Vauxhall Monaro | PH Used Buying Guide

Brutish and brilliant, the Monaro is still available from less than £10k. If not now, when?

By PH Staff / Thursday, April 15, 2021 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available from £9,000
  • V8 soundtrack
  • Genuine muscle car character
  • Decent mechanical reliability
  • Chassis upgrades recommended

Search for a used Vauxhall Monaro here

OVERVIEW

When the Monaro was added to Vauxhall’s range in 2004, it offered the British firm a ready-made way to add much-needed glamour to a lacklustre line-up. Sure, the VX220 was there to entertain a niche corner of the automotive world, but not since the Lotus Carlton had Vauxhall sold a car that so clearly communicated its intentions. With V8 power and performance, the Australian-built Monaro’s intentions were clear.

Still, not everyone fully understood the Monaro – with its big Chevrolet engine and spacious four-seat cabin it has always been more muscle car than sports car. Its only obvious competition in 2004 was the Mercedes CLK55 AMG and perhaps the previous generation E39 BMW M5. The likes of the Audi RS4 and BMW M3 were more sophisticated cars in design and execution, but the simplicity of the Monaro proved to be one of its most enduring strengths.

A total of 800 Monaros of all types were sold in the UK and, at the time of writing, 450 of those are still registered. This makes it a rare sight on British roads, but one worth seeking out, as even in it mildest state of tune the Monaro offers 333hp, 160mph and 0-62mph in six seconds. Go for the later VXR model, with its 404hp 6.0-litre motor and 180mph and 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds are yours for not a lot of cash.

Vauxhall revamped the Monaro in 2005, adding prominent bonnet vents to mark out these more powerful models. Another quick way to spot the difference between earlier and later Monaros is the earlier 2004 cars have an exhaust that exits on the left, while the later 2005 cars have twin rear exhausts. However, as many owners modify their cars, this is very much a guide rather than a hard and fast identifier.

More important is to look at the VIN (vehicle identification number) plate on the engine’s bay’s bonnet closing panel. All Monaros were built in 2004 and 2005, so a late registered 2007 car could have been sitting idle for two years. The car’s actual build date will be shown on the bonnet closing panel.

There are always a few Monaros for sale and prices start at around £9,000 for lower powered cars that need a bit of loving care. At the other end of the spectrum, an immaculate limited edition supercharged VXR500 could make £45,000.

SPECIFICATION | VAUXHALL MONARO VXR 6.0 (2004-2007)

Engine: 5,967cc, V8
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],400
0-62mph: 5.1 secs
Top speed: 180mph
Weight: 1,677kg
MPG (official combined): 17.6
CO2: 384g/km
Wheels: 8 x 19in
Tyres: 245/35
On sale: 2004 – 2007
Price new: £36,895 (5.7 Monaro was £29,895)
Price now: from £13,000 (or £9,000 for 5.7 models)

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.


ENGINE & GEARBOX

Power for the Vauxhall Monaro is lifted from the Chevrolet Corvette in the shape of the dependable LS1 and LS2 V8 engines. For the earlier Monaro CV8 and VXR, the LS1 is a 5,667cc unit with 333hp for the standard car or 377hp for the VXR. To achieve more power, the VXR had changes to the cylinder heads, exhaust and throttle body, while a shorter 3.7 axle ratio in place of the standard model’s 3.45 improved acceleration. For the VXR, 0-62mph dropped to 5.4 seconds from the standard car’s six-second time.

For the 2005 model, Vauxhall introduced the 5,967cc LS2 V8 for the VXR, which upped power to 404hp and delivered 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds alongside a 180mph top speed. For the CV8 model, its 5.7-litre LS1 V8 was breathed on to give 354hp, with 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds.

The V8 engine in both guises is very tough, reliable and also easily tuned for significantly more power. Among owners, the most popular improvements have been a new air filter, cold air intake, ECU remap, freer flowing cylinder heads and a stainless-steel exhaust. The exhaust is often the first item to be changed by owners to free up the noise of the V8 as the standard pipework is reckoned by most to be too muted. There is also the prohibitive cost and scarcity of original Vauxhall parts for the Monaro, which means most owners look to specialists, like Walkinshaw Performance, to order them from the USA. The Monaro shares most of its mechanical parts with the contemporary Pontiac GTO that sold in far larger numbers.

The interchangeability of parts with the Pontiac also means this is a well-trodden route for modifying and tuning. Supercharging is a popular choice in the USA and will help produce 500hp or more depending on the state of tune you aim for.

While the engines are reliable, the belts on the front of the engine can be make some squeaks on start-up, but these should stop once the engine is warmed through. The Monaro needs servicing every 10,000 miles and a basic service will cost around £220. A major service at 50,000 miles will set you back around £340. While checking the belts in the engine bay, also look at the coolant hoses at the rear of the cylinder heads for wear. On LS1-engined cars, the plastic shroud can also rub on the fuel lines, so remove the cover and look for any signs of wear on the fuel hoses. Also, the throttle bodies on the 6.0-litre V8 can fail and are expensive to replace, so be sure the throttle response is pin sharp.

Routine servicing is cheap, the Monaro can set you back much more with items such as a new radiator costing close to £400. More of a concern should be the gearbox and clutch. The Tremec T56 ‘box is up to the job of dealing with the V8’s power but its spigot bearing fails, resulting in a whirring noise with the engine running. If you can hear this on a car, it needs attention immediately and will likely also result in difficult gear selection. Many owners choose to uprate to the clutch from an LS7-engined Corvette as it’s much stronger. A standard replacement clutch will be around £650, with a full LS7 kit upgrade (including the flywheel) from £850, so the cost difference makes the LS7 clutch a worthwhile investment. A lot of Monaro owners will also have a remote clutch bleed nipple fitted as the slave cylinder is poorly positioned.

Some owners have fitted a Ripshift quick change gear linkage to overcome the Monaro’s slow and sometimes baulky gear lever action. Others don’t feel the need, so this is down to personal preference. Kits can cost £450 and upwards.

Finally, check under the rear of the Monaro for any leaks from the differential. It’s not a disaster if there are leaks as new seals are available. Regularly changing the diff oil with the correct 75W 140 GLS will also help keep the back axle quiet and in good condition.

CHASSIS

In keeping with the Monaro’s ethos, the suspension is nothing too complicated. There are MacPherson struts with coil springs and anti-roll bars at the front and a multi-link, coil spring and anti-roll bar arrangement at the rear. Rack and pinion steering has 3.0 turns between the lock stops and there are vented brake discs all round. At the front, the discs are 330mm in diameter, while the rears are 315mm.

18-inch alloy wheels came on early Monaro models before 19s were offered, with Pirelli tyres fitted from the factory. The vast majority of owners stick with Pirellis or other top end brands as the Monaro is sensitive to tyre choice. This is partly down to the stiffness of the tyre’s sidewall, which has a bearing on how wayward the car can feel in corners.

Worn suspension will make any Monaro feel like a handful, so budget for replacement suspension and steering bushes. A standard set of bushes are cheap to buy and will return the car to its original feel, but as the Monaro always felt a little soft, a lot of owners choose to upgrade with polyurethane bush kits. These kits will sharpen steering feel, reduce tyre wear and last longer than the basic original bushes. A four-wheel alignment after fitting new bushes will also help make the Monaro more precise and enjoyable to drive.

The other area many owners will upgrade are the brakes. In their original state, the brakes are adequate but they can fade with hard use on track as the Monaro tips the scales at over 1.6 tonnes. The most popular choice of uprated brakes are discs from AP Racing with softer fast road pads to give an improved pedal feel. A full set of AP discs, calipers, pads and fluid will cost around £2,000, but the kit does come with larger discs all round.

BODYWORK

The Vauxhall Monaro is 4,789mm long and 1,841mm wide, which makes it quite a large car for a coupe in the UK, even by 2020s standards. More pertinent are the long front and rear overhangs that can make the underside susceptible to knocks and scrapes from steep driveways.

Paintwork is often cited by owners as being of mediocre quality and more prone to stone chips that most of the Monaro’s competitors. This means careful cleaning and polishing is needed to avoid leaving scratches or swirls in the paint. Owners also report of windscreen chips being more common than normal, although replacements are easy to come by through the usual fitters.

The two big problem areas with the Monaro’s bodywork are damaged panels and rust. Accident damage that would be easily repaired on most cars can result in a Monaro being written off as some of the body panels are very expensive to replace and hard to source. The VXR front bumper is the worst offender here and a new bumper can set you back over £1,000, so check every inch of a prospective purchase’s exterior for dents and dings. The door handles are also a weak paint area and can bubble up. Respraying the handles is an option, but a longer-term solution is to replace with metal handles from a Vauxhall Omega that are sprayed to match the car.

Rust should not be an issue on a car built between 2004 and 2005, but because the Monaro was constructed in the drier climes of Australia it doesn’t have the same level of protection we’re used to in the UK. A careful Monaro owner will have had the car rust-proofed on a regular basis, which will greatly improve the car’s longevity, but look underneath for signs of serious corrosion.

While looking underneath, check the front chassis rails for rot as water can collect inside the rails. There are drain holes, but they become blocked and let the chassis legs corrode from the inside out.

INTERIOR

While the Vauxhall Monaro may have lacked some of the style and pizzazz of rivals from Audi and BMW, its cabin is well laid out, comfortable and offers seating for four adults. It’s also well equipped with climate control, CD stereo, leather upholstery and electric front seat adjustment, and cruise control.

Some of the plastic trim is not as hard wearing as you might hope, so look for where the finish has worn through to the plastic beneath or for scratches. The leather seats are generally tough, but the stitching can start to come apart on high mileage cars.

A clear, simple dash design with white on black instruments is easy to read, but there have been cases of the dials not working properly. The usual fix for this is to turn the car off and restart, but it’s still worth making sure every switch and button works as it should.

The only other point to bear in mind with a Monaro is most cars built in 2005 have a much smaller boot. This is due to the petrol tank being repositioned to meet with North American safety regulations. Otherwise, the Monaro is a superb long-distance machine for four-up touring.

PH VERDICT

While the V8 may not be on the endangered species list just yet – thanks to the US’s never-ending supply of big-block brutes – readily available options in Britain are becoming increasingly thin on the ground. And it’s true no matter your budget, with everyone from McLaren to Mercedes replacing V8s with smaller, more efficient alternatives. Suffice it to say the Vauxhall Monaro, with its entry-level 5.7-litre motor, feels even more the unicorn (or should that be dinosaur?) than it did in the early 2000s.

Which is obviously part of the appeal. The Monaro offers a pretty compelling blend of contemporary and traditional – i.e. big-cube V8 performance and a refreshing lack of technology makes it endearingly old school, but the package is modern enough to provide mostly trouble-free motoring. In fact, a lot of that may well be down to distinctly uncomplicated engine – all the more reason to love it.

That said, if you thought the handling was a bit on the loose side in the 2000s, by today’s adaptively-damped standards it’s liable to feel almost wayward. But with even the last registered examples now getting on for 14 years old, replacing and upgrading suspension components is something of a no-brainer if you want to ensure a car is running at its best – or better. So keep a bit in your back pocket for those worthwhile mods.

You needn’t spend an arm and leg on getting an actual car, though. Not yet at any rate, because it’s still possible to pick up an early 5.7 car for under £10,000. Those wanting the 6.0 VXR will naturally pay a premium but, as demonstrated by the £14,750 car listed here at the time of writing, we’re still not talking mega money. It’s probably a bit ambitious to declare investment potential in the Monaro, but should you land a good’n and keep it that way for a few more years, it’s unlikely to chronically depreciate. As is becoming an increasing familiar trope nowadays, cars like the Monaro aren’t coming back, a fact the market is now becoming wise to. Those after a fix of cheap, characterful V8 entertainment were very well served by the Monaro in the mid-2000s – and that stands just as true 15 years down the line.


Search for a used Vauxhall Monaro here

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