Holden Utes and Vans: GM’s quintessential Aussie commercials
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Holden Utes and Vans: GM’s quintessential Aussie commercials

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By MarkOastler - 21 June 2021

FX to FJ (1951-1957)

When ‘Australia’s Own Car’ – the 48 Series Holden - was launched on November 29, 1948, the Australian public would have to wait more than two years until the 50 Series (model code 50/2106) or FX as it was more commonly known was released in January 1951.

Mechanically it was the same as the sedan and shared the same strong yet relatively light ‘Aerobilt’ fully-welded unitary body construction, but the ute’s bodywork behind the driver featured a shorter restyled two-door cabin and open load area with a strengthened floor and fold-down tailgate.

48 Series-based FX ute was the right vehicle for its time – light, strong and very capable. Image: GM-H

The ute also shared the sedan’s 103-inch (2616mm) wheelbase and 132.5cid (2.2 litre) ‘Grey’ inline six with 60bhp (45kW) and 100 ft/lbs (136Nm), mated to a three-speed column-shift gearbox. Front suspension was rugged coil-spring twin wishbones with king-pins while the leaf-spring Banjo live rear axle coped admirably with the ute’s 350kg payload. Brakes were four-wheel drums inside tall and skinny 15-inch steel wheels.

In early 1953, the old lever-type shocks were replaced with more modern telescopic units along with wider rear springs, destined to be installed on the face-lifted FJ model. This suspension upgrade was called ‘Air-Ride’ and was a noticeable improvement.

FJ utes and vans were both stylish and practical. Image: GM-H

FJ Series

Launched in October 1953, the FJ facelift brought a bold new American-style grille along with new hubcaps, minor cosmetic changes and higher 375kg payload.

Only two months later, a new panel van body style was introduced. It was essentially the utility with an extended roof, side panels and upper tailgate, offering 2.3 cubic metres of enclosed load volume and a 336kg payload rating.

The FJ ute and panel vans continued to be available into 1957, well after the release of the new-look FE sedan. As a result, those late-production FJ commercials were upgraded to the FE’s more powerful higher-compression version of the Grey motor before the FE ute and van belatedly went on sale.

FE commercials brought fresh styling, stronger chassis and increased payloads. Image: GM-H

FE to FC (1957-1960)

Exterior and interior styling were all-new, along with a 2.0-inch (50mm) wheelbase increase to 105-inches (2667mm). This time the panel van, with smaller 1.9 cubic metres of load volume, was based on the ute rather than the station wagon. The FE ute also broke new ground with a stylish and airy three-piece curved rear window.

Like their predecessors, the FE commercials came in only one basic workhorse specification, with power output increased by 10bhp to 70 bhp (53kW) and torque raised from 100 to 110 ft/lbs (148Nm) making them even better suited to the demands of heavy commercial use.

Other mechanical upgrades included smaller and wider 13-inch diameter wheels, 12-volt electrics and a front anti-sway bar to name a few. Chassis strengthening saw slight increases in tare weights but also payload ratings, with the ute now 410kg and van 403kg.

Early FC commercials featured painted grille and light surrounds, but soon switched to the sedan’s chrome items to save GM-H having to produce painted and chromed versions of the same parts. Image: GM-H

FC Series

Launched in May 1958, the FC facelift also brought improvements to engine, suspension and numerous other components. Initially the FC commercials featured grille, headlight rims and taillight surrounds painted body colour as a point of difference, but soon shared the chrome-plated items used on all other FC models.

FC commercials saw more increases in tare weights, largely due to on-going body-strengthening. As a result, payload ratings actually decreased, with the ute dropping to 388kg and the van to 378kg.

Even so, these ratings were generally ignored by most owners, who continued to overload their hard-working Holden utes and vans to alarming levels!

FB commercials blended new front styling with the previous model’s rear to reduce tooling costs. This new-front-old-rear concept for facelifted utes and vans was repeated on future models. Image: GM-H

FB to EK (1960-1963)

FB utes and vans carried over their predecessor’s floor-pans and mechanicals but were fitted with hybrid body designs that combined the FB’s new frontal styling with most of the FC’s rear to minimise tooling costs.

The panel van, which shared the ute’s 365kg payload rating, introduced a higher roof that increased load volume to 2.2 cubic metres.

The venerable Grey six from 1948 was bored out to 138cid (2.3 litres), which with higher compression produced a mild power increase from 70 to 75bhp (56kW) and torque rose from 110 to 120ft/lbs (163Nm). Brakes, suspension and electrics were also upgraded.

EK commercials received only minor cosmetic upgrades, most noticeably in the grille. Image: GM-H

EK Series

The May 1961 release of the EK range brought only a minor facelift, most noticeably the grille and ventilation air intake at the base of the windscreen.

Electric windscreen wipers finally replaced the old vacuum-powered units, which had the undesirable characteristic of working faster at lower speeds and slower at cruising speeds.

Holden also introduced its first automatic transmission option – GM’s three-speed Hydra-Matic. This smooth and durable self-shifter proved a popular option for sedan and wagon customers, but commercial buyers would have to wait until the next model.

EJ utes and vans brought fresh and modern styling plus higher half-tonne payload ratings. Image: GM-H

EJ to EH (1963-1965)

Although the EJ sedan and wagon with all-new styling were launched in mid-1962, the commercials were not released until early 1963, sharing the same wheelbase and most of their predecessors’ mechanicals dressed in lower, wider and sleeker new bodywork.

The panel van retained the same 2.2 cubic metres of load volume but vans and utes shared higher half-tonne (500kg-plus) payload ratings.

Apart from brake and manual transmission upgrades, the Hydra-Matic auto option was now available to ute and van buyers and Nasco genuine accessory power-steering was offered as a dealer-fit option.

EH commercials carried over the EJ’s rear styling but boasted powerful new ‘Red’ sixes up front. Image: GM-H

EH Series

The EH sedan and wagon released in August 1963 brought refreshed front and rear styling. However, the utes and vans were again hybrids that combined the latest EH front with the previous EJ’s rear.

The biggest news for EH buyers was the all-new ‘Red’ motor, which for the first time offered Holden buyers two displacements – standard 149cid (2.4 litre) and optional 179cid (2.9 litre) with 115bhp (86kW). It featured a rugged forged-steel crankshaft with seven main-bearings, efficient cylinder head design and other advances over the venerable 1948 Grey six it replaced.

Initially the EH commercials were only available with the 149, but from early 1964 the premium 179 became available with the choice of a new, stronger three-speed manual (with non-synchro first gear) or Hydra-Matic auto. Factory power-steering, as opposed to the previous Nasco dealer-fit option, was also available.

EH commercials remained in production until July 1965, several months after the release of the new HD sedan and wagon range, with late-production examples fitted with the HD’s wider wheels and self-adjusting brakes until the new HD commercials were available.

HD ute and van styling was all-new but the protruding front guard design polarised opinion.
Image: GM-H

HD to HR (1965-1968)

The new-look HD sedan, launched in February 1965 with its prominent and controversial ‘kidney-cutter’ front guard extensions, was longer, wider and taller with more interior room and a 1.0-inch wheelbase increase to 106 inches (2692mm).

The belated release of the HD ute and panel van in July saw the 149 six again the standard offering, with the 179 and sporty dual-carb 140bhp (104kW) 179 X2 optional. All were available with either three-speed column-shift manual (still with non-synchro first) or GM’s new two-speed Powerglide as the auto option.

Due to their delayed launch, HD commercials benefitted from Holden’s upgrade to modern ball-joint front suspension, with a 15mm wider track for improved handling stability and the first-time option of front disc brakes.

Holden buyers warmed to the revised HR, which was one of GM-H’s strongest-selling 1960s models. Not sure what the marketing department meant by 'Turbo-smooth' given there was no turbocharger in sight! Image: GM-H

HR Series

Released in April 1966, the facelifted HR had a more squared-off and cleaner frontal appearance along with slender vertical taillights. However, the utes and vans adhered to Holden cost-saving commercial vehicle tradition by combining the latest HR front with the HD rear.

The 149 was bored-out to 161cid (2.6 litre) while the 179 was increased to 186cid (3.0 litre). The hottest 145bhp (108kW) dual-carb 186 X2 and its two-barrel 186 S replacement were also available.

The standard three-speed column-shift manual (still with non-synchro first!) and optional Powerglide were carried over and, for the first time, a GM Positraction LSD was available from May 1966 which proved a popular option for tradies and farmers.

Upsized HK commercials introduced V8 power, higher payloads and larger load volumes. Image: GM-H

HK to HG (1968-1971)

The all-new HK range launched in January 1968 was a ‘clean-sheet’ design with a substantial 5.0-inch stretch in wheelbase to 111-inches (2819mm) specifically to match Ford's all-new XR Falcon, plus larger 14-inch wheels and more width, interior space and safety than any previous generation.

The HK was also the first Holden to offer a V8; in this case a fully-imported two-barrel 307cid (5.0 litre) Chevrolet with 210bhp (157kW), initially available only with the Powerglide auto.

Utes and panel vans shared new benchmark 685kg payload ratings and the van's load volume increased to 2.5 cubic metres. In conforming with Holden’s new passenger car model hierarchy (Belmont, Kingswood, Premier and Brougham) the HK commercial range was also the first to offer two model grades; base Belmont ute/panel van and new upmarket Kingswood ute.

This was Holden’s first acknowledgement that not all buyers wanted bare-boned workhorses and because of that, they also had access to numerous factory options including bucket seats, air-conditioning, transistor radio, sports wheel covers and lots more to personalise them.

Commercial buyers had a choice of three carried-over sixes, plus the new 307 V8/Powerglide combination with column-shift. However, six cylinder buyers could option the new M15 heavy duty full-synchro (at last) manual with three-on-the-tree.

Facelifted HT utes and vans brought 65 improvements, including the new all-Aussie 253cid V8. Image: GM-H

HT Series

The HT facelift launched in May 1969 included a 1.0-inch wider track, improved NVH and revision of interior trim and instrumentation, with the most noticeable change being a new light but strong ABS plastic grille for all single-headlight models. Commercials again adopted the cost-saving practice of combining the new frontal styling with the previous model’s rear.

The four-engine range was carried over from HK and joined by Holden’s new locally designed and manufactured 253cid (4.2 litre) V8 with 185bhp (138kW) and a choice of M15 three-speed column manual or GM’s M21 Saginaw four-speed floor-shift manual. The 307 V8/Powerglide option remained available until stocks ran out.

So, for the first time a Holden ute or panel van buyer could option either a six-cylinder or V8 with a sporty four-on-the-floor, front disc brakes and numerous other options. Holden commercial vehicles were quickly evolving into more than just stripped-out workhorses, with increasing youth appeal.

Mildly revised HG provided a useful stop-gap for GM-H before introduction of its all-new HQ. Image: GM-H

HG Series

In July 1970 GM-H again broke with tradition by launching a second facelift of a previous model. The new HG featured more conservative trim and styling, highlighted by a new ABS grille design with a finer mesh appearance. It was also the last full-size Holden with front door quarter-vent windows.

There were minimal changes for the commercials, with the HG officially launching Holden’s new Tri-Matic three-speed automatic. The Belmont ute/panel van and Kingswood ute remained in production until November 1971, several months after the July 1971 launch of the all-new HQ passenger car range. As a result, late-production HG utes and vans were fitted with the HQ’s upgraded sixes.

HQ commercials had a heavy-duty body-on-frame design and best-ever payload ratings and panel van load volumes. Image: GM-H 

HQ to HZ (1971-1980)

The July 1971 launch of the most Australian Holden to date in terms of design and content, featured all-new bodies, chassis, suspension, brakes and interiors across the largest range of models and body types yet offered by The General.

Stylish new HQ Belmont ute/panel van and Kingswood ute were built on a 3.0-inch longer 114-inch (2896mm) wheelbase, underpinned by a separate truck-style chassis frame and leaf-spring rear axle. The van’s cavernous 3.0 cubic metres of load volume and robust 736kg payload ratings for utes and vans were unprecedented.

They were joined by a new cab-chassis model with an even longer 120-inch wheelbase designed to take multiple factory or aftermarket trays and bodies, which soon became known as the Holden One Tonner due to its mighty 1.3 tonne payload rating. Its cab had a unique rear bulkhead and Bedford truck-style bumper and pressed-steel grille, plus a new heavy-duty 10-bolt Salisbury rear axle with beefy seven-leaf spring packs.

New HQ cab-chassis variant - the One Tonner – offered a huge payload rating. Image: GM-H

HQ sixes were also upgraded, with the previous base 161 bored-out to 173cid (2.8 litres) and the 186 stroked to 202cid (3.3 litres). Two V8s available to commercial buyers included the 253 and now its larger 308cid (5.0 litre) sibling which was no longer exclusive to passenger models.

The venerable M15 three-speed column manual was joined by Holden’s new locally designed and manufactured ‘Aussie’ four-speed floor-shift manual, with three specifications and option codes (M20, M21 and M22) which covered all 173/202 six cylinder and 253/308 V8 applications. The Tri-Matic was the only auto option.

Towards the end of HQ production in early 1974, Holden sought to capitalise on booming youth interest in its commercial range, particularly amongst the wave-chasing ‘surfie’ crowd, by releasing its first limited-edition Sandman option.

This was a Monaro GTS-inspired appearance package that could be optioned on Belmont ute/panel van or Kingswood ute, with bold Sandman body decals and black-outs (applied by dealers), rally wheels, fluted front guards, bucket seats, sports steering wheel/instrumentation and floor-shift with centre console. Not surprisingly, the Sandman was a hit and destined to become a regular production option in future models.

HJ commercials equipped with the Sandman option proved popular with young buyers during the 1970s surfing craze and recreational vehicle boom. Image: GM-H

HJ Series

The HJ facelift launched in October 1974 featured more squared-off front sheetmetal inspired by GM’s contemporary US styling themes. It applied to all commercials except the One Tonner, with utes and panel vans updating to the latest HJ front with the HQ’s rear unchanged.

The Belmont name was also dropped from base commercials, which were known simply as Holden utes and panel vans. They came standard with 173 six and four-wheel drum brakes, while the 202 six and front disc brakes were standard on Kingswood ute.

Engine names were also brought into the metric age, with the 173 and 202 sixes now referred to as 2850 and 3300 based on their cubic centimetre displacements. The 253 and 308 V8s were now called 4.2 litre and 5.0 litre.

A lighter 500kg payload rating with smoother ride quality was introduced as an option for all utes and panel vans, which was simply a re-rated tyre package with no suspension changes.

The popular Sandman was now a regular production option and Holden also offered a camping accessory called the Tail-Tent, which was fitted to the rear of HJ panel vans to expand private living quarters, like the Torana hatchback’s famous Hatch-Hutch.

For HX commercials, the new vertical-bar grille was exclusive to the higher-grade Kingswood. Image: GM-H

HX Series

The July 1976 release of the HQ’s second facelift, the HX, coincided with the introduction of new vehicle emission controls under Australian Design Rule 27A. Holden’s latest XT4-spec sixes and V8s were upgraded to meet these new mandates.

The HX passenger range had a new vertical-bar grille but for commercials they were only fitted to Kingswood ute and the newly available Kingswood panel van, with base models retaining the previous HJ design.

Front drum brakes and the 2850 six were dropped, with base model commercials now fitted with 3300 six and front discs as standard.

HZ utes and vans had vastly improved handling thanks to the introduction of Radial Tuned Suspension. Image: GM-H

HZ Series

Holden again broke with tradition in October 1977 when it launched a third facelift of the HQ body style. Even so, the HZ’s cosmetic changes were limited to a new ‘egg-crate’ style grille (except for the One Tonner) and minor revisions of body detailing and trim.

The biggest news was the acclaimed Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) for full-size Holdens, which transformed the handling into a more precise and responsive European feel that benefitted all models.

HZ engines and transmissions were essentially the same as HX, with the 3300 six renamed 3.3 litre in line with the V8s and the Sandman ute and panel van now fitted with the 4.2 litre V8 as standard.

Changing of the guard. The WBs were the last full-size Holden commercials, which were progressively replaced by Isuzu-sourced one-tonne utes. Note the single headlight/louvre grille on the WB One Tonner, which was soon replaced by the more refined Kingswood design. Image: GM-H

WB Series (1980-1984)

The world’s first oil crisis and huge success of the new downsized VB Commodore in the 1970s prompted Holden to discontinue its full-size sedan and wagon variants, with a slimmed-down WB range for the new decade including four commercial models.

These comprised base ute and panel van, One Tonner cab-chassis and Kingswood ute. The WB was essentially another facelift, retaining the HZ’s bonnet but adding new front panels, grille and headlight treatments which for the first time were shared with the One Tonner.

Initially the Kingswood ute had a unique grille and rectangular headlights, which looked a cut above the round headlight/louvre grille of the other commercials. However, Holden soon rectified this ‘error’ by fitting the handsome Kingswood front-end to all workhorse variants.

The WB range shared the latest XT5 six and V8 anti-pollution engines which had been introduced with the VC Commodore. The top-shelf 5.0 litre V8 was not officially available in WB commercials but some were produced for those ‘in the know’. WB production – and therefore full-size Holden production – ceased with the closure of GM-H’s Acacia Ridge, Brisbane plant late in 1984.

VG was Holden’s first Commodore-based ute. A panel van variant was considered but did not reach production. Image: GM-H

VG Utility (1990-1992)

In August 1990 Holden released its first locally designed and manufactured ute since the demise of the WB series. Even though it was, in effect, a commercial variant of the latest second-generation VN Commodore, it was not badged as a Commodore.

The VG shared all VN mechanicals, including the wagon’s 2822mm wheelbase which was 91mm longer than the sedan. It was available in two grades, comprising a base model aimed at tradies and commercial fleets and upmarket S with more appeal to private buyers.

The base model was equipped with 14 x 6-inch steel wheels and punchy new 127kW 3800 V6, with a choice of Borg Warner T5 five-speed manual with floor-shift (no console) or GM’s 4L60 four-speed auto with column shift. It was also a three-seater with a ‘split-bench’ design, but dual buckets were an option.

The S came standard with larger 15 x 6-inch steel wheels and 3800 V6, plus optional 165kW 5000 V8 (5.0 litre). It shared the same bucket seats and centre console as the VN Commodore, offering stylish floor-shifts for either manual and auto transmissions.

Power-steering and four-wheel disc brakes were standard for all grades, with the VN Commodore’s five-link coil-spring live axle rear suspension uprated for load-carrying with a useful 720kg rating. There was also a new load-sensing proportioning valve to minimise rear brake lock-up when driven unladen.

Holden Special Vehicles released a high-performance version called the Maloo (an Aboriginal word meaning storm or thunder) which was appropriate given its unique 180kW 5.0 litre V8, uprated suspension and body kit. HSV also released an LS version which was a dress-up package with no mechanical enhancements.

VP Commodore ute was a mild facelift of the VG and no longer a sub-series of the Commodore range like its predecessor. Image: GM-H

VP to VS Commodore (1991-2000)

The October 1991 release of the VP was the first facelift of the second-generation Commodore. The VP was a mild evolution of the VN’s styling with distinctive ‘letterbox-slot’ grille, but there were improvements in handling, ride quality, cabin noise and equipment levels.

The VP utes, again comprising base and S grades, were not given separate model codes like the previous VG range. Essentially the same drivetrain line-up was carried over, with a high output 180kW version of the V8, previously exclusive to HSV, now optional.

VR and VS Commodore utes were essentially the same in appearance with only minor cosmetic differences for trainspotters. Image: GM-H

VR Series

The second facelift of the VN in July 1993 was more substantial with handsome new styling forward of firewall, but the rear of the ute remained as before.

VR improvements included wider-track front suspension with improved steering response, enhanced braking, a revised interior with the first driver’s airbag to be offered in an Australian-made car and a more durable two-pack exterior paint finish.

A new electronically-controlled version of GM’s four-speed auto called the 4L60-E brought smoother shifting and improved efficiency. V6 power increased from 127kW to 130kW and the high output V8 gained 5kW and was now a 185kW option.

A Series II upgrade in late 1994 brought numerous refinements, with the S ute gaining 15 x 6 alloy wheels and driver’s seat adjustable lumbar support. The base ute now had standard bucket seats and console, with the split-bench optional.

VS ute evolved through three series and remained in production for a remarkable five years. Image: GM-H

VS Series

Released in April 1995, the VS Commodore ute became the longest-running individual Holden model to date as it remained in production until 2000, more than three years after the launch of the third-generation VT passenger car range.

The most significant upgrade was Holden’s new 3.8 litre ECOTEC V6, which was smaller, lighter and more refined, with superior emissions, fuel economy and 17kW more power (147kW).

VS Series II brought a new German Getrag five-speed manual as the base V6 transmission, while the Borg Warner T5 continued to service base V8s, which also gained 3kW to 168kW. A new limited-edition SS ute (destined to become a regular model) with V8 and sports bar was also released along with a 50th Anniversary limited edition ute (500 units) as part of Holden’s 50th birthday celebrations in 1998.

The definitive Series III VS ute was released the same year, with ABS available and minor styling enhancements. Series III also introduced the latest VT-spec V8 with sequential fuel injection and roller camshaft producing 179kW, followed by the optional high output V8 which with similar enhancements jumped from 185kW to 195kW.

HSV built Maloo versions of all three series of VS utes, including the rare Series II HSV 10th Anniversary edition (only 30 built) and Series III with the premium high output 195i V8.

Handsome VU ute was derived from the VX Commodore, but like the 1990 VG ute its unique model code made it a sub-series of the third-gen Commodore passenger car range. Image: GM-H

VU Utility (2000-2002)

The third-generation VT Commodore passenger car range was launched to wide acclaim in August 1997, but it took until December 2000, months after the launch of the VT’s VX facelift, before a ute based on the latest Commodore was available.

The VU, like the VN-derived VG, adopted a unique model code even though it was based on the VX wagon’s 2938mm wheelbase (150mm longer than sedan), mechanicals and most of the bodywork forward of the load tub. Its rear styling was also closely related to the VX wagon, including shared use of its taillights.

A clear sign of the Holden ute’s evolution from pure workhorse to more of a lifestyle machine, with the ability to carry heavy payloads no longer a priority, was adoption of the wagon’s smoother-riding independent rear suspension. This was the first use of IRS in a homegrown Holden commercial vehicle.

The work-focused split-bench seat with column auto combination was also dropped. A flush-fit soft tonneau cover, which eliminated the traditional body hooks and bungee cords, plus a hard tonneau accessory brought increased style and there were leather trim options too.

VU had three model grades comprising Holden Ute, S Ute and SS Ute. The V6 and Getrag five-speed manual were standard for Ute and S Ute, while GM’s new 225kW 5.7 litre Gen III V8 (LS1) with Borg Warner six-speed T56 manual was standard for SS and optional for S. The venerable 4L60-E four-speed auto was optional, with limited-slip diff and alloy wheels standard for S and SS grades.

VU limited-edition releases included 2001’s SS Fifty, which celebrated the original Holden ute’s 50th birthday, plus Storm and HBD (Holden By Design) Storm Utes in 2002. HSV produced both a Maloo and Maloo R8 in line with its Clubsport R8 sedan, sharing the same enhanced 255kW Gen III V8 as fitted to HSV’s VX range.

The facelifted VY Commodore commercial line-up welcomed several new body types and AWD. Image: GM-H

VY Series (2002-2004)

In September 2002 came a major facelift with a distinctive new grille, headlights and front bumper fascia plus redesigned interior. Unlike the previous VU, the ute shared the latest Commodore’s VY model code.

The VY commercial line-up consisted of base, S and SS utes until 2003's prolific model expansion. This was headed by the return of a single cab-chassis One Tonner for the first time since the HQ-WB series, followed by a dual cab-chassis version called the Crewman. Both shared a stretched 3206mm wheelbase which was 267mm longer than the ute’s. One Tonner came in base and S grades while the Crewman came in base, S and SS.

Both had live rear axles and leaf-springs for heavy load-carrying and instead of the HQ-WB full perimeter frame, they employed a new ‘Torque Arm’ design with a rear half-chassis attached at six points to the unitary single and dual cabs. The Crewman came standard with a style-side load tub, which could be deleted to fit trays or custom bodies.

New VY Crewman offered dual cab versatility with a style-side load tub on One Tonner wheelbase. Image: GM-H

The launch of the VY wagon-based Adventra later that year introduced Holden’s new Cross Trac AWD (All Wheel Drive) system, which soon found its way into the Crewman Cross8 V8 AWD complete with plastic wheel-arch extensions to shroud the Cross Trac's wider track dimensions.

The 245kW Gen III V8 (LS1) was standard for SS Ute, with a milder 235kW tune for S Ute, S One Tonner, Crewman SS and Cross8. HBD also offered a ute canopy conversion designed to recreate the Holden panel van, which had been discontinued after the WB series.

The limited-edition Storm Ute returned for VY Series I and II, along with HSV’s Maloo and Maloo R8 utes and Crewman Cross8-based Avalanche XUV with enhanced 270kW Gen III V8.

Six-cylinder VZ One Tonner was available with Cross Trac AWD. Note plastic wheel-arch flares and taller ride height. Few of these AWD workhorses found buyers and are rare today. Image: GM-H

VZ Series (2004-2007)

The fourth and final facelift of the third-generation Commodore commercials featured more pronounced bonnet creases and grille design, but the biggest news was Holden’s new locally-manufactured 3.6 litre Alloytec HF (High Feature) aluminium DOHC V6, available in 175kW and 190kW specifications.

2005 saw expansion of the AWD commercial range with V6-powered Crewman Cross6 and One Tonner Cross6. For the 2006 model year, the venerable LS1 Gen III V8 was superseded by a 260kW (L76) version of GM’s new 6.0 litre Gen IV V8.

Numerous limited-edition commercials were built during VZ production, including the Storm Ute and Storm Crewman, SSZ Ute and SSZ Crewman, Thunder S Ute, Thunder SS Ute and Thunder Crewman SS plus SVZ Ute.

HSV commercials, known as the Z-Series, included Maloo Ute, Maloo R8 Ute and Avalanche XUV, all powered by a stonking 297kW (LS2) version of the Gen IV V8. VZ Ute remained in production after the launch of the all-new VE Commodore in July 2006 and was not replaced by the new VE ute range until the second half of 2007.

VE Commodore ute was available in numerous model grades with a variety of drivetrains. Image: GM-H

VE Commodore (2007-2013)

The August 2006 launch of the fourth and final generation of Holden's homegrown Commodore sedan heralded a world-class clean-sheet design, even though several engines and transmissions were carried over from VZ. The all-new styling, based on Holden’s equally new Zeta RWD platform, was longer, wider and taller than the VZ sedan, with a 2920mm wheelbase that was 131mm longer.

The VE ute, which shared its longer 3009mm wheelbase with the Statesman and Caprice prestige passenger cars, was released in August 2007 more than one year after the sedans. Model grades were aligned with sedans comprising Omega, SV6, SS and SS-V.

The base Omega ute initially offered the 195kW Alloytec V6 with six-speed manual or 180kW version with the 4L60-E four-speed auto, but was later upgraded to the more fuel efficient 3.0 litre SIDI (Spark Ignition Direct Injection) V6 with six-speed auto. The sportier SV6 also offered the 195kW V6, while the SS and premium SS V had a 270kW (L98) version of the Gen IV V8.

With VE Series II came the SS V Redline with optimum performance brakes, wheels and suspension, followed in late VE II production by the SS V Z-Series with a premium mix of luxury and sporting features.

In 2008 a LHD version of the VE SS ute, repackaged as a Pontiac G8 sport truck, joined Holden’s US export program until the Global Financial Crisis forced GM into Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the resulting demise of numerous GM brands, including Pontiac.

HSV’s VE range was called E-Series, which included a Maloo R8 initially powered by a 307kW version of the LS2 before an upgrade to the 317kW 6.2 litre (LS3) Gen IV V8 in 2008. Facelifted E-Series 2 followed in 2009 which included a limited-edition Maloo GXP and in 2010 (E-Series 3) a 20 Years of Maloo special edition limited to 100 examples.

VF was the final facelift of the fourth and final generation Commodore. Top-shelf SS V Redline looked tough-as. Image: GM-H

VF Commodore (2013-2017)

The first and final facelift of the VE brought a more refined and sophisticated appearance with improved aero efficiency. There was also a new interior design, with improved ergonomics and innovative features including an electronic handbrake.

The VF ute line-up comprised base model (Omega name dropped), SV6 now with 3.6 litre SIDI V6 which included SV6 Lightning, SV6 Storm and SV6 Sandman limited editions, SS including limited-edition SS Storm, plus SS V and SS V Redline including limited-edition SS V Sandman.

VF II consigned the homegrown Commodore to history in fine style. These were the fastest, safest and most refined Holden utes ever built - such a shame to see them go. Image: GM-H

The VF Series II released in September 2015 had a revised front bumper fascia but the major change was a switch to the definitive 304kW/570Nm 6.2 litre LS3 V8 across the range, with a superb-sounding Bi-modal exhaust system standard on SS, SS V and Redline models.

HSV’s Gen-F range included the final version of its iconic ute comprising Maloo, Maloo R8 and Maloo R8 SV variants. In November 2014 HSV also released a limited-edition GTS Maloo equipped with GTS sedan mechanicals.

VF II Commodore production ceased in October 2017. That was not only the demise of Holden’s car manufacturing in Australia but also the end of its homegrown commercial vehicle production, which spanned more than six and a half decades and played a pivotal role in Australia’s booming post-war development. It’s an amazing automotive legacy of which all true-blue Aussies can be very proud.