- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

The largest automaker in the United States is looking to Australia to provide a new vehicle to its ranks, hoping to inject some enthusiasm into its lineup.
The new Pontiac GTO, which will arrive on our shores sometime in late 2003, is based on Australia's Holden Monaro. This is a vehicle that holds a special place in Australian motor history and is a vehicle that exemplifies sporty driving.
Since the Pontiac version is some time off and will be modified to suit Americans, I decided to go down under to see just what we might be getting and to experience the vehicle on its home turf.
It really is easy getting to Australia, although it does entail a 14-1/2;-hour flight from the West Coast and considerably more from the East. But, it is worth every minute. This is a country that is easy for Americans to get around in and is certainly one that makes you feel right at home. The people are warm and friendly and quite proud to show off their country.
The Monaro has a long and honorable history as a vehicle that adds excitement and sportiness to driving. Australians, like Americans, love their automobiles and the new Monaro continues the tradition of being a car they enjoy driving.
The Monaro has always been equipped with powerful V-8 engines, and keep in mind that gasoline is quite expensive in Australia. At nearly $4 per gallon, you have to really love a vehicle powered by a supercharged V-6 or a big V-8 engine.
The reworked Monaro, which is the basis for the Pontiac GTO, receives numerous refinements that give Australians an excellent road car. While the Monaro offers up a comfortable ride even on Australian roads, which are not so smooth, it can handle twisting mountain roads with ease. In fact, the curving, narrow two-lane road that winds its way up Brown Mountain to the plateau that gives the Monaro its name was a perfect place for a test.
Keep in mind that the Monaro and Pontiac models will get a version of the Corvette's engine, giving the car plenty of power. To Australians, a large amount of power also means hefty amounts of gas, so a good compromise is a must in this market. But even with that said, the Monaro's 5.7-liter V-8 engine produces 300 horsepower of thrust, so it would not be considered frugal with fuel.
The Monaro has an attractive design that would be considered good-looking in the United States. It is contemporary without being outlandish. However, the exterior will change to better represent Pontiac, with dual kidney grille, redesigned front bumper along with repositioned fog lamps.
The interior is a combination of sporty details fit into a comfortable setting. The seats are sport buckets, both front and rear. Color coordination is key to any car nut, and it is alive and well in Australia.
Special color schemes are available, giving the Monaro owner a way to make the car unique. There are at least four color schemes for the semioval gauges in the instrument panel, though I doubt we will see them in the United States.
So excited are the Holden folks about what the Monaro represents, they are also going to offer two special-edition vehicles, one of which is a GTO coupe. The other is a GTS coupe.
Both of these vehicles will get various upgrades that add more pizzazz to the Monaro name and just may give the Pontiac folks some excellent ideas on how to make their GTO a little more special.
While the Monaro may have many features thought to be unsuitable for the United States it is right-hand drive for one it makes a great basis for a vehicle on both continents.
This car has the power and the looks to make it stand out in any crowd. And it makes perfect sense for General Motors Corp. to make good use of the design, engineering and manufacturing expertise found at Holden.
We will just have to wait to see if the Pontiac version works as well in this country as the Monaro does down under. There is absolutely no reason it shouldn't.

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