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Vauxhall Monaro Car Review

Driven December 2006

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Fifteen minutes is all you need; 15 minutes of yowling in time with a huge supercharger, wheelspinning in third and grinning like a nutter. 

You will then be: convinced the Monaro VXR500 is one of the funniest cars ever built, writing a stiff letter to Vauxhall's health and safety department, or sitting in a field picking fence-posts out of your sternum. 

By now, you'll also be convinced that the VXR500 doesn't feel like a 'special'. These days, manufacturers' Friday-night projects are better than they used to be, and turning to specialist tuners to provide quality upgrades isn't a bad thing. 

So, even though bolting a 'charger to the already brawny six-litre V8 is a fairly simple thing, the execution is faultless, and the fact that they haven't used the maximum amount of power they could screw out of the blower only shows that they were thinking driveability, not pub bragging. 

Just looking into this engine bay is a joy. The supercharger sits atop the engine like a fat, metallic loaf; the drive-belt nestling against the rear bulkhead out of the way of the gloriously naked bits of engine. No crappy plastic covers here; you can burn fingers with gay abandon. 

Thankfully, the engine proves as effective to use as it is good to look at; punting the car to 62mph in under five and on to a theoretical top speed of 180mph-plus - both of which certainly feel plausible if you manage to get the traction. But here's the rub: traction has somewhat of a tenuous relationship with the 500. 

That Godzilla engine pumps out enough torque to overwhelm the rear tyres in most situations, including third gear at 80mph if it's damp out. It gets quite silly - especially with a Hydratrac diff that feels nicely committed - but not actually dangerous unless you want it to be. Remember, the default setting for the 500 is two turning, two burning. 

The steering isn't great, but you'll get over it. Ditto the suspension - it's far better than standard, but this isn't a car that dances??? it more sort of brawls with the road. 

You also need to be aware that although the VXR500 costs £1,000 less than a stock VXR (something to do with Green's of Rainham - the dealer that provides the conversion - passing on bulk-buying savings to the customer; well done, that man), you'd be very wise to opt for the £5,000-odd upgrade kit (AP brakes, suspension, exhaust, Ripshifter gear linkage) - you will need it. 

So, you're looking at just over £41k with all the tinsel. But this is a genuinely special car, and once you've driven one, 40 grand doesn't sound like very much at all. 

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