Holden today loaded the first shipment of Pontiac GTO coupes, based on the Holden Monaro, for sale in the United States later this year.
The 5.7-litre, V8-powered performance coupes were loaded to depart tonight for the Port of Benicia, California.
The vehicles were the first of 5400 to be delivered to the United States in 2003 and 18,000 coupes in a full year of production.
The delivery will be the final chapter in an historic agreement in which Holden was called upon by parent company General Motors to bring the Pontiac GTO back to life after a 30-year absence from the North American market.
The event coincided with confirmation that another GM division, Vauxhall, will start importing the Monaro in the United Kingdom from March next year.
GM Europe Vice President and Vauxhall Chairman and Managing Director, Kevin Wale, confirmed the program for 300 V8 Monaros a year prepared as the Vauxhall Monaro, on sale in the second quarter of 2004.
The decision means that Holden will be concurrently exporting to all continents, excluding Antarctica, for the first time in its history.
South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, and Federal Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, today helped Holden prepare the ship for its historic American shipment by driving the first two Pontiac GTOs onto the carrier at Adelaide's Outer Harbor.
The program is the first time Holden cars will be sent to America in volume since General Motors-Holden's was established in Australia in 1931.
Holden Chairman and Managing Director, Peter Hanenberger, today said the confirmation of Vauxhall exports, a low volume program introducing Holden products to the UK market, reinforced Monaro's role as an increasingly global car for GM.
General Motors has ordered 18,000 GTOs a year featuring the 5.7-litre Gen III V8 engine shared by Monaro and Chevrolet Corvette and offering six-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions.
Various modifications were required to meet or exceed mandatory US legal requirements, environmental conditions and design cues for Pontiac.
The vehicle is also exported to the Middle East, where it is prepared as the Chevrolet Lumina S and SS coupe, and New Zealand where it is sold as Holden Monaro.
"The Pontiac GTO program has helped Holden to move towards the goal of becoming a niche global manufacturer, swiftly delivering world-class cars to a range of markets," Mr Hanenberger said.
"We are delighted that GM has shown faith in Holden to deliver this car and bring America's performance car legend, the GTO, back to life.
"The UK contract is icing on the cake. It opens another door for Holden products and expands our global interests to all continents with the exception of Antarctica.
"The decision makes the United Kingdom the fourth new export market opened by Holden in the past 18 months, along with the United States, Malaysia and Thailand.
"Holden is working to increase its role within GM's global product development system to meet market opportunities for GM when they arise. GTO is a perfect example of this and keeps Holden on track to achieve its 2008 target of 70,000 exports.
"In turn, this growth would drive Holden towards delivering the larger target of 200,000 vehicles production at our Elizabeth facility in South Australia.
"We believe this can ensure that Holden is a sustainable company for the long term, protecting the livelihoods of thousands of Australian employees at Holden and our many suppliers."
The GTO program was developed by Mr Hanenberger and GM's Chairman for North America and Vice-Chairman for product development, Bob Lutz. Mr Lutz and a senior team of GM executives were in Australia in February last year to inspect Holden operations and drive locally produced cars including Monaro.
The original Monaro made its debut and national front page news in July 1968 and subsequently became one of Australia's most loved icon cars. Holden continued production of Monaro until the HZ model in 1979.
The Pontiac GTO was renowned as America's first performance car and was in production from 1964 to 1974. GTO stood for Grand Turismo Omologato, an Italian term that originally identified grand touring coupes qualified for road racing. Enthusiasts have given various names for the car including the Goat, Great One, GeeTO or the Tiger.