Holden HG Monaro - Reader Resto

By: Guy Allen, Unique Cars magazine

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mike casey mike casey

This immaculate 253 Monaro was restored in the back yard

 

Holden Monaro HG GTS

We’ve had this car for about five years now. When we got it I was worried about how the wife was going to accept me forking out so much money for a car that needs to be fixed! In the end she’s an enthusiast, too, and it worked out well.

It was driveable and it was registered when we got it. With a little work, it was running well – you could have driven it to Sydney. We drove it for a year or more before we put in the shed and pulled it to bits, and that’s where it was for two years.

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That’s a fairly short turn-around, but I didn’t want to leave it half-done if something happened to me. It needed to be finished so we could enjoy it. I was not real busy at work at the time, so I could get home early and every afternoon I was doing something on it.

We’re fortunate in that this is a matching-numbers car. It has the original high-performance 253 with the Trimatic and a 2.78 Banjo diff. Awesome on the highway. I also had a 186 ute and I reckon this was getting better miles per gallon.

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The body is the part that everyone dreads with jobs like this, but we were lucky with this one as it was pretty solid. There was a small bit of rust in the rear floors just on one side. The front floors were beautiful. I found some small repairs that just needed to be tapped out a bit more and a little bit of welding. Just a little bit of front-guard damage. All up I was very very happy. It was really good to see a beautiful body that shined up like a new penny when we got it back to bare metal.

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The engine build cost us a few roasts! I have a good mate, Darren Robb, who builds a lot of race car engines – mainly rotaries these days (see Billet Inc online). He would come around as long as there was a roast on that night and help put the engine together. His effort included telling me what to order and what to get machined – he played a big part in that rebuild and was a huge help.

This was the hardest part of the job – the engine rebuild. I wanted to have brand new rocker arms and buckets. I managed to score a full set of brand new gear from a fellow who had bought about eight 308s at auction that had never done any work. All they had in them was start-up oil. He stripped two of them and I managed to jump onto the bits I wanted. When I found them, I was very happy – I didn’t want to do roller rockers or any of that and wanted the build to be original.

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The Trimatic needed nothing other than a service. Its oil pan keeps showing up pretty clean.

One of the very few non-stock features is that it’s running a Davis Craig electric fan and controller up front, all hidden away out of sight inside the grille. It’s there mainly for car shows, where you’re lining up to get in. You see people waiting and there’s white smoke starting to come from their cars, and that’s not good. It’s peace of mind. We like to drive the car and sometimes its 35 or more out the back of Ipswich and the last thing you want to be worrying about is the temp.

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It’s running the original front disc and drum rear brakes, with power assist.

Much of the interior is original, for example the skins on the seats. They were re-sprung, but we were able to save the covers. Good old Nylex vinyl. There are some good reproductions but I was pleased to save these. We put in new carpets of course and new roof liner. The windscreen was replaced with a laminated item, but the rest of the glass is original.

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There was a lot work in getting the dash rebuilt. The vacuum plastic chroming is quite expensive and very time-consuming. We were lucky that the metal-backed woodgrains were in great condition, so I just cleaned them and shot them with a coat of satin. The original dash pad also survived. It had a couple of cracks and I had them repaired and we resprayed it. One thing I am chasing is the bright ring around the edge of the steering wheel.

One job was restoring the hubcaps. I needed to bake them to harden the finish and doing it in the oven in the kitchen wasn’t a popular idea. We’d worked out a way to do them in the Weber barbecue instead!

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The body colour is called Cashmere White and the interior is Antique Gold, and it’s called Marilyn.

I’m a big fan of the HK/T/G series. We have a panel van too, so we go camping with that one. This car, Marilyn, does events and club runs. It’s absolutely beautiful to drive.

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MONARO MARKET REVIEW

Arrival of the XU-1 Torana as Holden’s primary race weapon meant that the HG Monaro could soften its stance and become a proper family-style sports coupe.
The car with the kudos was still the GTS350, but with a big V8 came big thirst and insurance premiums to match. Six-cylinder versions looked the part but lacked performance or the visceral V8 sound. That left two new Aussie-built V8s in 4.2-litre (253 cubic inch) or 5.0-litre (308 cube) capacities to power mainstream GTS sales.

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Buying a 253 saved money and still got you a pair of crossed flags on the front mudguards to denote a V8 engine. Most cars surviving today seem to have a Trimatic auto transmission.

Since 2015 the market for early Monaros has been difficult to understand or predict. The past 12-18 months have seen greater stability, but even so some vendors harbour expectations of better times ahead.

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Manual HG V8s can cost $15,000 more than automatics, but condition and authenticity carry more weight in a market where buyers are looking to long-term ownership.

Scarce colours also add value but most important is paint matching the colour code on the build plate. Restored or original, body condition and especially the absence of major repairs due to crash damage or rust is vital.

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Documents that track a car’s history back to the original selling dealer make a difference and so too will a selection of ‘Nasco’ options and accessories. These don’t need to have been on the car from new, although a build sheet showing them adds value.

VALUE RANGE: HOLDEN HG Monaro (253 Auto)

FAIR: $35,000
GOOD: $85,000
EXCELLENT: $120,000-plus

(Note: concours & special cars will demand more)

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Body & chassis

The horrors of a ‘quickie’ restoration could have been ignored back when these cars cost less than $10,000, but not where vendors are trying for $100K and more. Before even getting the car to a reputable body shop for on-hoist inspection, check for bulges, bubbles and paint flaws, especially in the rear quarter panels, turret edges and sills. Underneath look at the floors for rust or impact damage, sills and firewall for rust. Replacement panels will be mostly reproduction but it could be cheaper – not to mention better for the car’s long-term survival – to have the originals repaired. Reproduction bumpers can be found at around $600 each but again it may be preferable to have originals repaired and re-chromed.

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Engine & transmission

HGs with an engine number matching the car’s pedigree will generally bring more money than those running a replacement engine. Cars in the market at $100,000 and above should not display any mechanical flaws at all. That means no exhaust smoke (a puff at start up is OK), factory oil pressure and certainly no oil or fuel leaks under the bonnet. Four-speed gearboxes are heavy to use and can whine or send vibrations through the gear-lever. Clunks or clicking noises mean internal damage and be wary of a slipping clutch, especially in seldom-used cars. A Trimatic auto that’s getting tired will clunk when downshifting and slur changes under acceleration.

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Suspension & brakes

Standard GTS suspension is basic with coils up front and leaves at the rear and the factory set-up is biased towards ride quality. Owners over the years may well have altered spring rates to dial out some body-roll but wrecked the ride. If you can find a bumpy bit of bitumen on the test route, accelerate hard to check for ‘tramp’ from the rear axle. Plenty of parts are available and there is no excuse for a GTS to be wobbling around on worn ball-joints and cracked leaf springs. Even well-presented cars may need their age-hardened suspension bushings replaced. Standard brakes are fine for recreational driving, just make sure after a drive that the rear drums are warm and working.

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Interior & electrical

The interior is where a really exceptional GTS can stand apart from one that’s just ‘good for its age’. Seat frames need to be checked for cracks and twisting and easy movement on the runners. Correct seat vinyl, door cards, replacement consoles and dash trim are available as reproductions but not cheap. However a perfect interior is essential to justifying top money for a Monaro. Holden by 1969 had found space in the dash for the tachometer so make sure it and other gauges – especially for temperature – are working. Try to wind down the rear quarter glass on both sides, listening for crackling noises. Damage in this confined space due to water entry and rust is expensive to fix.

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1970-1971 Holden Monaro GTS 253 V8

Number built: 6147 (all HG Monaro)
Body: all steel integrated body/chassis two-door coupe
Engine: 4149cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
Power & torque: 138kW @ 4400rpm, 354Nm @ 2400rpm 
Performance: 0-96km/h: 10.2 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.6 seconds (253 4-speed)
Transmission: 3 or 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic 
Suspension: Independent with coil springs, control arms and telescopic shock absorbers (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs, radius arms and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance
Tyres: D70H14 cross-ply

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