Named after the Monaro region in New South Wales, the Monaro was introduced in July 1968 as a two-door pillarless hardtop coupe available in three models: the basic Monaro coupe, Monaro 'GTS' coupe & Monaro 'GTS 327' coupe. The GTS versions had "full instrumentation" which included a tachometer mounted on the centre console. In early 1969 the HK Monaro won Wheels magazine's Car of the Year 1968.
The HT Monaro can be distinguished from the HK by the adoption of plastic grilles (previously metal), a round speedometer instead of "strip" style allowing for bringing the tachometer into the main instrument cluster instead of on the floor console, rubber front suspension bushes instead of the HK's sintered bronze, and larger taillights where the turn indicators also wrapped around the now slightly undercut edges.
Released on the 26 July 1970, the HG Monaro was the last of the original coupe design concept. HG had cleaner lines with brightwork reduced and some re-designed. The HG sported different striping, known as "sidewinder" stripes, which rang along the top edge of the fenders, under the windows and finishing just before the rear pillar. The "Monaro" badge on both rear pillars was introduced to all models.
2nd Generation 1971 - 1977
A completely new generation body design emerged with the HQ series in July 1971, including the new Monaro ‘LS’ model. There were no longer any six-cylinder versions of the Monaro GTS, just 253 or optional 308 V8s or the top level GTS350 coupe. The base model Monaro standard engine was enlarged to 173 cu in (2,830 cc) whilst the Monaro LS had a broad spectrum of engine options from a 202 cu in (3,310 cc) six to the 350 cu in (5,700 cc) V8.
A heavy facelift and some model rationalisation was applied to the HJ Monaro, which was released in October 1974. The 350 V8 engine option and the base Monaro coupe were both discontinued. The Monaro GTS continued to be available as a coupe or sedan with 253 cu in (4,150 cc) V8 power, or the optional 308 cu in (5,050 cc) V8 engine. The GTS sedan was now a model of its own—in HQ the GTS sedan was an optioned Kingswood.
New emissions regulations heralded the mildly face lifted HX Monaro GTS, announced July 1976. The HX was quite distinguishable, with liberal splashes of black paint outs contrasted against a range of bold body colours & a choice of traditional chrome or body painted bumper bars. Holden found that it held more HJ coupe bodyshells than could easily be expended as “spare parts”. Thus, The Holden Limited Edition (LE) was born.
Although the Monaro name had survived into 1977 as the HX Monaro GTS sedan, the coupe configuration was no longer in production and Holden decided to delete the Monaro name altogether from the new Holden HZ range. With the development of Radial Tuned Suspension, Holden transformed the bland characteristics of their full-size sedans and introduced a sporting variant called simply Holden GT, released on 5 October 1977.
3rd Generation 2002 - 2005
Some 20 years had passed before the Monaro reappeared in the form of a Holden Commodore Coupé prototype, codenamed 'Matilda', that was shown at the Sydney Motor Show in 1998. Journalists quickly christened it the Monaro, encouraging Holden to build it. Public interest in the car grew and orders came flooding in. Eventually, Holden took the Matilda and redesigned it for production and by 2001, the V2 was launched.
In late 2004, Holden introduced the VZ range of Commodore vehicles which in 2005 were upgraded to feature the 6.0-litre L76 V8 engine in SS sedans and other variants. The Monaro CV8 was similarly upgraded and also received revised front and rear bumper assemblies, to be now referred to as the VZ Monaro CV8. The revised rear bumper and new ducted bonnet pressing would soon find their way onto the export Pontiac GTO.