With the only private example of Holden's stillborn Monaro HRT 427 project up for sale again, we thought it a good chance to revisit the time Holden threw us the keys.
The following article first appeared in the August 2004 edition of MOTOR.
The HRT 427 is destined to become the next Phase IV GT-HO; the big fish that got away.
See, despite the projected price-tag of around 200-large, the bean-counters at HSV just couldn't see how the mutha was ever going to make money. So they scrapped the whole idea.
That glorious idea of building about 50 427s, a car that would have redefined performance cars both here and abroad, since it would have gone head to head with the best four-seaters that BMW, AMG and anybody else has ever dreamed up.
How do we know? Cos we've driven the bugger. Not a full-scale drive, we should add, more a teensy-weensy little taste of what might have been. Sadly, we couldn't let the 427 off its chain for any more than three of its six gears, but let me tell you, this would have been one brutal sonofabitch.
The 7.0-litre, LS6 blocked, 400kW powerhouse makes the toughest Gen III look pasty by comparison. Building a tough Monaro or Commodore? Then sling the Gen III and form an orderly queue for a big-block. You know it makes sense.
But it ain't just an engine here; the rest of the HRT's hand-fabbed suspension components, integral roll-cage and race-car-with-number-plates attitude and style would have made plenty of big, big-dollar supercars run and hide.
A lot of cars will chirp the rear hides going into second, but very few will torch the bags just by squishing the throttle at about 3000rpm. And we're not talking a little squeak, either, mash the gas in second and that headbanger motor will be smashing pick-handles out of the rev-limiter before you've even clocked the tacho.
And it does it with a ripping soundtrack, too, with the exhaust yodeling like a bastard when you're right up it. The rest is firm but fair, with a tiny, flat-bottomed tiller directing a precise and flat-handling chassis that is never more than an ankle twitch away from throttle-steer.
Cogs are a close-ratio T56 and the clutch is a single-plater that feels a bit dead at first but is actually pretty progressive. Glitches? Well, the steering's a bit slow for the rest of the razor-sharp package, and the token stuff like five-point harnesses and the Wiggles-spec starter button have no place on a road warrior.
Oh, yeah, and the fact that it'll never be built and the only surviving prototypes are doomed to a static life under dust-sheets somewhere in the bowels of HSV.
Even the HSV and Holden brass get misty eyed when you quiz them on the whys and wherefores of canning such a project, and some of them are off-the-record downright cranky that the vision was blanked out by the almighty dollar.
Maybe, if HSV had kept its powder dry on projected pricing when the concept was first announced, it could have upped the ask to a profitable level and still attracted the 50 buyers it needed.
Maybe, but I kind of hope not, because I'd hate to think that I'll never have the chance to own a HRT 427 simply because somebody blabbed about pricing too early in the game.
And as for the accountants of the world: Damn them all to hell.
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