1968-1969 Holden Monaro GTS327 - Buyer's Guide

By: Guy Allen, Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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holden hk monaro 2 holden hk monaro 2

GM-H hadn't been big on the wow factor - then it unveiled the HK GTS Monaro

 

Holden HK Monaro GTS327

Really, this is the ice-breaker for Aussie coupes. While Ford Australia may have resisted the urge to develop a local equivalent to the wildly successful Mustang, in 1967 it did nevertheless release the ‘Mustang-bred’ XR GT Falcon, complete with the 289-cube (4.7lt) V8. And it won Bathurst on its first outing, with Harry Firth and Fred Gibson at the wheel.

This was Holden’s answer and company M-D Max Wilson saw this one through. Like Ford, Holden drew on the American parent company’s catalogue for a powertrain, in this case the 327-cube (5.4lt) powerplant made famous by Chevrolet and others. That sat in a bespoke coupe, which at the time might have seemed like a courageous move given local volumes were going to look tiny when compared to the USA.

holden-hk-monaro-3.jpgThe 3/4-rear view is as good as the rest

The new salvo in the GT wars did the trick for Holden on the racetrack, scoring a win at Bathurst in 1968, with Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland doing the honours. This really was the proper start of the annual Aussie muscle car war that was to last for decades.

Priced at a heady $3796, the GTS 327 in four-speed manual form was the pinnacle of the Monaro range. You could in fact get a coupe with a relatively humble 161-cube six plus three-on-the-tree trans, and of course there were numerous variants (19 in total) up from there.

The GTS 327 had numerous upgrades over its more humble siblings, including wider wheels and track. From behind, the big visual give-away was the four exhaust pipe tips. For our relatively conservative market, that was a wild statement, almost to the point of being alien.

| 2019 Market Review: Holden Monaro HK-HG V8

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Though perhaps not the absolute runaway success Holden may have hoped for, the sales for the Monaro were solid and it turned out to be a great image-builder for the brand.

Owner Arthur Patras is the President of the Monaro Owners Group and remembers playing with these coupes when they were still relatively young cars. Little did he, or his mates at the time, realise that the cars they were happily modifying and messing about with would one day be worth a small fortune. Or that they might even last to be over 50 years old!

It’s a GTS 327 with all its original running gear, though not surprisingly it was getting a little tired by the time Arthur bought it back in 2006. "I got it from Craig Foster in Tamworth," he recalls, "He was a lovely gentleman."

| Buyer's Guide: 1969 Holden Monaro GTS350

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The decision to reacquaint himself with Monaros was sparked by a life-changing health scare. All of a sudden, having a project car looked like being a useful distraction and good motivation to stay on top of things. "Neither of us were in the best of health and we both underwent a bit of refurbishment – so we’re tied in together pretty well!" he jokes.

In effect the car underwent a double refurbishment. The first was relatively light, preparing it for his daughter’s wedding. With that great event out of the way, it was time to pull it apart and get serious.

Like many, Arthur swears by the value of being part of an enthusiastic club. He found himself leaning on the expertise and energy of others – "Roger Hancock was a big help, while Tony Santomaggio was a real inspiration and helped me keep it together."

| Read next: Holden Monaro GTS327 review

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He understands as well as anyone that, with a big project like this, there can be what seems like countless frustrations and delays. We’ve referred to it elsewhere in this mag as restorer exhaustion and sometimes it’s invaluable to have mates providing some extra motivation.

The body was of course stripped and completely redone, as was the powertrain. Arthur’s big ambition was to win a major trophy, so he was going for the full concours resto – a huge undertaking. He even went to the extent of setting up two complete sets of rims, tyres and hubcaps for the car – one with the original crossplies for show, and the other with more modern redwalls that he could actually use. He’s not a fan of the handling of crossplies, with some reason, and has little faith in their ability to go where he’s pointing them.

When it came to assembling the assorted components into a whole, his go-to person was Geoff Mathieson, who Arthur rates very highly. It was Geoff who put the end result through its paces at a track day, and Arthur reckons he wasn’t going easy. He says it was worth the effort, as the car has since proven to be reliable and well-sorted. So was it worth the considerable expense and effort? Well, he got that trophy, winning the factory-authentic class at the 2018 Nationals in Tasmania. That’s a big achievement.

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But it’s not all about silverware: "It drives very well, it handles – but you need to remember this is a muscle car built in 1968, so it handles like it did when it left the factory," Arthur explains.

"When I was 18 and got my licence, of course the first thing I wanted was a Monaro. So I got one and did all the things you did in the eighties. You modified them. And then something happens later on in life and this is what I want to do, and the big journey starts. It’s a good journey, when you see the final result you feel good about yourself. Yep, okay. I’m happy."

Okay, so how about another project? "Not if I want to stay married!" he laughs

HOLDEN HK MONARO MARKET REVIEW

The HK Monaro was the most significant new design ever offered by an Australian manufacturer. The shape was extraordinary and the concept even more innovative. It enabled wealthy buyers to specify a high-powered V8 supercar and those on a family sedan budget to drive something that looked very similar.

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The GTS327 was nirvana for Monaro lovers and not just because it won a couple of significant races. The rumble of the Chevrolet 327 was unmistakable and colours like Warwick Yellow and Bright Blue ensured the sound wasn’t all that attracted attention.

Not many HKs were raced and even fewer performed with distinction. The car that did best – winning at Bathurst in 1968 and leading the 1969 Surfers Paradise 12 Hour until retiring – is believed lost although a replica exists.

That leaves one of the inaugural Holden Dealer Team entries, a Warwick Yellow car similar to the Bruce McPhee/Barry Mulholland Bathurst winner, as the most significant authenticated survivor. It was offered for sale some years ago at a now-ludicrous $150,000.

holden-hk-monaro-inside.jpgJust be thankful the tacho wasn’t mounted on the bonnet

Values for GTS327s were among the first to move during the latest surge in demand for older Australian performance cars.

To quote one media report, a Warwick Yellow 327 ‘flexed its muscles’ to achieve a bid of $155,000 in late 2017, However it wasn’t close to matching  the $302,000 achieved by a similar car a few months earlier.

The furore has now calmed and typical prices are settling back below $200,000. However there is every chance an exceptionally good and authentic car can still better $250,000.

Authenticity is an obvious necessity and scarce colours can add value as well. Documents that track a car’s history right back to its original selling dealer can add significant value as well

VALUE RANGE HOLDEN HK MONARO

FAIR: $65,000
GOOD: $125,000
EXCELLENT: $185,000+

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

Assuming all the authenticity checks come back OK then will come the in-depth examination. Rust or body deterioration in high-value cars are unacceptable, however cheaper ones that show age-related bubbling, paint fade and bright-work pitting can be salvaged. Initially look for bulges and bubbles in the rear quarter panels, turret edges and sills. Make sure when the doors close there are consistent gaps and they don’t need to be lifted to shut properly. Hinge repair kits and bushes are available. Before spending significant amounts of money, an on-hoist professional inspection is essential. Reproduction bumpers are available, with decent original HK-HG bars in usable condition at $160-300 each.

holden-hk-monaro-engine-bay.jpg327 cubes of Chevy small-block goodness

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Cars with a non-genuine power unit are worth less but aren’t unsalable, especially if the engine is an age-correct 327. These are old cars and it once was commonplace to fit later-model engines or have the cylinder heads or transmission changed. Cars deemed mechanically sound need to be just that, with no oil leaks, exhaust smoke or reluctant oil pressure. Weird looking plumbing and linkages to adapt a non-stock carb will detract from value and may make the car drive strangely. The original four-speed gearbox is likely to whine and send vibrations through the gear-lever but be wary of clunks and gears that object to engaging.

 

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Monaros with leaf springs work better on the road and as competition cars than later models with all-coil suspension. The rear leaves must be in good condition and the condition of bushes and shackles and the metal around mounting points is vital to safety. New leaves and shackles, coils, bushings, ball joints and steering arms for the front are available and not expensive. 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 braking system.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Interior condition is vital if a GTS327 is to be classed as ‘exceptional’ Seat frames need to be in proper alignment, move easily when adjusted and with backs that lock into place first time. Correct trim kits in vinyl with matching door cards are available at around $3000 plus fitting. Be prepared for seats to need new rubber cushioning and maybe a few springs as well which is a job for a professional trimmer. Windows including the rear quarter glasses need to be checked in case the winder mechanism is jammed due to age and infrequent use. Jammed windows can be a symptom of water entry and rust.  If the headlining is your only issue, new vinyl cut to shape costs $250.

holden-hk-monaro-4.jpgThe car, then the trophy – Arthur enjoys his success

1968-1969 Holden Monaro GTS327 specs

NUMBER BUILT: 8943 (all HK Monaro)
BODY: integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
ENGINE: 5363cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 186.5kW @ 4800rpm, 439Nm @ 3200rpm
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h: 7.6 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.4 seconds
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual
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

 

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