Monthly Archives: October 2012

Holden’s tough new 4×4 truck-based SUV wagon, the Colorado 7, made its first official appearance at the Australian International Motor Show recently, more than two months ahead of its official on sale date in late December.

Designed in parallel with the Colorado one-tonne ute in GM’s design studio in Brazil, the body-on-frame Colorado 7 with its seven-seat interior layout and generous cargo space will be available in two specifications – entry level LT and top-spec LTZ.

Only one powertrain and transmission combination will be available, with the Duramax 2.8-litre 132kW/470Nm four cylinder turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission standard on both LT and LTZ models. Claimed fuel economy is 9.4 litres/100 kms.

Holden’s new SUV also shares the ANCAP five-start safety rating of its Crew Cab ute stable-mate, backed by the usual array of safety features including ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), dual front airbags and full-length curtain airbags that extend to the third row of seating among the list of standard equipment.

It also shares the ute’s part-time 4×4 system with two-speed shift-on-the-fly transfer case, limited slip diff and Hill Descent Control.

Colorado 7’s chassis has been engineered independently of the Colorado pickup with a bias towards passenger comfort.

While both models share the same independent coil-sprung double wishbone front suspension, Colorado 7 features a unique five-link coil-sprung live axle rear suspension in preference to the one tonne ute’s leaf springs.

This results in a 500 kg drop in peak towing capacity from the ute’s 3.5 tonnes to 3.0 tonnes.

Compared to the Colorado one-tonne 4×4 Crew Cab pickup, the Colorado 7 is 250mm shorter in wheelbase (C7 2845mm vs 3096mm), 469mm shorter overall (C7 4878mm vs 5347mm) but 249mm wider (C7 2131mm vs 1882mm).

The top-spec Colorado 4×4 Crew Cab LTZ pickup’s kerb weight is 2053 kgs, but Holden has not yet issued a figure for the new Colorado 7 in LTZ spec. We will update this as soon as it is available.

The new truck wagon’s interior dimensions offer an interior layout that features seven seats across the range. And with the second and third row seats folded, Colorado 7 offers up to 1830 litres of cargo space and 30 separate storage options throughout the cabin.

The second row also has 60/40 split-folding seats which can be stowed in a forward tumble motion with a single latch in the seat back. The second row seat-backs are also reclinable by up to six degrees, while the third row has a 50/50 split configuration. Both rows fold to create a flat load space.

Colorado 7 has a 235-litre rear cargo area with the third row in use which increases to 878 litres with the third row folded into the floor. Additional storage is available with the second row tumbled (1780 litres) and even more when folded (1830 litres).

“Colorado 7 is the first true heavy duty off-roader to wear a Holden badge in around 10 years,” said Holden Executive Director Sales, Marketing and Aftersales John Elsworth.

“It was designed to stand side-by-side with the Colorado (one-tonne pickup) at the Holden dealership and will complement our Captiva range by offering a serious alternative.

“Colorado 7 is a true seven-seat, full-size 4X4, which is ideal for customers shopping for an SUV that can take them off the beaten track and still carry the family and haul cargo at the weekend.”

Standard LT features include:

  • Reversing camera
  • Rear Park Assist
  • 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Body coloured front and rear bumpers
  • Body coloured door handles
  • Body coloured mirrors with side turn signal
  • Side steps
  • Front fog lights
  • Front and rear mudflaps
  • Aluminium roof rails

LTZ builds on LT features with:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Projector headlamps
  • LED tail lamps
  • Front fog lights with chrome surround
  • Chrome side window mouldings
  • Body coloured door handles with chrome strip
  • Chrome power folding side mirrors with side turn signal

Passengers in the second and third rows benefit from roof-mounted air-conditioning controls with four air vents.

Other standard LT features include:

  • Leather wrap steering wheel
  • Bluetooth® connectivity
  • USB and auxiliary
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • Woven cloth seat trim
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls
  • Power windows with cloth trim door inserts and metallic spear mouldings
  • Roof mounted rear air-conditioning controls with second and third row air vents
  • 60/40 tumble fold removable second row seats
  • 50/50 folding third row seats
  • Third row armrest storage
  • Rear auxiliary power outlet and coat hooks

LTZ builds on these other LT features with:

  • Leather seat trim
  • Six-way electric adjustable driver’s seat
  • Eight-speaker audio system with amplifier
  • Single zone climate control
  • Chrome interior door handles
  • Gloss Piano Grey centre stack mouldings
  • Chrome gear shifter

Exterior colours
Holden will offer six exterior colour choices:

  • Summit White – solid white
  • Carbon Flash* – metallic black
  • Royal Grey* – metallic grey
  • Nitrate* – classic silver metallic
  • Blue Mountain* – metallic light blue
  • Sizzle – bright metallic red

*Prestige paint     TJ

Engine: 4.5 litre DOHC 32-valve V8 common rail-direct injection turbo-diesel

Power: 151kW @ 3400 rpm   Torque: 430Nm @ 1200-3200 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Construction: Body-on-frame

Suspension: (F) live axle, coil springs (R) live axle, leaf springs

Payload: 1095 kgs

Towing: 3.5 tonne (braked)

Economy: 11.9 litres/100 kms

Price: Workmate $63,990 GXL $67,990


The latest variant of Toyota’s popular 70 Series workhorse range is rough riding, noisy and basic like its three siblings, but nothing can match the work ethic and unbreakable feel of this truck when the going gets tough.

Toyota says it was pent-up demand from the mining sector and primary industries that prompted development of this Double Cab tray-back ute model, so there’ll be plenty of miners, prospectors and farmers happy to see that their requests have finally been answered.

Truck Jungle is one of the first media outlets in Australia to have test-driven it and given that Australia is the first market this vehicle is being sold in, we’re also one of the first in the world to do so.

It’s basically a cut-down version of the short wheelbase 76 Series wagon body adapted to fit the long wheelbase 79 Series cab-chassis frame, which with a wheelbase of 3180mm is 450mm longer than the wagon’s 2730mm wheelbase (the 78 Series Troop Carrier sits in the middle of these two with a 2980mm wheelbase).

When viewed from the side, the longer Double Cab appears to have pushed the shortened tray too far rearwards so that it has excessive overhang.

However, run a measuring tape over it and you realise it’s just an illusion. It shares the same overall length of the 79 Series Single Cab (with full-length tray) at 5.22 metres and the same 29 degree departure angle, so looks can be deceiving.

That deception also applies to its overall dimensions relative to another one-tonne 4×4 competitor like the Ford Ranger Dual Cab pickup. You’d swear the LC79 was bigger than the Ford, but in fact the Ranger is slightly longer (131mm) and wider overall (60mm) with a slightly longer wheelbase as well (40mm). Surprising isn’t it?

There would not have been huge costs involved for Toyota in developing this new model, as it’s just a mix-and-match of existing 70 Series hardware with a new stumpier drop-side tray that’s available in a choice of heavy-duty colour-coded steel or light-duty aluminium.

We’re not sure what the future holds for the much-loved 70 Series, which was introduced in the early 1980s and has remained fundamentally unchanged for the past three decades.

Toyota Australia has told Truck Jungle it was important to debunk a current rumour (driven by recent press reports) that the model is to be discontinued in the near future. At this point in time, no such plan exists.

As mining giants like BHP and Rio Tinto now demand a minimum five-star ANCAP safety rating for their fleet vehicles, the good old 70 Series with its three-star rating would require a prohibitively costly re-engineering job to meet such standards immediately.

However, most of the mining companies also have a ‘grandfather clause’ in place which allows the current fleet of LC70 models to continue operating on their sites for the next two or three years, during which time Toyota will address the major safety upgrades required to meet the mining companies’ future requirements.

It’s always been a case of ‘evolution’ rather than ‘revolution’ with this model, so it will be interesting to see what Toyota comes up with this time.

One thing for sure is that they don’t want to lose it. The 70 Series has a large and loyal fan base, from ground staff working in the mines to farmers working the land to tradies towing trailers to recreational fishermen towing boats and many more.

Models & Features

The new LC79 model comes in two grades – Workmate and GXL. Both come with a big 130-litre fuel tank capacity, Euro IV-compliant 4.5-litre turbo-diesel engine, five-speed manual transmission (no automatic option) and part-time 4WD with two-speed transfer case. Seven exterior colours are offered.

The Double Cab Workmate base model (the one you can hose out) comes with 16 x 5.5-inch steel split rims, aluminium side-steps, vinyl seat facings and floor coverings, black bumpers and the extra-cost option of front and rear diff locks.

The up-spec GXL version that we tested gains wider 16 x 7.0-inch alloy wheels and 265/70R16 tyres, wheel flares, remote central locking, diff locks, fog lamps, power windows, cloth seat facings and carpet. It was also optioned up with air-conditioning (hard to believe such things are still extra-cost options).

The LC79 also benefits from recent across-the-range production upgrades including ABS, air-inlet snorkel mounted on the driver’s side A pillar, improved seating, in-dash multi-function clock and audio/CD system with Bluetooth hands-free, audio streaming and voice-recognition phone/audio.

New panels now neatly fill the gap behind the 76 Series wagon’s rear door shut-line where its wheel housing would normally be. The LC79′s 450mm increase in wheelbase is best demonstrated here.

The door mirrors on a 70 Series Land Cruiser say plenty about this truck’s back-to-basics design and no-nonsense simplicity, honed from decades of work in the toughest places imaginable where a minimum amount of moving parts is the secret to long service.

You won’t find nice aerodynamic shapes or dashboard-mounted remote controls here. The mirror supporting frames are just bent strips of steel, bolted rigidly through the door skin with really big truck mirrors bolted on top.

You adjust the driver’s mirror the old-fashioned way by winding down your window and moving it with your hands. If you need to adjust the passenger side, just get a mate to do it or nudge it against a fence post or tree trunk.

Compared to modern features increasingly found in the latest generation of one-tonne pickups from rival manufacturers in the $60-70,000 price range, the 70 Series looks threadbare.

There’s no warning chime if you’re silly enough to leave the headlights on. There’s no rear screen demister either. And the radio aerial is the old metal telescopic type, so if you forget to retract it in the rough stuff it can snap off like a carrot if you snag it on a tree branch.

It also has the old style ‘manual’ free-wheeling hubs that require stopping, getting out and locking by hand before selecting 4WD. And there’s no small dashboard knob for that either; it’s still a stumpy lever that sticks out of the floor. And the tiny centre console looks like a Corolla item.

There’s no Rear Park Assist or any of that new age nonsense. You just back it up until you hear a loud crunch or your mate yells out ‘Whoa!’ before you stick it in first again.

There’s also no cruise control, only a lap-belt provided for the central rear seat passenger, the air-conditioning control  gives you two choices – cold or bloody cold – and the tiny dashboard-mounted speakers produce a one-directional sound quality similar to a 1960s transistor radio.

So if you’re a typical one tonne pickup buyer looking for the ultimate dual-purpose ‘work and play’ fun machine, loaded with all the electronically controlled luxury gadgets and five-star safety rating to keep the wife and kids happy on weekends, then the LC79 (or any 70 Series model) probably won’t suit you. But then, it’s not meant to.

At 1.8 metres in length and about the same in width there’s a heap of floor space available in the shortened tray that’s far superior to double cab one-tonners with style-side pickup bodies. And there’s no wheel housings to eat into the load space.

What will it carry?

The LC79 is a real truck that’s designed primarily for hard work and it’s as tough as they come. With a one tonne-plus payload, you can load it up with five big blokes (that’s about half a tonne already) plus a mountain of gear in the tray before you’re hitting that payload threshold.

And as we know, that figure is regularly exceeded by 70 Series owners that either don’t know or just don’t care about such things.

The shortened tray is a good bit of gear. The one fitted to our test vehicle was the heavy duty version with full steel frame and drop sides, super tough checker-plate floor and rear window protection using a stout mesh steel frame. Internally measuring 1.8 metres long and 1.78 metres wide, it can swallow a really big load.

The LC 79 is also rated to tow up to 3.5 tonnes of braked trailer and up to 750 kgs for trailers without brakes.

What’s it like to drive?

On the road and open highway without a big load on board, the LC79 is a reminder of 4WD ownership in the 1980s, particularly the recirculating ball-type steering that lacks the sharper and more direct steering feel of today’s rack and pinion systems.

With those big live axles and heavy-duty springs riding the bumps front and rear, their considerable  unsprung weight tends to rock the cabin occupants backwards and forwards between them. It’s a ride quality that has long been surpassed by rival one-tonne pickup trucks that now use rigidly-mounted diffs and independent suspensions up front.

However, when you get close to a tonne or more on-board, the inherent strength of the 70 Series design really shines. It’s custom-made for this sort of workload, as the sprung-to-unsprung weight ratio changes the ride from jittery to sure-footed and the torquey 4.5 litre turbo-diesel V8 can do what it’s designed to do.

Hook a heavy trailer to the tow ball and the effect is the same. This is a workhorse first and foremost and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Its turning circle feels really big. Around town this makes most parking and turning a lock-to-lock three-pointer and when things get tight off road it requires more of the same.

With its slab-sided cabin and flat windscreen, the 70 Series also has the kind of house-brick aerodynamics that produce a fair amount of wind roar at highway speeds. The wind buffeting around the intake snorkel on the driver’s A pillar obviously adds to this wind noise.

However, the advantage of such a tall glasshouse and high seat heights relative to the window sills is a commanding view out of all front and side windows.

The 32-valve 4.5 litre V8 common rail turbo-diesel with intercooler is a real truck motor, with 151kW at 3400 rpm and more importantly 430 Nm of torque on tap from just 1200 rpm all the way up to 3200 rpm.

Toyota says this engine has the fattest torque curve of all Toyota engines and we can’t argue with that. You can drop down below 1000 rpm and the thing will still pull from there without complaint, which is impressive given its hefty 2205 kg kerb weight (Ford Ranger is 46 kgs lighter at 2159 kgs).

What surprises us, though, is that it lags behind the 470 Nm peak torque figures quoted for rival turbo-diesel one tonners like the much smaller 3.2 litre inline five cylinder Ford Ranger and 2.8 litre four cylinder Holden Colorado.

But then they can’t match this V8’s incredibly wide 2000 rpm peak torque band, which says plenty about the LC79’s appeal as a heavy load lugger.

The 70 Series also sticks with a five-speed manual gearbox when some one tonne rivals are now boasting six-speed manuals. With a firm, well defined shift action, it’s nice to use but feels like it’s wanting you to feed it another cog when you get up to highway speeds. The gearing is pretty much spot-on for heavy towing and off road work, though.

Around town the big V8 felt like its sweet spot for changing gears was bang in the middle of that fat serving of torque at about 2500 rpm. Revving it any further is a waste of fuel and revs.

When the bitumen runs out and the going gets rough, the LC79’s abilities become obvious. For all but the most difficult off road terrain we only needed to lock the front hubs and pull the transfer case lever back one notch to hi-range 4×4.

With its super low first gear, the LC79 can slowly step its way across some pretty challenging terrain with consummate ease yet still have enough teeth left in it to blast your way out of a steep, heavily rutted creek crossing or boggy mud section when needed.

Despite its long wheelbase, there’s enough static ride height to ensure it can tackle most sharp drop-offs without getting high-centered. Same goes for its approach and departure angles which of course match those of its single cab 79 Series tray-back sibling.

Toyota rates its wading depth at 700mm, which is 100mm less than that claimed for the Ford Ranger. Even so, like its payload rating, these figures will be taken as a rough guide rather than gospel by many owners.

Did you notice that the engine air intake is at roof height? They don’t call them ‘snorkels’ for nothing. We’ve seen one 70 Series cross a flooded river in Far North Queensland that was at least 100 metres across, almost fully submerged with only the glasshouse above water the whole way!

Not recommended mind you, but it just goes to show how capable these vehicles are and how conservative their creators must be to try and stop people getting into serious trouble. We powered through several deep crossings with water half-way up the doors without having to think about it.

Fact is we only used low range 4×4 once during our test and we probably could have got out of that in high range if we really had to. And to think this robust unit is also armed with front and rear electronic diff locks! As we say, it’s more than just capable.


The LC 79, like its three 70 Series siblings, is designed and built primarily as a practical and pretty much indestructible one tonne workhorse to carry up to five passengers and a mountain of gear across all kinds of terrain. The tougher things get, the better the LC79 performs.

So if you’ve got some serious off road work to do which requires carrying a lot of people or you have some really heavy things to tow, plus you’re prepared to rough it a little and forego the luxuries found in rival one tonne pickups, you’ll quickly learn to like the strength and enduringly honest work ethic of the LC79.

Fact is, we really didn’t want to give it back to Toyota at the end of our test, which in many cases is the true measure of a truck’s worth. There’s just something about it. TJ

*Special thanks to the Melbourne 4×4 Training and Proving Ground for its assistance with this story.

Australian divisions of big US car companies – namely Ford and GM Holden – have always been influenced by their Detroit bosses, not only in product and design but also advertising.

A number of Ford and Holden TV commercials screened in Australia over the decades were originally created in US advertising agencies, which were then modified to suit local products and audiences.

This classic Ford Australia ad from the 1980s, showing the toughness and power of its heavy duty F350 4×4 pickup truck, is a good example. Ford US conceived this idea back in the 1970s and used it for many years to needle its Chevrolet and Dodge competitors.

So Ford Australia eventually copied it, using the popular Toyota Land Cruiser cab-chassis tray-back ute as its rival this time. Given that the Land Cruiser probably weighed about 1800 kgs it’s a pretty good demo of the ‘Built Ford Tough’ motto. Didn’t do anything to dent the Land Cruiser’s popularity or sales success though!

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has expressed its concerns about the recent four-star ANCAP crash safety ratings achieved by the Isuzu D-Max and Single Cab/Space Cab Holden Colorado utes.

The four-star ANCAP safety rating for the Single/Space Cab Holden Colorados closely follows the five-star ANCAP safety rating achieved by the Crew Cab Colorado earlier in 2012.

According to ANCAP, a difference in safety specifications means there is a higher risk of serious occupant injury in the Single/Space Cab Colorados and the D-Max than the Colorado Crew Cab model.

The Single /Space Cab Colorado variants are fitted with only single pre-tensioners for the seat belts and a driver seat belt reminder (SBR), compared with dual pre-tensioners and driver and front passenger SBRs which are standard on the Crew Cab.

“The four-star ANCAP safety rating for the D-Max is an improvement on the rating of the former model, but with an increasing number of fleets now requiring five-star vehicles and consumers also purchasing these utes for family transport, safety should be the priority when making the purchasing decision,” said ANCAP Chairman Mr Lauchlan McIntosh.

“The five-star ANCAP safety rating of the Colorado Crew Cabs should be praised. However, a four-star result for the Single/Space Cab models is disappointing.

“Like the Single/Space Cab Colorados, the shared-platform D-Max also has only single pre-tensioners resulting in the four-star ANCAP safety rating.

“While the Colorado’s pedestrian protection result was ‘Acceptable’ the D-Max’s was ‘Marginal’. ANCAP would like to see manufacturers all targeting the top level of pedestrian protection to reduce injuries to unprotected road users,” Mr McIntosh concluded.

This is an interesting outcome, given that the 2012 D-Max and Colorado share the same chassis platform but diverge noticeably in drive-trains, body styling and interior trim. They seem to have shared the same economies of scale on seat-belt pre-tensioners, it seems.

NCAP continues to encourage both private and commercial consumers to “accept nothing less” than five-star safety ratings across passenger and light commercial vehicles.

These ANCAP ratings are becoming increasingly pivotal in buying decisions for one-tonne pickups.

Mining giant BHP recently announced a minimum five-star rating would now apply to all vehicles purchased for its huge commercial fleet, with many other commercial fleets set to follow.

And more private buyers are demanding five-star safety given the dual-purpose ‘work and play’ role these trucks increasingly play for Aussie families. The safety bar is certainly being raised very quickly in this ultra-competitive light truck market.

The all-new Isuzu D-Max, which is loaded with dynamic and passive safety features, performed well in recent Euro NCAP testing in which it out-scored VW’s five-star Amarok in several areas.

Isuzu UTE Australia says it is addressing the latest ANCAP ratings with plans to achieve a 5-star ANCAP rating for the D-Max as soon as possible. TJ

The first generation of the Holden ute and panel van is arguably the most iconic commercial vehicle range in Australian automotive history, despite being based on what was originally an American design.

Today these 48 series Holdens are very desirable classic commercial vehicles unique to Australia and reminiscent of the fabulous 1950s when a post-WWII world couldn’t get enough Australian wheat and wool.

We literally rode on the sheep’s back as our booming rural sector led us to enviable prosperity.

They were golden times, during which these hard-working Holden utes became a symbol of wealth for toil and a roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic. Today these vehicles embody all that was great about that era.

FX Holden ute

Although its official GM-H model code is 50-2106, over time it has become simply known as the ‘FX’ Holden ute even in some official Holden literature.

Exactly why the letters ‘FX’ were adopted has been the subject of much debate over the decades which we won’t get drawn into here. However, we will refer to it as the FX for ease of description.

When ‘Australia’s Own Car’ – the 48-215 Holden – was launched on November 29, 1948 it was initially offered in only one four-door sedan body style and one trim level, with no load-hauling derivative in sight.

The Australian public would have to wait more than two years (26 months in fact) until the 50 Series FX utility was released in January 1951.

Mechanically it was the same as the sedan and shared the same ‘Aerobilt’ fully-welded unitary body construction, which was strong yet relatively light compared to the more common body-on-frame designs.

The ute’s bodywork behind the driver featured a shorter restyled two-door cabin with rounded upper door frames, an open load area with strengthened floor and a fold-down tailgate. This resulted in a kerb weight slightly heavier than the sedan of only 1,035 kgs.

Combined with its rugged suspension and good power-to-weight ratio, the FX ute was the right truck for its time. It offered excellent performance and fuel economy and the ability to be driven hard over all sorts of terrain, from rounding up sheep in rutted farm paddocks to lugging heavy equipment around building sites.

With a maximum payload rating of 7 cwt (about 350 kgs) it is well known that many owners regularly loaded them up way beyond that figure, yet these utes always managed to cope. It was almost as though Holden knew that was going to happen and engineered the car in readiness for such abuse!


Like its sedan sibling, the original FX Holden Ute was powered by a relatively modern yet simple inline six cylinder overhead valve engine of 132.5 cid (2.2 litres) that developed 60 bhp (45 kW) at 3800 rpm and 100 ft/lbs (135 Nm) at 2000 rpm.

Although these figures might sound puny by today’s standards, the silky smooth 2.2 Holden six was more than a match for what else was available in Australia at the time. And it could cruise comfortably at 100 km/h and deliver around 30mpg (or less than 10L/100kms).

These early Holden engines were called ‘Grey’ motors because the entire engine and gearbox were painted a drab grey colour in production; a birthmark that was used until replaced by the ‘Red’ motors for the new EH Holden range in August 1963.

The elegantly simple Grey motor had a four-bearing crankshaft, gear-driven camshaft and fully pressurised lubrication system.

Regular oil changes were recommended as there was no oil filter. However, provision was made in the lower cylinder block casting for installation of an after-market by-pass type oil filter if required.

The fuel system relied on a camshaft-driven mechanical fuel pump and Stromberg single barrel, manual choke downdraught carburettor. An oiled-mesh air filter came standard but a more heavy duty oil bath-type air cleaner was available as an option for rural folk on dusty roads.

Drivetrain & Chassis

The clutch featured a simple mechanical operation, matched to a three-speed column shift manual gearbox with synchro on second and third gears only. A steel propeller shaft fed drive rearwards to Holden’s signature Banjo-style hypoid differential with semi-floating axles.

Front suspension design was simple but enduringly rugged to cope with a sunburnt country, featuring upper and lower wishbones with coil springs, lever-type shock absorbers and front stub-axles that pivoted on robust king-pins.

The Banjo live rear axle was located by a pair of semi-elliptical leaf springs which coped admirably with the Ute’s 7 cwt-plus payload.

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

The four wheel drum brakes were integral with the wheel hubs front and rear and hydraulically operated through a brake master cylinder and fluid reservoir, that was tucked away under the floor at the base of the engine bay where it connected to the floor-mounted pedals.

A remote brake fluid canister was later made available as an accessory after mechanics complained about how difficult it was to service.

Initially, the standard steel wheel rims were only 3.5 inches (89mm) wide but were ‘fattened’ up to 4.0 inches (102 mm) during the model’s production run. Many motorcycle tyres are wider than that today.


Not sure if you’ve ever sat in one of these first generation Holdens, but they are so small inside we can only suggest that the average Australian was considerably smaller in the 1940s!

For anyone approaching 2.0 metres in height, it’s almost impossible to push the clutch pedal without your left knee or thigh getting in the way of the column shifter, particularly when in its lowest positions in first and top gear.

This isn’t helped by the high position of the clutch and brake pedals which pivot through the floor, requiring a higher leg position to operate than the pendulum-type pedals we take for granted today. Hanging your knee out to the left like a motorcycle rider each time you push the clutch pedal is the only solution.

Motoring life was so simple back then. The instrument panel consisted of one large central dial containing the speedometer, with a smaller gauge on each side. The left gauge carried warning lights for oil pressure, engine temperature and generator and fuel level was shown on the right gauge.

Starting the engine was a two-step process, with a key operated ignition switch and a separate push-button starter for the 6-volt electrical system. Wipers were vacuum operated.

A large fresh air vent located just in front of the windscreen could be popped up manually when required. And as a quaint reminder of more honest times, a key-operated door barrel lock was fitted only on the left (kerbside) door. No one would ever steal anything out of your new Holden from the traffic side of the road, surely!

Total FX production (sedan/ute) reached 120,402 from Nov 1948 to the FJ’s introduction in October 1953.

FJ Holden Ute and Panel Van

Launched in October 1953, the FJ was the only facelift of the original 48 series Holden featuring a bold new American-style grille, new hubcaps and minor cosmetic changes to lights, badges and body trim.

Unlike the FX release in 1948, the FJ ute (model code FJ-2106) was launched right alongside the sedan this time, with a 31 kgs increase in kerb weight to a still very slim 1,066 kgs.

And only two months later, a new panel van body style was introduced (model code FJ-2104). This was essentially the utility with an extended roof, side panels and upper tailgate added.

The van was handsome and well proportioned, filling another important niche in the market for those that wanted the extra carrying capacity of the ute with the extra height, weather protection and security of a van body. And it was only 4.0 kgs heavier than the ute.

Even the Australian Army was able to put the FJ Ute to good use with this high canvas canopy version. These 'no chrome' FJs were painted all over in the factory's Deep Bronze Green and were uniquely equipped. Note the small 'bumperettes' on the back that look like cut-down sections of front bumper bars. Do any original Army versions like this survive today?

There were minimal changes to the FJ during its production run. Newly designed differentials and rear axles were introduced in February 1954 and the rear shock absorbers were moved from behind the rear axle to forward of the rear axle in mid-1955. Tubeless tyres were introduced in January 1956.

The FJ ute and panel vans continued to be available into 1957, as the new FE ute (February 1957) and panel van/station wagon models (May 1957) were introduced many months after the sedan’s launch in July 1956.

These later production FJ commercials benefitted from being upgraded to the FE’s more powerful higher compression version of the Grey motor, which boosted power output from 60 to 70bhp (53 kW) and torque from 100 to 110 ft/lbs (148 Nm).

Total FJ production (sedan/ute/van) was 169,969 from October 1953 to late 1956, when FJ ute/van production ended and existing stocks were sold through to early 1957 until the release of the FE commercials. TJ

*Special thanks to Holden expert Terry Bebbington for his assistance with this article. Terry is the author of a high quality hard cover book titled “60 Years of Holden” which is a complete encyclopedia of all Holden models produced from 1948 to the current models. For more information visit:

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