Project Monaro – the full story

Project Monaro sees Holden breathing new life into its most iconic modern Aussie muscle car - and you could win it!

Photographers: Shaun Tanner

REWIND the clock just 13 years and the world was a very different place. The term ‘Android’ sounded more like a mispronounced Star Wars reference than a teenager’s life-support device, the movie Borat was allowed to be shown in cinemas without half the world getting offended, and, importantly, it was the last time anyone had a chance to own a brand-new Monaro – until now.

This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of Street Machine

Holden has taken it upon itself to rebirth a much-loved Aussie two-door coupe, tracking down a worn-out 2004 CV8 with over 200,000 clicks on the clock and resto-modding it into a one-of-a-kind machine. On the surface, it may look like all that has resulted in is a new lick of paint and set of wheels, but there are dozens of custom touches and hours of work that have gone into this Munro to make it unique.

The Holden designers decided the original black wasn’t going to cut it for this one-off build, so the car was sent to B&A Motor Body Repairs for a complete respray in a custom PPG paint dubbed Panorama Blue Suede

The car was stripped back to its bare bones at a Holden dealer in Melbourne, before parts and brains from all corners of the country were called upon to create Holden’s vision of the ultimate Monaro. The CV8 spent some decent hours at B&A Motor Body Repairs in Melbourne in preparation for a fresh coat of custom PPG paint. The original LS1 donk was sent to the great Maurice Fabietti from Fabietti Race Engines in NSW for a complete rebuild and a bit of a tickle. The mill was in good shape, so a simple deck and hone was all that was needed, along with a CNC port job of the original heads. The heads were also given a shave-down of 30thou, raising compression to 11.3:1 to complement the beefier Chevy Performance cam that was slotted in. The 4L60E ’box was given a makeover with Holden OEM parts by FluidDrive, along with a reconditioned LSD rear end.

The performance part of the project was headed up by Holden Lead Dynamics Engineer Rob Trubiani. “The big three we look at is stop, steer and go,” he said. “We’ve addressed all of those with the hotted-up engine, custom-tuned suspension and bigger brakes to really set this Monaro apart from the rest.” Using the expertise of the engineering department from the Red Bull Holden Racing Team, a custom set of Sachs dampers and Eibach springs were developed specifically for the project, as well as meaty four-pot AP Racing anchors all ’round.

The guys at Auto Image Car Interiors did a stellar job on the inside, with lots of signifying badges, plenty of leather and suede, and of course Lowndesy’s all-important signature as a crowning jewel on the dash

The interior and exterior are where the real custom touches come into play. Holden used the same designers who worked on the V2 Monaro when it was first dreamed up in the late 90s, Peter Hughes and Jeff Haggarty, the latter of whom once penned concepts for Street Machine’s Expression Session section. “The initial concept of the Monaro back in the day was a simple, timeless-looking coupe, so it only needed a few modern enhancements,” said Peter of the exterior styling. “We decided to go for a racier look, the idea being that we should have a pretty special car by the end of it.” The boys settled on an array of custom 3D-printed lips and spoilers, as detailed in the November issue of SM.

The interior also got a full makeover, with new trim, renovated gauges and even a set of rear cup holders. The car was then re-assembled at the Holden dealer using the new one-off parts and all-new Holden hardware, basically building a brand-new Monaro from scratch.

Holden documented the entire build from start to finish, choosing none other than Aussie motor racing legend Craig Lowndes to present the five-part YouTube video series and also give his own little personal touches to the project.

It was pretty obvious that Craig was like a kid in a candy store behind the wheel of the Monaro. “The racing driver in you always wants more power, but for what it’s supposed to be, it’s heaps of fun, and a really solid car,” he said

I was lucky enough to score an invite to the reveal day at Holden’s Lang Lang proving ground, where both Craig Lowndes and Rob Trubiani gave the car its first shakedown. While Craig had seen most of the build process, this was the first time he had laid eyes on it as a completed machine, and after a quick drive it was clear he was pretty fond of the revamped coupe. “I’m really impressed,” he said. “It’s great to see all these parts and people come together to make something so special, and the thing drives really well – I think I might need to get one!”

While driving duties were restricted to Craig and Rob for this first blat, Rob did take me for a few hot laps around Holden’s ride and handling circuit. Even from the passenger seat, it was plain to see that this thing hooked, went and stopped streets ahead of where it would’ve been 15 years ago. While I suspect Rob was doing his best to get me to soil the brand-new leather seats, the car felt as though it had a level of high-speed controllability that you’d expect from suspension developed by a Supercars team.

I admit, I was initially sceptical about how good this car was actually going to be, but once I laid eyes on it and got to experience it being driven in anger, I was left feeling a bit miffed that I’m not allowed to put my hand up to try and win it.

If you’d like a chance to call Project Monaro your own, head to


WHILE Holden’s V2 Monaro proved to be a success from day one, the company hadn’t initially planned on putting it into production. The original concept drawings were dreamed up by the design team in their spare time, before being unveiled as the VT Coupe concept at the 1998 Australian International Motor Show. It caused such a stir that Holden had virtually no choice but to produce it, becoming a hit both locally and overseas under various badges.

Paint: Custom PPG Panorama Blue Suede

Brand: LS1
ECU: Standard, remapped
Heads: Higgins CNC-ported
Camshaft: Chevy Performance
Compression: 11.3:1
Internals: Standard
Exhaust: Pontiac GTO-spec

Gearbox: 4L60E
Converter: Standard
Diff: Standard LSD, 3.46:1 gears

Front & rear: Sachs dampers, Eibach springs
Brakes: AP Racing four-piston (f & r)

Rims: HSV 19in (f & r)
Rubber: Bridgestone Potenza S007A

B&A Motor Body Repairs; Red Bull Holden Racing Team; Sachs; Eibach; Maurice at Fabietti Race Engines; FluidDrive; ACDelco; Eagle Auto Parts; EVOK3D; Sam Fisicaro from Auto Image Car
Interiors; Luna Nameplate Industries; PPG; Bridgestone; GearWrench; Meguiar’s; South Morang Holden; The Creative Ones