In July 1971 I saw the new HQ Holden Kingswood for the first time. It looked great compared to its predecessor. About a week after this, I was driving home from work and pulled in behind what I thought was another new HQ Kingswood. Something seemed different about this one - it had a panoramic rear window and the boot appeared different in some way. As I pulled out to pass the "Kingswood" I realised that it was the new 2 door Monaro GTS coupe - a vision that will remain with me.
The coupe body plus the magnificent V8 engine note from the dual exhausts was enough to send me straight off to the nearest Holden dealer. It took another year and half of hard savings before I could qualify for a bank loan and place an order.
My new Monaro was delivered through Claridge Holden of Unley South Australia on Wednesday 14th of November 1972 after an excruciatingly long wait. It was ordered weeks before with a deposit of $100. The purchase price was $3,915 less $900 trade in for my 1966 Ford Cortina ! I desperately wanted the 350 V8 but it was another $800 and insurance virtually unobtainable for a 19 year old. I settled for the standard 253 V8 but optioned the M21 "high performance 4 speed" plus dual exhausts and 3.36 LSD.
In 1979 at 160,000 Kms and thinking more about performance than originality at that time, I replaced the original 253 with a new 308 crate engine from Holden. In 1981, I experimented with rebuilding a Trimatic and used that in the car for some years. The M21 was kept for future re-installation.
The Monaro was our main family car until until 1991 when a transfer to Melbourne and a company car resulted in it being "laid up" in the garage. In 2001 I brought it back on the road, renewing the brakes and front suspension bushes - the first time they had been replaced. New bearings went into the original M21 to replace the Trimatic to bring the car back to its original 4 speed spec. During the 12 years in storage, the engine was run every week with regular oil changes so it required no work.
In 2017 I decided to take the car back to its original 253 and M21 drive train combination. I had been collecting original factory parts for an entire 253 + M21 drive line conversion over the last 15 years, “just in case”. Less power, but they way Holden engineers had optimised it in the first place.
My original 253 engine had been sold in 1979 and although it was confirmed by SA Roads Authority to still be driving around in a registered Bedford vehicle in Adelaide as late as 2008, I have been unable to track down the owner to make him / her a ridiculous offer. However, after many years of searching I found a 253 block, with an original bore, that, based on some research was most likely cast in the same batch / day as my original engine. My original engine number was QR245145 and the replacement block is QR241754 with casting date code J262 (26 September 1972). The difference in the engine numbers is 3,391. As engine numbers were allocated sequentially (across all engines, no matter whether L6 of V8), this indicates that my GTS was assembled roughly 3,391 Holden cars after the car that bore the QR241754 engine. At approximately 600 cars produced per day across all Holden production plants at the time, that equates to about 5 and a half days between the days when the 2 engines were fitted. As near as I will ever get to my original dated engine.
Update: 11th Sep. 2019. The installation of the rebuilt 253 and M21 and all accessories was completed. The motor fired up first time and ran perfectly. The M21 gearbox shifts cleanly through all gears. The new drive train was then run in on a car club run to Erica.