General Motors Holden's Monaro, a two-door coupe version of the Australian company's highly successful Commodore saloon, will be exported once strong local demand is met, writes Donn Anderson.

New Zealand will get the car before the end of the year and it is also destined for sale in the Middle East (as the Chevrolet Lumina coupe), Brazil and South Africa. Britain and some other European markets are also being considered, Holden officials say.

The Monaro, which revives a model name used by Holden from 1968 to 1975, has proved a smash hit at the current Sydney motor show which runs to October 21.

Patriotic local media and even rival industry figures gave the handsomely styled coupe an enthusiastic round of applause when it was unveiled last week by Holden chairman and managing director Peter Hanenberger.

The striking rear-drive coupe made the transition from a concept, first shown at the 1998 Sydney show, to reality in only 22 months, with advanced computer technology allowing Holden to complete the $US30 million project in record time.

With automatic transmission standard across the range, Australian pricing starts at $US24,000 for the 3.8 litre supercharged V6 version which produces 171 kW of power, while the least expensive 5.7 litre 225 kW V8 is priced from $US28,500.

Despite the styling similarity with the Commodore, the only carry-over body panels are the front guards and bonnet. There are 84 major new body panels aft of the 'A' pillar while the front doors are 150mm longer than the Commodore.

Rear overhang is reduced by 100mm, the windscreen is raked back an additional two degrees and the Monaro boasts an aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.31. The coupe's body bending stiffness is increased by 23 percent and torsional stiffness is up 5 percent over the VX Commodore saloon.

The Monaro sits on the same platform as the Commodore, and has an identical 2788mm wheelbase. However, at 4,789mm, the coupe's overall length is 95mm shorter than the four-door sedan, and overall height is 53mm less. Yet the Monaro is no lightweight, with a 1,603 kerb weight 50 kg more than the Commodore.

Even the cheapest version includes standard driver, passenger and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, 17 inch diameter alloy wheels, cruise control and air conditioning. Satellite navigation and a rear wing spoiler are optional and the limited slip differential which is standard on V8s is optional on the six-cylinder Monaros.

Holden redeveloped the suspension with revised springs all round, a fatter stabiliser bar, new dampers and revisions to the steering, while 18-inch wheels are fitted to the V8s which have 235/40 Bridgestone tyres.