
BODY: integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 5735cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 224kW  @ 4800rpm, 515Nm @ 3200rpm (GTS350 manual)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h: 8.1 seconds, 0-400 metres  15.6 seconds (GTS350 manual)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual, 2-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, wishbones, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs, radius rods & telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES: DR70-14 cross-ply, ER70-H14 radial

 

 

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