Holden's new-for-1971 light commercial vehicle range introduced the legendary HQ One Tonner (right).

Holden’s last Kingswood passenger car-based Holden ute and panel van commercials and the legendary One Tonner cab-chassis spin-off laid the blueprint for the modern Australian light commercial vehicle.

These HQ-based models, first released in 1971, were forced to incorporate passenger car safety and engine emission advances not applicable to imported light commercials under anomalies in Australian Design Rules introduced at around the same time.

Drivers and passengers were therefore never treated as second-rate citizens with roomy crash-tested cabins, proper flow-through ventilation, exceptional vision, low wind and mechanical noise levels and a stable, low centre of gravity stance on the road.

For the long distance tradesman, outback farm worker, plant operator or miner, there was no better light commercial to haul fuel, stock, tools and feed.

Power-to-weight ratio and the passenger car handling were also exceptional for the times, especially for a one ton cab-chassis. The wide choice of beefy, long-lived and simple engines mated to an equally effective range of transmissions – including three and four-speed manuals and an automatic option – were a bonus.

Although diesel was never considered seriously for this type of vehicle in Australia in the 1970s, LPG was emerging as a desirable low cost alternative fuel for fleet and long distance use.

Unlike their four cylinder rivals, these six cylinder Holden commercials had enough in reserve to cover any performance loss on LPG. Engine upgrades to cover any performance loss or durability issues on LPG were cheap and widely available.

One Tonner proved itself a rugged and comfortable long distance load hauler, on or off the beaten track.

The One-Tonner quickly also became a popular choice for fast, long distance couriers who progressively upgraded their vehicles as parts wore out. Add an additional lazy rear axle, extra LPG tanks, warmed-over V8 with Bathurst racing internals and a few creature comforts inside and it would be hard to find a better rig for rushed overnight deliveries to remote outposts.

The One-Tonner was also unusual as it was not a variation of the unibody styleside utility, which had its load area integrated with the cabin. The One-Tonner featured its own separate cab design and a longer wheelbase that positioned much of its extra payload ahead of the rear axle.

The only downside to this was the limitations of its extended tail-shaft which left Holden’s most powerful V8 engines off the options list.

The last of these Holden commercials also had attitude. Those that survived a thrashing and overwork were often customised with Statesman or late-model front clips, ahead of load beds and trays that were truly works of art.

Few remain in original specification today, as the challenge was to keep an old Holden commercial on the road at minimal cost. Despite the fact that these commercials ran for over 14 years with few cosmetic changes, there were many changes under the skin.

One Tonner's extended wheelbase ensured the bulk of any load was carried in front of the rear axle.

Holden One Tonner Model History

November 1971

Beefy perimeter front sub-frame of the HQ passenger car was extended to a full perimeter chassis for the new HQ ute and panel van. The soft coil rear springs of the sedan and wagon were swapped for strong leaf springs. The long 114-inch/2895mm wheelbase and tail lights were shared with the wagon and prestige Statesman model.

The HQ cab-chassis, more commonly known as the One Tonner, was built on an even longer 120-inch/3058mm wheelbase. A first for a local commercial since World War II, the One Tonner had a separate cabin backed by hefty chassis rails that could underpin flat or drop-side trays, Luton peak vans, campers, ambulances, fifth wheel towing and specialist applications such as fire-fighting and race course attendant vehicles.

The One Tonner’s truck-style painted steel front bumper and painted block-pattern pressed steel grille, round indicators placed next to the headlights out of harm’s way and painted wheels and hubcaps were different from the other Holden commercials and said ‘Tough’ with a capital ‘T’.

Most One Tonners had very hard working lives and few exist in original trim like this.

The One Tonner wheel rims were also seam-welded for extra strength compared to the standard wheel’s four-point welds. The painted truck-style bumper, the pressed steel grille and the wheels, hubcaps and badges, were all painted White or Seagull Grey depending on the body colour.

HQ One Tonners were painted in enamel, not the usual Holden acrylic lacquer of other HQ models. Before today’s laser-cut adhesive decals, this allowed for the enamel sign-writing of the period. By HJ, though, One Tonner paint finish was the same as the rest of the range.

It also featured a new Salisbury heavy duty differential across the range, while the banjo type was standard on other commercials. The super-low 4.44:1 rear axle was usually only seen in six-cylinder manual versions, supposedly to allow a reasonable service life for the clutch (on hill-starts especially) if a one-tonne payload was carried often.

Initially, the full range of sixes (173 cid/2.8 litre & 202 cid/3.3 litre) and both versions of the Aussie V8 (253 cid/4.2 litre & 308 cid/5.0 litre) were offered, except for the One Tonner which was limited to the 173cid/2.8 litre six. The 202cid/3.3 litre option was added to the One Tonner in November 1972.

Transmissions included the M15 all synchro three-speed column-shift manual, M22 wide ratio four-speed floor-shift manual for the sixes and the M40 Trimatic three-speed auto. The V8 engines came with an M20 or M21 four-speed manual.

The original super low ratio 4.44:1 diff in the One Tonner rarely stayed in the vehicle beyond the trip home from the showroom, before most owners changed it to something taller.

Not long after release, head restraints were required under Australian Design Rules.

February 1973

New speedometer with dual mph & km/h readings and odometer in miles was fitted in the lead-up to Australia’s switch to the Metric system. Amber front indicators were now required by law, forcing the parking lights to be re-located inside the headlights. Front indicator lenses were changed from clear to amber on all models. The 253cid/4.2 litre V8 option was offered in the One Tonner. Trim materials, dash finish and colours were revised.

Late-1973

Full metric km/h speedo and km odometer. Incoming HJ model full-foam seats were retro-fitted to the last of the HQ models in 1974 by some dealers.

One Tonner owners often loaded them up well beyond the factory-rated payload, which exceeded 1.3 tonnes.

October 1974

HJ facelift. Styleside utes and vans featured new square-edged grille of fine horizontal grille bars, but the One Tonner retained its HQ-style pressed steel grille front.

Dash changes, including a strip-type speedo and improved ventilation, plus new full-foam seats applied across the board. The One Tonner ‘Style Package’ did not feature a “sedan-type grille” as listed in the brochure but had the One Tonner grille, bumper and badges chrome-plated with normal Belmont/Kingswood hubcaps and wheels painted accordingly.

January 1975

Vapour trap fuel canisters were introduced officially, but many cars built earlier than this date had them including late production HQs.

August 1975

Purpose-built HJ ambulance package for the One Tonner and van featured latest HJ sheet metal, with the dual headlight grille from the HJ Premier. Hence the 308cid/5.0 litre V8 was finally made available as an option for the One Tonner. Most One Tonner 308cid examples were mated to tough TH400 autos, making them far more durable workhorses than the manual transmission and Tri-Matic versions.

One Tonner's strong and versatile cab-chassis design made it adaptable to a wide variety of custom bodies.

Early 1976

Lower steering ratio to require less steering effort in examples not fitted with power steering.

July 1976

HX facelift. ADR27a emission-controlled engines lost power and fuel economy. New square speedo and multi-function column stalk inside. HX Kingswood ute and van gained a new grille with vertical bars, while the base models looked much the same as the HJ series.

Apart from detail paint changes, One Tonner appearance was unchanged while cabin interior was upgraded to HX specifications.

The One Tonner’s ‘Style Package’ option was continued. Entry level 173 cid/2.8 litre six was deleted as it was no longer considered strong enough for the job, leaving the 202 cid/3.3 litre six with power front disc brakes as the entry level package. Clutch operation went from rod to cable.

One Tonner's rugged perimeter chassis remained virtually unchanged throughout five model changes and 14 years of production. It was often adapted for use in other vehicles including kit cars and speedway sedans.

October 1977

Major HZ facelift with RTS (Radial Tuned Suspension) and improved equipment levels. RTS included new front suspension upper control arms and location, new positive castor and negative camber front end geometry, uprated springs, bushes and shock absorbers all round and an anti-roll bar at the rear for all models. As a result, the Holden commercial range was transformed. Kingswood models were also given quartz-halogen headlights.

The venerable One Tonner still retained the early HQ-style front but with the latest HZ internal cabin changes including yellow instrument needles, centre armrest, RTS improvements and a larger Salisbury rear axle.

The previous HJ-HX Style Package changed to the HZ ‘Appearance Package’ which added a chrome bumper and chrome HQ sedan-style hubcaps to the standard silver-painted One Tonner grille. Many owners, though, completed the package by chrome-plating the grille as well.

All of these upgrades combined to make the HZ model the best and simplest all-round work horse in local One Tonner history.

Late 1979

New pull fork clutch mechanism fitted to all HZ and UC manual transmissions to bring them into line with the new VB Commodore.

'New look' WB Kingswood ute had a quality, upmarket appearance.

April 1980

Remnants of the stillborn WB passenger car range (killed off by the Commodore) appeared as a Statesman prestige model and a commercial range trimmed back to four models; the basic Holden ute and panel van, an optioned-up Kingswood ute and of course the One Tonner.

The WB model marked the first styling change for the One Tonner since it appeared in 1971. The bucket seat option was the latest design standardised across Statesman and Commodore.

New blue XT5 engines shared with the VC Commodore restored power and economy to both the six and V8 models. Cylinder heads, camshafts, carburettors, inlet and exhaust manifolds, electronic ignition and lower compression ratios were amongst the many changes.

The heavy duty Salisbury rear axle from the HZ One Tonner carried over into all WB One Tonners and was added to the V8-optioned WB utes and vans, although the One Tonner still had a larger rear universal joint and yoke. The banjo-type rear axle on the six cylinder utes and vans was replaced by a lighter Salisbury type.

For the first WB series, the base Holden commercials and One Tonner shared the same circular headlights in a full-width painted slatted grille with matching painted bumpers (below). The first WB Kingswood ute had rectangular halogen headlights and a separate grille with a fine block pattern insert in black and chrome bumpers (above).

Early WB One Tonners seemed to pay homage to the original HQ with a truck-like painted slatted grille and bumpers, before adopting the more refined Kingswood version. WB was the last of the mighty One Tonners.

Late 1980

All WB commercial levels including One Tonner shared the upmarket rectangular headlight WB Kingswood front.

WB transmissions included the M15 three-speed manual, M20 four-speed manual (with high-ratio first gear), M22 four-speed manual (with low-ratio first gear) and an M40 Trimatic.

The TH350 auto, available on the 308 cid/5.0 litre where specified on earlier models, was replaced by the Trimatic by November 1981.

Although the 308cid/5.0 litre V8 was not ‘officially’ available at the end, there were indeed factory examples built for certain buyers ‘in the know’.

Holden listed four GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) figures for the utes. The 3.3 litre six initially came with a 2155kg GVM while the 4.2 litre V8 had a heavier 2200kg rating. The 3.3 dropped back to 1800kg and the V8 back to 1900kg with a 500kg recreational payload rating. The Holden One Tonner had a 2600kg GVM for the 3.3 and 2660kg GVM with the V8.

All WB commercials were phased-out in 1985 before Australia’s 1986 switch to unleaded petrol and new emissions requirements.

*Special Sandman utes and vans to be covered under a separate feature at Truck Jungle.       

Some Helpful Hints

  • Holden’s most rugged commercials ever had few faults apart from typical Holden niggles. Because the rugged chassis encouraged overloading, bends and cracks in the section behind the cabin are not uncommon. Cracks near the rear spring hangers and around the front engine mounts and rear of the lower control arms are the result of merciless hard work and metal fatigue, not any design shortcomings.
  • Early ‘Red’ six and V8 engines (pre-WB) are easy to maintain and recondition. However, later model pollution gear was a nightmare and will almost certainly be missing. Later ‘Blue’ engines – especially the V8 – restored mid-life power losses, but the composite fibre timing gear and plastic distributor drive gear in the Blue sixes did not belong in such rugged commercials. Most radiators needed to be upgraded and a sub-standard non-genuine water pump will create major problems.
  • The V8 is known to chop out its camshaft and lifters, so listen for heavy rattling from the centre of the engine below the carburettor at idle.
  • Poor quality aftermarket engine and electrical parts can give more trouble than the worn parts they replace, although new partnerships between Holden and early parts suppliers such as Rare Spares are addressing this issue.
  • LPG conversions have been around long enough for worn valve seats in the head to be an issue. Check the LPG tank and installation date as the major statutory 10-year refit of the tank may be imminent.
  • The Trimatic auto is so crude that an abrupt, decisive change is an indicator of good health and strong hydraulic pressure. They are amazingly cheap to repair when they finally die or get lazy.
  • The manual gearboxes simply wear out, with noisy 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear clusters and bearings the major indicators. Or the sloppy linkages can be so worn that the shifter jumps out of the gate then leaves you stuck without a gear! A first-to-second change can lock-up a worn column shift but it is an easy repair. Even the sturdiest Salisbury diffs are failing from sheer hard work and they do cost serious money to repair.
  • Every brake, steering and suspension part does it tough on these commercials, so assume it is worn out until proven otherwise. Replacing the early front drums with discs is a must for even and trustworthy braking. Cabins are usually worn out or sun damaged beyond repair. Even if nothing’s fancy inside, finding the correct colour and trim pattern for each worn out item can be a time-consuming and often futile process.

HQ-WB Holden One Tonner: Global View

Because the Australian market was critical to Japanese light commercial exporters in 1971, the full-chassis HQ Holden HQ ute/van commercials and One Tonner cab-chassis had a profound impact on global models. The boosts in power, refinement levels and styling were quite dramatic from this point.

It also marked the beginning of the end for the long-standing US commercials adapted to local production from Chrysler and International.

Only Ford survived the onslaught by supplementing its equally popular local Falcon utes and vans with a unique locally-built version of the imported F-series cab-chassis and styleside pick-up from the US, using local engines, trim and paint that could rival the Holden One Tonner’s blend of appointments and load carrying ability. In the process, it built a local cult following for the F-series that now rivals any Holden.

The achievement of the HQ series, especially the One Tonner, is that it educated the local market to expect the rugged work capabilities of a light truck with the performance, refinement and safety levels of a passenger car.

This precedent has ensured that a market still exists for a similar local Falcon version 40 years later. The critical difference is that both use a rugged passenger car as a starting point.

However, the demand in mature and emerging markets for a high riding light commercial truck that achieves the same blend of refinement and ruggedness has grown to such an extent that the development path is working in the reverse direction.

New generations of light trucks are now being engineered for global markets with such high levels of performance, safety and refinement that engineering a similar vehicle from a strong passenger car base is no longer a guarantee of creating a benchmark as significant as Holden’s HQ series was in 1971. TJ

 

53 Responses to Full History: HQ-WB Holden One Tonner 1971-1985

  • Michael Halsall says:

    Excellent well researched article. The Holden One Tonner is something of an Aussie automotive icon nowadays. The surviving examples are now being bought by the custom car crowd and are being modified. The simplicity of the One Tonner’s design was their strong point. A gloriously simple and “fixable” vehicle to work on. A lot of people are unaware of the later models and particularly the WB model which this article mentioned.

  • Gerard O'Carroll says:

    Great site, very informative. I bought my “Tonner” in ’95 and have had it restored. It’s an HJ with a 253 V8 under the bonnet. I love it. I have spoken to blokes that have had them and sold them only to regret it. And I still use it for carrying loads every now and then. Most of the time she is garaged and leads an easy life.
    Regards Gerard.
    PS: I have kept mine very straight, don’t see the point of modifying it.

  • Joe says:

    Hello, great well-informed site. It might come as a surprise that there were a number of the venerable HQ’s used as Taxis that were re-powered with Perkins diesels in NZ during the late 70′s. I machined a lot of adapter rings to mate the Trimatic boxes and the engine bell housing.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      That makes plenty of sense for taxi use. We’ve heard of similar re-powering of One Tonners with Perkins and Cummins diesel engines. Do remember seeing a converted HJ One Tonner six-wheeler (twin rear axles) that originally ran a 253 V8 on gas which was replaced with a big diesel in-line six. The owner was a courier that specialised in heavy haulage. Awesome rig!

  • mark zanker says:

    Would you know what the GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) is for my HZ V8 One Tonner 1976?

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Hi Mark. Sorry about the delay getting back to you on this but we got our resident Holden expert Terry Bebbington to chase this up for us and he came across lots of conflicting data!

      Anyway, to cut a long story short, all HX/HZ/WB One Tonners have the same GVW (stamped GVM after 1979). For all three models, six cylinder One Tonners have a GVM of 2600 kgs and all V8s have a GVM of 2660 kgs.

      Hope this helps. And thanks to our good mate Terry B for the research.

  • Bruce says:

    Great web page. Well done Joe, I did my time on these old girls and they were true workhorses.

  • Neil says:

    A friend has an HQ One Tonner he has restored but can’t get a RWC as when it’s at full right lock on the steering the foot brake goes to the floor. In all other positions of steering the brakes are okay. Has anyone experienced this problem? How can it be solved?

  • Matthew kemp says:

    I’m building a 1 tonner at home.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      That’s great Mathew. Can you provide any details about it – year, model, engine etc? And are you doing an authentic factory restoration or something a bit wilder?

  • Damian says:

    Great site! I want to buy a WB ute, V8 manual, factory air, steer, GTS dash, console, buckets etc. will pay whatever it takes. Cheers.

  • Alan says:

    They made very good tow wagons. Ask anyone who operated one.

  • Brad says:

    Very informative. I worked on loads of these as a young spray painter and they were so easy to dolly up. Love these sites that offer such nostalgia.

  • David says:

    Nice info. I’ve bought a WB with round lights. Any info?

    • Mark Oastler says:

      David, a WB with round headlights would indicate it is one of the early WB base model commercials or One Tonner. From late 1980, all WB commercial levels including the One Tonner shared the more upmarket rectangular headlight WB Kingswood front. All the info we have on these vehicles is included in the above story, so hopefully you can find what you’re looking for. Cheers.

  • Dave Atkins says:

    I am currently building a WB One tonner from scratch (lots to do), need to know if a HZ statesman disc to disc rear axle will fit without to much trouble, running gear is a 308 and TH 400.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Hi Dave. We don’t imagine it would be too difficult, given that the track width of the HZ Statesman rear end (1537mm) is very close to the WB One Tonner (1529mm). However, the big difference as you are no doubt aware is that the HZ Statesman featured a coil-sprung rear end while the Tonner had leaf springs, so the mounting points on the axle housing would have to be modified to suit the leaf springs. Best you talk to a certified automotive engineer (see listings on your state motor vehicle registry website) or contact one of the many diff conversion specialists. Shouldn’t be too hard if you get the right advice before you start. Let us know how you go.

  • Simon Haddad says:

    I have a 1974 HJ One Tonner that I got from the original owner! I am in the process of doing it up like a GTS of its time.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Nice one Simon. It seems we Aussies will never get tired of playing around with these iconic Holdens. Make sure you send us some pics when the GTS process is complete.

  • Terry Jackson says:

    About to start rebuilding my HZ 202 3 speed column Tonner. Will be swapping to a 4 speed and rebuilding the original 202 with some stronger internals. Want to raise it up a bit for bush work, have found some 30mm raised front springs but I’m looking for some longer reset rears to keep it level or perhaps longer shackles to match in with the original springs. Any ideas? Probably go for 15-inch wheels as well to get a bit more clearance.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Terry, it’s a pretty straightforward job getting leaf springs reset to create a higher ride height. Worth having a talk to a suspension expert like Pedders etc first about your plans. And make sure you shop around, too. If you find suspension tuning specialists too expensive, you should be able to find a local spring works that can reset your springs to the height you require at a reasonable price. Hope this helps.

  • Wayne Rush says:

    Hi, I have a HJ Tonner. Was the farm ute for 30 years. LSD Salisbury, M21 and GTS dash factory standard. Full rebuild happening. Chassis, steering, suspension all done. Cab almost ready for paint. HQ Statesman front. Will be good to see the wheels turn again. Like your article.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Glad you liked Joe’s article Wayne and great to know another classic Holden One Tonner has been saved. Would love to see some shots when she’s back on the road.

  • logan wilson says:

    What about the HZ and the HQ ute and panel van?

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Logan, the HZ model One Tonner is covered in the story. The One Tonner was not available as a ute or a panel van at any stage.

  • paul daly says:

    Just had a look at a One Tonner, extended, two banjos, transfer case, twin aluminium tanks, 308 V8 Trimatic, two boosters, one remote for the rear axle. Can anyone tell me about these? Where were they done? And what they are worth? Thanks heaps. Paul

  • Matthew Conrades says:

    Hi there. Great article. I have a WB 1982 model ute body. It is original V8 4 speed. It has GTS dash and Statesman grille, headlights, GTS steering wheel. Was wondering if GTS gear was factory original or aftermarket? I have had it for 20 years and knew the vehicle for about previous five years or so and it was always GTS optioned then. Anyhow, thanks for the great reading. Matt

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Hi Matt. Glad you liked the story. It’s always been one of the most popular on the site. According to our research the HZ GTS-style instrument cluster was optional for all WB commercials, so there’s a good chance yours was ordered with that option from the factory by the original owner. The factory never built WB commercials with Statesman grilles, lights etc but that was a popular aftermarket conversion which added a real touch of class to a WB ute, panel van or One Tonner. If you can find the original build details for your ute through a website like Ben Stewart’s Holden Historical Services www.holdenhistoricalservices.com.au you should be able to confirm the original factory options that were ordered with your car.

  • Brian Ross says:

    Have done a ’79 HZ One Tonner with LS1, 4L60E and Commodore rear discs. It is all totally stock out of a VT Commodore SS and gets better fuel economy (10.0 litres per 100 kms) than the 253 V8 and M20 4-speed that was originally installed. The conversion was very easy. It also has rear (suspension) air bags for added driving comfort. It has all QLD compliance for registration and is awesome to drive. It does the 1/4 in 14.1 @ 163 km/h and gets to 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds with a 3.08 diff.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Thanks Brian. Sounds like an awesome machine. These ‘Retro-Tech’ conversions, in which older classics are fitted with more modern mechanicals, make a lot of sense and can really boost the driving enjoyment. As part of our plans for an impending upgrade of the Truck Jungle website, proud owners like you will be able to post images of your car(s) in the comments section so we can all appreciate them.

      • Brian Ross says:

        Hi Mark, I am after a bit of clarity on the steering arms on the RTS-equipped One Tonners. I was led to believe all power steered Holdens had the short steering arms, which is not the case with my HZ Tonner. It has the longer arms and I presume this is because of the longer wheelbase and the “Ackerman” angle. I changed over to the short arms and got a wheel alignment which turned out terrible, so I am now going back to the original long arms. I hope you or any reader out there may be able to clarify this for me.

        • Mark Oastler says:

          Hi Brian. Apologies for the time taken to respond to this, but it required some research and will take a bit to explain as it isn’t plain and simple. As far as the way the cars were built originally, it goes like this.

          HQ-HJ Holdens had two manual steering boxes and one length steering arm. This way there were two ratios on manual steering cars (16.7:1 and 20:1). The variable ratio on power steering cars used the same steering arms.

          HX saw one manual steering box used (the HQ-HJ 20:1 unit) but now with two steering arms (20:1 using the original HQ-HJ arm and a new 25:1 ratio arm). 20:1 arms were referred to as “short” arms because they are physically shorter than the new 25:1 items. Power steering continued as per HQ-HJ with “short” arms and HZ was the same as HX.

          Throughout this time, all power steering cars used a variable ratio steering box and the one “short” steering arm. In the HZ Holden Engineering documentation, neither power steering nor the Polycast wheels were available in conjunction with the 25:1 (“long”) steering arms. Your HZ Cab Chassis in question did not come factory-equipped with power steering. At some time in the past, power steering has been added to it and the standard “long” steering arms were retained.

          The only reason I can think of why the behaviour would be described as such is because the person doing the wheel alignment was not familiar with the process. There are huge charts for wheel alignment specifications for HX and HZ Holden vehicles. Very few shops today can do a wheel alignment (other than a simple toe-in) on a Holden of this age.

          Also worthy of mention is that the HZ Cab Chassis had different upper control arms to the rest of the range, as well as different upper ball joints and steering knuckles. It may be a case of numerous mismatched components on your vehicle. Over time, anything could have been replaced/upgraded/changed and “long” steering arms were retained in order to cure a problem caused by something other than the fitment of the power steering in the first place. I hope this is of some use to you. Cheers.

  • Mark says:

    Hi. Is the GVM the same as the kerb weight? Cheers Mark.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Hi Mark. The kerb weight is generally considered to be the weight of the vehicle unladen but all fueled up and ready to drive away. The GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) is a vehicle’s kerb weight plus its maximum payload.

  • Mark says:

    Oh. Great page

  • lyndon says:

    Hi Mark. I have just rescued an HQ One Tonner before it went to the wreckers. Has been in the in-laws family since new. It was originally a 6 cylinder with 3 on the tree, but now has a 253 V8 with 4 on the floor. I hope to have it fixed up (it’s pretty rough) in the next 2-3 years. How long were they produced with the mph speedo?

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Great to hear you saved the old girl from the wreckers mate, well done. Any Holden One Tonner is worth saving because they are unique to Australia and will become more sought after in years to come after Holden quits local manufacturing. The full mph speedo/miles odometer was used until February 1973 when Holden started fitting an interim dual mph & km/h speedo (but still with miles odo) in the lead-up to a national change-over to the Metric system. By late 1973 they were fitted with a full metric speedo and odo. Hope this helps.

  • David Anderson says:

    I am considering purchasing a six wheel 1977 HX ute to run under historic rego with the local car club. Does anyone know if these were a factory or factory authorised conversion?

  • Gerd Roemer says:

    I recently bought a late WB One Tonner which was converted to a Two Tonner by Hayman Reece. I had a mate come over who has an HX Two Tonner which has rock box suspension and is a foot longer in the chassis. He says that his Tonner was a genuine GM-H built vehicle. Can someone please tell me if GM-H actually built Two Tonners/six- wheelers? Any info would be appreciated. Cheers, Gerd.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      There are no records of GM-H building 2.0 tonne six-wheel versions of its HQ-WB One Tonner. All of these conversions were carried out by aftermarket specialists and from what we know they were done to a high standard, as they had to pass inspections by both independent automotive engineers and state transport authorities. They were quite popular at the time, particularly with couriers that had to haul larger loads on overnight trips both intrastate and interstate. If anyone has more info on these vehicles, we would welcome your input.

  • Gerd Roemer says:

    Thanks Mark, hopefully someone else can shed some more light on the 2 Tonners.

  • Robert Hart says:

    I bought a HZ tonner around about 1976 and still have it, albeit up on blocks presently with brake and fuel tank issues.

    I was unlucky enough to end up with the first of the anti-pollution add-ons which were were cruel on fuel economy, performance and exhaust-valve life, typically 8000 km on mostly long runs. I ended up putting a conventional banjo-style diff in with a tall ratio.

    Salisbury diffs also had a small tendency to crack their tubes just outboard of the cast housing on corrugated roads.

    I tried the Strata 2 turbo kit which was a mild performance/improved economy kit. That worked fine for a while but the plastic float in the Britsh SU carby was next to useless as it would slump from heat and let the engine flood. I replaced the carby with a Zenith Stromberg and patiently remade a new needle profile to suit.

    The fuel economy at best was 12km/litre and that was with desperation measures like cruise mixture adjustable from within the cabin, trimming the ignition timing and a home-made cruise control and finding the best convenient efficiency speed for hot northern conditions which ended up as a modest 82 km/h.

    The turbine began to fail at 40,000 furthur km and I was advised on enquiry I had done luckier than most.

    After laying up the vehicle for about two years, I re-registered it and had to reinstall the original engine fitments to do this.

    At the same time I modified the head by a method popular at the time, the removal of the pillars in the intake ports, cleaning up all the ports, installing short head bolts and installing blade dividers in the intake ports. I practiced on an old 186 head first and actually ran that for 11,000km.

    There was a modest improvement over the standard head and the engine seemed smoother. Carbon on plugs was a more even colour front to back.

    There’s a lot of cosmetic work needed to bring it back up to scratch, the usual culprits, oil leaks everywhere, shotholes under the windscreen, paint erosion, cracked and discoloured vinyl interior trim.

  • martin thoonen says:

    Gerd, I just bought a 1976 HJ Two Tonner. I believe they were contracted out by GM-H to be built by a private contractor. Mine has a 253 V8 and three-on-the-tree. I’m having trouble getting info on it. If you can help I would be grateful. Martin.

    • Gerd Roemer says:

      Hi Marty. I believe Hayman Reece did most if not all of the conversion at the start. There is a bloke in the outer subs of Melbourne doing it for about $10,000. Sorry I can’t help any more. I’d love to see a couple pics of your Tonner if you’re willing to email them to me. Cheers, Gerd.

  • Troy Lavery says:

    This is a great article, but considering I’m a greenhorn when it comes to engines and the old girls I may well be missing the point.

    My question is (and I’ve heard a few opinions) should I be buying a 6 cyl unmolested WB that has had its engine restored some 50,000 km ago? They are willing to part with it at $8K but I will then have to pay for on-road costs, a service to make sure it’s up to scratch etc and transport which will come at another $1K.

    I love the character of these older cars, where it was all purely mechanical and not about flashing lights, seat belt alarms and a computer running everything. I’ve started my ute search with the main intention of not being a tradie but to transport an old CB550 motorcycle when I need to. The only other ute I’ve had my eye on is a Land Cruiser cab chassis for their reputation.

    What should I do? Will the WB suffice and the LandCruiser be an overkill? Will there be future regrets in getting the WB? Cheers fellas.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Troy, if you just need to transport the old bike on occasions, I reckon the WB One Tonner would be the go. If you want to include some off-roading then the LandCruiser is a better choice. I don’t think you could go too far wrong with either. Just pick the one that best suits your intended use. Cheers.

  • Gerd Roemer says:

    Hi Martin. I believe Hayman Reece did the Two Tonner conversions, with tray lengths varying between 9ft-11ft and the longer trays usually had “rocker box” suspensions. My ute’s tray is approx 9ft with what I call standard suspension. There is a bloke in the outer Melbourne area who does Two Tonner conversions for around $10,000 – hardly worth it in my opinion. Cheers, Gerd.

  • Kevin Firth says:

    Hi All. Hoping someone can shed some light on the following. I have an ’83 WB Kingswood ute with 253 V8, standard M20 gearbox and Salisbury diff. While reading through the factory build sheet, I was looking at the rear axle code. It states GU4 which we all know is a 3.08. When I look on the compliance plate it is stamped G44 which is 3.07 which was used in Commodores in the mid-1980s I believe – right or wrong?

  • Kevin Firth says:

    Furthermore the gearing, yoke and hemisphere were removed during a recent stage of the restoration and put in a safe place – so safe they can’t be found!

  • Daniel Fatjak says:

    Does anybody know when or if the front cowl bend was changed to suit the square bonnet? I presume the HQ cab was kept all the way to HX and then changed for the WB.

  • Corey says:

    It says that the WB range was the last of the all mighty One Tonner range, but the One Tonner made a short come back in 2004.

    • Mark Oastler says:

      Yes, that’s correct Corey, but the article is only about the original generation of One Tonners from HQ to WB.

  • C Berrigan says:

    I’m in the process of building an HJ extra cab 1 tonner with a 250 mm cab stretch, its been going for about 7 years because of time and money constraints but i should be finnished in about 12 months. It says in the article that the HJ came in October 74 but mine is clearly marked HJ September 74.

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