“We’re here to stay”.
That’s the message that underpins an exciting mission being undertaken by Holden, veteran all makes parts supplier ACDelco, other long-term Holden suppliers and business partners, and a team of dedicated, long-term, Holden employees. The premise is simple: take an iconic car, restore it, give it away. The devil, they say, is in the details. The car is a 210,000km 2004 VZ spec, Monaro. The restoration is in partnership with companies that includes Holden’s own ACDelco. The give-away part is for a very lucky person that purchases Holden or ACDelco parts, or visits a Holden Dealer service centre.
The public face of this mission is Craig Lowndes. Well known for his love of a good car, Lowndes is working with the team that is putting together this one-of-a-kind machine. Holden fans, for the most part, have “forgiven” Lowndes for his diversion to the Blue Oval for a period, and his involvement in the project has Holden followers vying for a chance to win what might seem to some like “Lowndesy’s car”. The project itself can be tracked online via a series of doco-like videos that have been made. We knew there would be some “inside goss” so we dialed up our friends at Holden and spoke to Chris Payne, Holden’s Project Marketing Manager (Aftersales) for a bit of extra info. As Chris said about the videos, they tell stories that only Holden can tell. Project Monaro isn’t just about stating unequivocally that Holden’s still supporting its client base. It’s a nod to history as in 1969 Holden won the Bathurst 1000 race, or as it was known then, the Hardie-Ferodo 500. The drivers were Tony Roberts and Colin Bond. The car? Holden’s HT 350 GTS Monaro. Where this takes the project is that Holden’s dealerships and service centres are well equipped to not just look after the more modern members of the Holden family, a vast inventory of Holden parts is able to be called upon to help older models. Chris emphasized that it was a deliberate choice in sourcing a Monaro for the project, rather than something like the iconic Kingswood. It’s “just” fifteen years old and still seen as relevant to the greater Holden story as there’s something close to three quarters of a million Holdens of all ages still driving on Australian and New Zealand roads. Factor in the classic two door shape that many manufacturers have used and there’s visual appeal and a link back to that day in 1969 at The Mountain. Inside the first video, aptly named “The Birth of An Idea” “CL” walks through the Holden design studio and showcases steps in Holden’s history. There’s the HRT 427, the 2008 VE Commodore Coupe 60, and the original concept “Commodore Coupe” that was unveiled at the 1997 Sydney Motor Show. Here Chris points out that some members of the Project Monaro team, such as Peter Hughes and Jeff Haggerty, are the same people that worked alongside former Holden Design Director Mike Simcoe, the man responsible for penciling out the original Commodore Coupe design. This, too, emphasises the bridge in history, that Holden was, and still is, here for its customers. What makes this project unique is the usage of modern parts from the Holden Genuine and ACDelco catalogue. Although the car is fifteen years old, genuine parts are being sourced and this will give the Monaro a truly modern feel. Chris points out that the end product will not be a concours restoration, but a faithful rebuild of the original. Sachs Performance are supplying the suspension components and are working with Triple Eight Racing to fettle the car’s undercarriage. The Monaro, once completed, will be put through its paces at Holden’s historic Lang Lang Proving Grounds. This link again reminds Holden’s base that it’s part of an ongoing history line. And given that Lang Lang is integral in General Motors global product testing, it further builds upon the “we’re here to stay” forward look. Maurice Fabietti, a veteran drag car racer that campaigns the ACDelco liveried Monaro doorslammer, is handling the spanners on a rebuild of the original LS1 5.7L Holden engine. Chris then points out that Holden is the distributor of genuine Chevrolet Performance Parts, some of which will be used in the rebuilt engine. What stood out in the rebuild was the fact that the engine had covered around 210,000 kilometres and when disassembled, the engine and driveline was found to be in virtually mint condition. The panels are being looked after by legendary paint company PPG with a bespoke colour being laid down under the guidance of Holden Design. PPG’s history goes back to and past the date the Project Monaro car was built. This lead Chris to mention that Holden is developing a Holden certified network of repair centres. This means anyone with a Holden can deal with qualified repair technicians that speak the Holden language. Another company with long term ties to the Red Lion is LNI. Luna Nameplate Industries will be supplying bespoke badgework and part of their history includes supplying the horn pad for the HQ Holden. They’ll be supplying parts such as the sill panels as well. It’s here that Chris uses a word that really sells the project. Holden is still a major market player, there’s a vast back catalogue of parts and history that can be drawn upon as they “reimagine” the Monaro. 3D printing is helping with parts such as the bonnet air intakes, and the way the car will handle on the road is being overseen by Holden’s long term Lead Performance Engineer, Rob Trubiani. He was the driver responsible for piloting a VF Commodore ute around the Nurburgring.
The bottom line, says Chris, is simple. Holden is here. Holden is here for its current customers, its older customers, and its customers to be. Project Monaro is the embodiment of all three and will be the living statement that says: Holden is here to stay!