The Monaro was Vauxhall on a night out in 2004.
It had grown tired of the monotony of making the Vauxhall Vectra and wanted to let loose. So it did: eight cylinders, rear-wheel drive and more horsepower than a black-and-white western.
Actually, it was Holden’s doing. Both brands were under GM ownership, so the Aussie muscle car found itself on British shores bearing the Vauxhall badge. It conceals a 328bhp 5.7-litre V8 under the bonnet, or a 376bhp one in the VXR version. With a 0-60mph time of 6.0sec, even a standard Monaro is fast, loud and lairy enough to make you regret not using the dunny before driving – the 5.4sec VXR even more so.
Helping its V8 intimidate is a six-speed manual gearbox, simple suspension and lack of driver aids (but you do get traction control). It’s all delightfully unsophisticated compared with the Mercedes CLK 55 AMG and BMW M5 of the time, and you feel a great, intuitive sense of engagement from behind the wheel.
This is where its talents lie. It’s not a nimble sports car – it weighs more than 1600kg and is about as long as the latest Ford Mustang – but it trusts you with complete control of its capabilities. It’s just you, a big V8 engine and a fun, old-school driving experience. As a result, you can easily initiate a dance with the rear axle if you so please.
After a tango or two, surely Vauxhall called it a night, right? Not quite. In 2005, a facelifted version of the Vauxhall Monaro arrived with air scoops in the bonnet, a more aggressive nose and twin tailpipes. The standard car – otherwise known as the CV8 – received more power to total 344bhp, while the VXR dumped the 5.7-litre in favour of a 397bhp 6.0-litre V8.