Holden's Pre-Commodore Heroes: HQ Monaro GTS 350

LONG before Volkswagen’s Golf underpinned seemingly everything from a pram to the Bugatti Chiron, Australia had its own modular vehicle platform in 1971.

This was the HQ Holden. Its scale was truly epic. It spawned seven bodystyles, even more variants, and almost half a million units over its lifespan. Better yet, it was entirely Australian. To complete the feat, Holden approached the HQ with the same methods it did the 48-215 by sandwiching a front-subframe with a monocoque bodyshell.

Among the combinations, the Monaro lingers as a standout pick. The Monaro entered its third phase on the HQ platform, and in two-door GTS spec, received a 5.0-litre V8, four-speed Muncie manual, and four-link rear suspension. Options included variable power steering, ventilated disc brakes, and bucket seats.

HQ-Monaro-GTS-350-engine.jpgImpressive, but the press didn’t think so. More powerful rivals exposed some lost mongrel. During a three-car MOTOR comparison between the then new Holden, Ford’s XA Hardtop GT, and Charger’s SE 770, the Monaro crossed the quarter mile last. Nothing a bit of grunt couldn’t fix, though.

The Chevrolet 350 V8 made its last appearance in the HQ, and took the 308’s meek 176kW and 427Nm to a more appropriate 488Nm and 202kW. That’s less than the HG 350’s outputs, but there’s a reason. Exported from Canada, the engine catered to American emissions controls being introduced in 1973.

HQ-Monaro-GTS-350-convoy.jpgReports reckoned the difference in acceleration was marginal and could only be felt at more than 160km/h. As a result the 350 tore up the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds, despite wheelspinning to 50km/h. Dynamically the Monaro’s rear axle could grip like a barnacle, however, combined with the overall softness in its handling setup, the car defaulted to serial understeer.

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It was a harsh reality of an engineering program that prioritised ride and touring ability over track performance. Making leaps forward in other areas, the HQ Monaro was a better road car. The bodyshell was solidly built, with the four-door GTS being based on the coupe rather than the other way around.

HQ-Monaro-GTS-350-wheel.jpgThere was travel in the suspension, great forward vision, and a well isolated interior. Drive was effortless and smooth. And its pretty design will endure for decades more. Holden may have turned down 350’s burble, but the Chevy-powered HQ GTS mixed Aussie engineering with Yank stonk for a truly rounded muscle car.

HQ Monaro GTS 350 specs:
On sale: 1971-1973
Engine: 5735cc V8, OHV, 16 valve
Power: 488Nm @ 4800rpm
Torque: 202kW@ 3200rpm 
0-97 time: 8.0 seconds (claimed)
Weight: 1451kg
Price new: $4630

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