Here was an Olympic-standard no-brainer. When Holden finally realised it had to build the Holden Monaro in 2001 (to avoid angry mobs of wannabe Monaro-owners storming dealerships) it became equally obvious that HSV would want in on it, too.
After all, if HSV could turn Commodores into such objects of desire, the sky was clearly the limit if it could get its hands on a car that didn’t look like the taxi meter was standard equipment. And so the Coupe GTO, GTS and, sometime later, the Coupe 4 were born.
Read the full MOTOR 30 Years of HSV special
The Coupe GTO was first with the stock-in-trade 255kW version of the LS1. Then came the Coupe GTS with the 300kW version of the engine with all the Callaway bits and pieces (and a $20K premium over the GTO with them). Like other early versions of the Callaway-engined models, the GTS couldn’t be had with an automatic transmission until 2003.
Interestingly, the HSV versions were both released more or less at the same time as the Holden Monaro version, but they were priced high enough that Monaro sales weren’t really impacted.
As well as the engine and suspension tweaks common to other HSV models, the GTO and GTS got specific body-kits to differentiate them from mere Monaros. Most noticeable was a deep, aggressive front spoiler which incorporated a new grille and gave the thing a pretty tough look. Many a Monaro grew a HSV front clip in the ensuing years. But the most controversial aspect of the body kit was the rear spoiler.
Holden’s then design boss, Mike Simcoe, who had designed the original Monaro concept in his spare time, was very keen on maintaining the purity of line that his big two-door had displayed from the very start. But, of course, Simcoe was not HSV’s styling meister, and HSV was worried that its customers would not relate to a coupe without the batmobile treatment.
So the GTO and GTS got rear spoilers (and many other plastic bits) but not before Simcoe – allegedly – had chucked Teddy out of the cot.
Driving the big HSV coupes was always good fun. They had plenty of poke and with the other changes Holden had wrought on the basic Monaro platform - most notably a slower steering rack to make the front end point a bit more precisely – it was all fun and games. The interiors were plush and even with that damned rear wing, they looked the goods.
The switch to V3 specification for the 2004 model-year mean that the GTO entry-level model got an upgrade to 285kW (in line with HSV’s other models) making the expensive Callaway engine option largely pointless. So, at that point, the GTS was dumped and the GTO went it alone for a little while.
It wasn’t until 2004 that the Coupe 4 hit showrooms. Technically, it was killer stuff; all-wheel-drive was big news but, in reality, the car was a bit of a victim of its own excess. See, the driveshafts and such required to drive the front axle made packaging the powertrain quite difficult.
In the end, a compromised header design lopped quite a few horsepower off the top. In fact, at a time in history when the GTO had grown to a full six litres (as the Z Series) the Coupe 4 was still selling alongside it with 5.7 litres and 270kW versus the GTO’s 297. Also, the wider track of the all-wheel-drive front axle (which owed a bit to Hummer, apparently) meant that the Coupe 4 had to wear little wheelarch extensions which didn’t really work for us visually.
The Coupe 4 was also something like 150kg heavier than the GTO, understeered more and was only available in automatic form. Which was fine if you wanted a pushy, hefty, less-powerful car with funny wheelarches and no manual gearbox. If not, you bought the GTO with its six-litre engine and got more than $10,000 change. Another no-brainer.
Engine: 5665cc V8, OHV, 16-valve
Power: 270kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 475Nm @ 4000rpm
0-100km/h time: 6.1sec (claimed)
Price when new: $89,950
Years on sale: 2004-2006