HSV HRT 427 – dead on arrival

This racing-inspired 7-litre Holden Monaro garnered more than enough interest for its limited production run to sell out. But sadly the sums didn’t add up

The Holden Monaro of the 2000s was always an evo favourite, what with its hearty V8, slithery chassis and the likeable demeanour of a laid-back cartoon bear. In 2002, however, Holden Special Vehicles announced a plan to put some firecrackers up the bear’s bottom. The crux of its idea was the installation of a 560 horsepower, 7-litre dry-sumped V8 based on the one from the Corvette C5R racer, but the mods didn’t end there.

The super-Monaro also featured an aggressive weight-saving programme, partially achieved by ditching unnecessary items such as the air-con, stereo, back seats and airbags, and partly by making more of the machine’s vital parts from magnesium and carbonfibre, including a bespoke carbon bonnet with additional ventilation to keep the big V8 cool. Inside, the new car got a half cage, racing seats and a Sparco wheel, while underneath there were AP Racing brakes with floating discs and a reworked chassis that ditched the regular Monaro’s front struts in favour of double wishbones. In case you were wondering where Porsche got the idea from.

> Mini-based sports car – dead on arrival

As you might guess, much of this effort was to dovetail with a motorsport programme, in this case Holden’s entry into the Australian Nations Cup Championship with a racing Monaro, the 427C, which used the same 7-litre engine. A road-going version would help to fend off complaints that the organisers had relaxed the ‘production-based’ rules for the home team by allowing them to upgrade from the weedier 5.7-litre LS engine from lesser Monaros. The HRT 427 (Holden Racing Team, 427 cubic inch engine) was shown off at the 2002 Sydney motor show, officially as a concept, though Holden was quick to give away that it was intending to build and sell 50 examples. 

When an Aussie car mag was given a go in the running prototype it enthusiastically noted its ability to light up its back tyres in gears higher than first while adding that vigorous use of revs had the exhaust ‘yodelling like a bastard’. As you might guess, excitement for the HRT 427 was running high Down Under and HSV dealers quickly took more than 80 deposits, easily accounting for the entire production run and then some. Unfortunately, when the cold, clammy hand of accountancy took a grip, even this wasn’t enough. Having announced that the car would cost a chunky 215,000 AUD (around £85,000), Holden then realised that even this wasn’t a viable price for such a bespoke machine and it was set to lose a packet on every example. In June 2003 the company decided against such fiscal foolishness and gloomily announced that the HRT 427 was cancelled. 

Three 427C racers had already been built and enjoyed great success, notably winning the 2002 and 2003 Bathurst 24 Hours and taking 12 wins in the Nations Cup across the 2003 and 2004 seasons before the series gave way to the Australian GT Championship, where a tougher stance on road-going relatives ruled the 7-litre Monaros ineligible to compete. The original HRT 427 show car was kept by Holden while the sole road-legal running prototype has seemingly spent the last 13 years being bounced between wealthy Australian car collectors. 

Other Australians thirsting for a street-legal 7-litre Holden had to wait until 2008, when HSV announced the W427, a four-door saloon fitted with the 7011cc 503bhp V8 from the contemporary Corvette Z06. Just 137 were sold.

This story was first featured in evo issue 288.

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