1969 Holden HK Monaro GTS 327

By: Dave Carey, Photography by: Darren Gerlach

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Greg Marhall walked into Claridge Holden 52 years ago and bought this HK Monaro GTS 327. After half a century together, it's time for them to part ways

The term ‘one owner’ is a bit overused these days, attached to anything from a two-year-old Kia to a classic that’s been through three family members and a collectible car specialist. Not Greg Marshall’s Silver Mink HK Monaro GTS 327 though; it’s been his and only his since 1969.

"I ordered it in March. A friend of mine had one and took me for a bit of a spin in it," Greg begins. "Actually, we were headed down the Coorong and I was in the passenger seat trying to get some sleep," he says, momentarily closing his eyes and tilting his head in demonstration.

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Greg’s eyes suddenly flick back open, wider than before, "I woke up to this incredible roar and spotted the tacho sitting at about 5800 and the speedometer needle well past the 140-mark," he continues. "I thought ‘This is fantastic; I better have one of these!’" With the statute of limitations for 50-plus year-old Coorong-bound top speed runs presumably over, Greg’s anecdote stands as a bloody good reason for buying Holden’s then-new Bathurst contender.

| Buyer's Guide: Holden HK Monaro GTS327

Greg didn’t even get a loan to buy his Aussie muscle car, stating, "I was a saver, not like people now days," as he opens the boot. Shuffling some papers, Greg extracts the original bill of sale. "It helped I had my HR Premier to trade in," he concedes as he passes the document for us to photograph. Pausing momentarily, he muses, "Oh, and I was single."

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The bill of sale shows the Monaro cost $3840 in 1969 dollars, plus $47 rego, $40 stamp duty, $27.50 CTP and $12.80 to fill the 25-gallon fuel tank. "That’s what Claridge charged to fill it up with fuel. Over ten bucks!" Although Greg laughs, it’s clear he’s still feeling a bit stung despite over half a century passing by. Clarifying his dissatisfaction, he adds, "That was a day’s pay back then. When I first bought this, fuel was about 40c per gallon and I was only earning $75 per week!"

| Reader Resto: Holden HG Monaro

Aside from an eye-wateringly cheap purchase price by today’s standards, another thing that sticks out; Greg’s trade-in is not just any HR Premier, but an X2 optioned sedan. "I bought it new in 1966," Greg says. "I think I paid about $2600 or something." Naturally, Greg owned the X2 outright and Claridge’s offer of $2300 trade-in helped tip him into Monaro GTS 327 ownership.

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With the HT model set for release in May 1969, new 327s were getting scarce on the ground, but for Greg, it had to be the HK, Holden’s first Bathurst winner. "I’ve still got the little note showing all eight of the 327s that were left in January-Feb ’69," he says as he shuffles some more paperwork. Presenting the note, now laminated for posterity, he gestures briefly to his car, explaining, "This was the one at the top of the list and it had the blue upholstery." The note shows three Silver Mink cars, including one with a vinyl roof. "The radio was a bit too dear. I had mine put in with the dealer. Besides, I didn’t want the black trim," he waits a second before adding, "I didn’t want beige either," over his spectacles.

| Buyer's Guide: Holden Monaro GTS350

It wasn’t just the Coorong run or the Bathurst results that made the HK special to Greg, it’s also his part in the creation of the car. A machinist by trade, Greg was working at Mitchell & Cheeseman Toolmaking in Beverley, SA in the mid-late 1960s and helped develop the press tools that made the door strikers, bonnet latches and various other small parts.

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"We handled work for Holden, Ford, Chryslers, BMC and VW; they were all here then," Greg says. "But Holdens had the finest tolerances and the best materials in their dies. I wouldn’t have bought anything else." Popping the bonnet, Greg points out the various parts he was involved in. "One thing I remember very well is the cap for the brake master cylinder," he says. "We worked on it for about three months. Holden supplied the drawings and all the material; we made the die, and I did all the machining."

Greg’s handiwork is evident throughout the car, "We were making the dies for the HKs from 1966. It would take around 3-4 years from receiving the drawings to sending the finished product off to Holden so they could start stamping the parts," he says. While it’s clear that his work on the HK range gave Greg a sense of pride, his partnership with his Bathurst Monaro wasn’t smooth sailing from the outset.

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"You know, the original Rochester carburettor was flooding when I first bought it," Greg recalls. "It was all fixed up under warranty by Claridge. They re-set the needle height and I think they replaced the float." Despite the Monaro being Greg’s daily driver from May 1969 until Remembrance Day 1982, the mighty Chev never gave him too much trouble. Over the years, Greg replaced the clutch himself and has changed the radiator top hose just once. "That’s the second hose it’s had. It’s never even had the radiator out," he says. "I flush it every now and then."

When asked about the Monaro’s care regime while it was driven every day, Greg’s response is surprisingly simple. "I always used to have a rug on the parcel shelf, otherwise the sun just kills the back seats," he says. "And I’d put a towel across the dashboard and keep the window cracked. Other than that, all I ever really did was clean it."

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Greg did plenty of country trips during the Monaro’s 13-year tenure as a daily driver, "I used to do a lot of skiing up the River Murray. Three of my friends had shacks along there, so from September to April, we’d be going up the River practically every weekend," he says. "And I always used to take the Monaro. It’s very good on the open road – very, very quick and accelerates beautifully – like a sports car, except it has four seats." Not that the rear seats have had much of a workout, Greg admits. He retired the Monaro around the same time his kids came along, so he never felt forced to install rear seat belts.

What’s truly jaw dropping about Greg’s Monaro is it has only ever left SA once, and that was before Greg even clapped eyes on it. Made at Holden’s Elizabeth factory in SA, the Monaro was dispatched to NSW to become dealer stock, as did the seven other cars on the list. Once Greg placed his order, it was returned to SA, where it’s stayed ever since. "It’s home grown," he adds with a laugh.

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Thanks to some undesirable citizens, there have been at least two instances where it could have left the state, although not with Greg’s approval. Luckily, Greg had measures in place to prevent the theft of his beloved Monaro. "The first time was when I was living in Royston Park. I got home late one night, and I thought, ‘No I won’t put it in the garage, I’ll leave it out the front’. Next morning, I opened the front door and blow me down, it wasn’t there," Greg says as he twists an invisible doorknob. "Fortunately, it wasn’t far."

Greg had installed a capacitive discharge ignition system which included a kill switch, preventing the would-be car thieves from getting it going. Chuckling at the thought, he says, "They’d pushed it about 150 metres down the road and I imagine they were pretty pooped at that stage, so they gave up."

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After the first scare, Greg upped the ante, installing an early car alarm. "It was made by Ademco in New York; the same company that made police sirens," he says. Activated using a separate key that went straight into the unit he’d installed under the seat, Greg continues. "Once you opened the door, you had 15 seconds to disarm it." The device was put to the test at Adelaide Uni, although not under controlled conditions.

"I was doing a course late one night and when I came out, I could hear this wailing and thought, ‘Hell, that’s my car!’" Greg discovered the Monaro’s ignition half disassembled and believes the thieves were going to plug another ignition switch in there and off they’d go, his Monaro never to be seen again. "They got as far as they could in the 15 seconds," Greg says as he delivers another chuckle of devilish glee, "That’s when the alarm would have gone off."

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It’s safe to say that there were plenty of Monaro owners who weren’t so lucky, or more correctly, didn’t have the foresight Greg had to protect his Aussie icon. The Monaro remained in his care for over half a century, despite the best efforts of some, but Greg’s era is over; he’s ready for someone else to own the car, legitimately this time.

If this Bathurst legend looks like a bit of you, you’re too late; a deal has already been brokered. "I’ve had it for 52 years and one month, and it’s going to go to someone who is more of a collector; someone who will look after it, so…why not?" Greg plans to do some travel once the borders free up and besides, he’s already consulted God about the car. "I’ve asked the Great Man and he said ‘you can’t take it with you…’"

After a moment, I realise there’s really only one response to that, "Greg, if there are no HK Monaros in heaven, I don’t want to go."

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RACEBRED

For racing homologation, CAMS required 500 similar cars be made, but options like seats and diff ratios were relatively free. The Australian Racing Drivers’ Club (ARDC) had supplementary regulations over and above CAMS’ own sup regs that required no less than 200 cars within the 500 be more or less identical, right down to diff ratios and seating configurations. With Holden discovering their 327 production was split roughly 50-50 between the 3.08:1 and the 3.36:1 rear end, and a similar split for fixed back versus reclining bucket seats, more cars had to be built or Bathurst eligibility would not be forthcoming.

Complicating matters, the 327ci V8 out of the Tonawanda Engine Plant in Buffalo, New York, ceased production around August 1968 and Holden’s stocks were exhausted by December of that year. The engine in Greg Marshall’s GTS 327 was built on 6 November 1968 and is the second type, evidenced by the oil filler on the rocker cover and the alternator on the driver’s side.

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Sourced from McKinnon Industries Limited, a subsidiary of General Motors Canada, these engines were specially built for GMH with a four-barrel intake manifold sourced from Tonawanda. Small differences between the powerplants, such as the oil filler moving from the inlet manifold to the driver’s side rocker cover, were detailed in a Nasco bulletin dated 9 December 1968. CAMS did not require a second homologation application, meaning all of the approximately 1192 Monaro GTSes built with the 327ci option were eligible for competition.

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WITH THANKS
• Greg, Dave and Darren would like to thank:
Phil Rillotta of Rillotta Restorations & Fabrications – Phil is a friend of Greg’s and has been instrumental in recommissioning the Monaro for sale. Phil’s business specialises in chrome bumper classics, whether for restoration, preservation or modification. You can catch him on 0419 842 994.
• Dean from Lofty Coaches who not only let us use his driveway, but came down for a look and a chat.
• Norm Darwin, whose brand-new book The Holden HK HT HG Story landed on my desk just in time. A treasure trove of information, grab a copy today!

 

1968 - 1969 Holden Monaro GTS327

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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