1968-1969 Holden HK Monaro GTS 327 - buyer's guide

By: Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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Holden's launch of the 327 Monaro could not have gone better. Here we track the early days and find a dead original survivor

Finding any early Monaro in truly original nick is rare, simply because time and use has got on top of most of them. However a few months back we stumbled across this amazing unrestored example of the flagship of the first series, the HK GTS 327. With a mere 57,568 miles on the odo at the time, it was owned by Graham Alexander for most of the last four decades, until a recent sale.

Before we get on to his story, we thought it was worth doing a little time-travelling to see what our sister mag Wheels had to say about these amazing hardtops, back in 1968.

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In its September edition, reporting on the July media launch of the Monaro and the "husky Brougham", it kicked off the story this way: "With predictable modesty the GM-H publicity boys have described the Monaro as a ‘shattering’ car…at the very least, however, the car is startling.

"The Monaro, the pillarless challenge to the Ford Falcon GT, comes in a bewildering combination of variations in line with the prevailing GM-H kick. It starts off with the bottom-of-the-line model with a 161 engine and drums all round turning out 114bhp and selling for $2500 or thereabouts.

"From there is options on options till you end up with the genuine article – the GTS 327. (Ed’s note: then priced at a heady $3790.)

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And if it doesn’t give the Ford GT the hurry-along at Bathurst, some GM-H executives will be surprised.

| Read next: Holden Monaro GTS 327 review

"GM-H calls it its ‘fun car’ – and in some versions it certainly is (although the 161 is probably the ‘funny car’ of the troupe). But the mid-range machines, like the ones with the 186 middle-of-the-range engine, and the model which will probably be the biggest seller, definitely are. The 327 is definitely competition orientated. It even sounds like it might be the younger brother of Norm Beechey’s Camaro.

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"Driving it, the feeling is reinforced and you end up with a positive kinship with the latest addition to the super-car arena.

"GM-H calls it ‘Australia’s first sports machine’. That may be a bit presumptuous but it certainly is sporty. And whether it will ‘drive you wild’ (again the maker’s phrase) probably depends on how you drive it and the way you treat it."

The story goes on to list the performance figures, across the standing quarter mile, for the assorted variants:

• GTS 327 – 16.2sec
• GTS 307 4-sp manual – 18.0
• GTS 307 auto – 18.6
• 186S 4-sp manual – 19.1
• 186 3-sp manual – 20.3

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Funnily enough, no time was mentioned for the 161 – maybe they’re still waiting for it to cross the line…

And, in case you were wondering, the 327 listed a top speed of 124.2mph or 200km/h. Zero to 60mph took 8.4sec.

| Buyers guide: 1969 Holden Monaro GTS350

What were they like to steer? "Handling varied considerably up through the range too. But the stick-with-itness of the GTS 327 was eye-opening, thanks mainly to increased-rate front springs and special rear axle radius rods. The latter will be a boon to the three GTS drivers in the London-to-Sydney Rally and won’t go amiss on the five that will probably contest the Hardie Ferodo 500 (Bathurst) in October either.

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"But then, good handling is to be expected in a car costing nearly $4000 and designed expressly to thrash the Falcon GT."

The reviewers noted the 327 ran more or less the same mill that powered Chevrolet’s Impala and Parisienne, matched to a close-ratio four-speed transmission.

Bathurst that year turned into a GM whitewash, with Monaros taking out the top three places, and fifth, with an Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV sandwiched in between. Ford had a shocker of an event, with the top GT placing seventh.

| Read next: First-gen Holden Monaro - HK, HT, HG

The Falcons clawed back some honour in the London-Sydney Marathon, with the factory-backed cars coming in third, sixth and eighth, ahead of the best Monaros in 12th and 14th.

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This example has clearly led a much more gentle life. Apart from a hint of fade here and there on one or two bits of trim, it looks like it was rolled out of the showroom. Graham admitted to having a pretty long-term affair with Monaros: "I’m a motor mechanic by trade and I’ve been involved in the motor industry ever since I was 17, which was a couple of years ago. I was always interested in racing and got into rallying – that’s how I started off in motorsport."

"One of the first competitive cars I ever had was an HK 307 four-speed. In the day it was good – it was a handful on the dirt and the brakes were pretty marginal. In the first year I ran it, I came second outright in the Victorian championship, in 1969.

"I’ve done quite a bit of rallying. Got involved and ran an Escort for a while. Also ran a GTR Torana. In 1970 I came second in the Alpine Rally and Vic championship again. Twenty years later I came second in the Alpine again in a Mitsubishi Galant.

"I’ve been to Africa three times and done the East Africa Safari in a 240Z Datsun. In 1988 I went and did the Malaysian Rally in a Toyota Sprinter."

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He also campaigned an HT 350 Monaro in Touring Car Masters for the best part of a decade.

"One of my early company cars, and a favourite, was an HG 350 Monaro, which I bought after I left and kept for a fair few years. I did about 200,000 miles in it – a great car."

Graham owned the HK you see here for 38 years. "I was looking out for an HT or HG. I was reading Auto Action and this popped up at $5000. It was in Blackburn and I bought it on the spot.

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"Nothing has been done, it’s just as it rolled out of the showroom. Of course I’ve serviced it and put in a new pinion seal and that’s about it.

"I’ve seen plenty with rust in the quarter panels, in the boot, in the sills, but this one is good – it’s rust-free. It hasn’t been out in the rain for the last 38 years!

"How does it drive? My truck drives better," he laughs, pointing to late-model SUV in the driveway. "The clutch is heavy, the steering is heavy, but it is what it is. In its day, it was a great car!"

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Does he have advice for anyone in the market? "They should buy the car with the best body. Mechanicals are easy to fix, bodies are hard and expensive to fix."

He was clearly a little bemused by the rise in values across the decades. "You need to look after them and keep them original. It’s not tricky – you’ve just got to live long enough."

Buyer's Checklist

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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.

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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 you might expect, if in top shape. 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. 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.

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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

 

From Unique Cars #444, Sep 2020

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