Party up front, Business at the back – The best of Holden Performance Utes

As the production of Australian cars winds up, we will continue to take a look at some of the locally built cars that will be fondly remembered by the Aussie motoring community. In this installment, we look back on a few of the most memorable Holden performance Utes; cars that took business and mixed it with pleasure.

Although Ford is generally credited with designing the world’s first Ute in Australia with the Coupe Utility in 1934, Holden soon joined the world of Ute’s with their 48-215 (FX) Utility in 1951.

Designed as workhorses for Australian farmers and tradesmen, the humble Ute continued to evolve with handling and power improvements, however was never sold or intended to be a performance based vehicle. 

This all changed for Holden at the 1990 Sydney Motor Show, when Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) unveiled the VG HSV Maloo Ute.  Quickly becoming the star of the show the ‘Maloo’ (Aboriginal word for ‘thunder’) was powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine with 180kW/400Nm and only available in Alpine White and Maranello Red to enhance its exclusivity. You don’t see many of these driving around today!

 Although Holden had been fitting V8’s to their Ute’s for many years, it was in 2001, with the release of the VU Series, that Holden upped the game with their own true performance model, being the VU SS Ute.  Based on an all new platform, the Holden team spent a huge amount of time optimizing the Ute for improved aerodynamics and reduced wind noise, and the result is a very smooth, flowing exterior design.  The VU Ute was fitted with a 225kw Chevrolet 5.7L Gen 3 LS1 Engine placed between the strut towers as well as what was a first in a Ute at the time, independent rear suspension. This added to the 17” alloys, sports seats and sports suspension. What did they cost at the time? $36,490.

 

HSV stepped up the game to another level with the VZ Maloo R8. A far more aggressive exterior design clearly differentiated the HSV enhanced Ute from the Holden performance variants. Fitted with the then new 6.0 litre LS2 V8 Engine, the VZ series also boasted 19” wheels and traction control.

In 2006, Aussie motorsport legend Mark Skaife set a world record with the VZ Maloo, clocking 271.44km/h on a closed road in South Australia and becoming the “World’s Fastest Production Pickup/Utility”.

 

As part of Holden’s continued marketing drive around the performance angle of its ever popular Ute range, a new marketing campaign was needed to launch the new VF SS V Redline Ute.  Holden decided to ship the Ute to one of the world’s most famous testing grounds, Germany’s 20.8km long Nordschleife. With high hopes and a vehicle test engineer behind the wheel, the SS clocked a blistering 8:19.47 around the 170 turn track, becoming the fastest Utility to do so. There was no official record given there was no ‘utility class’ but regardless, the time was an impressive achievement.

 

The Holden Performance Ute collection wouldn’t be complete without the final variant of the iconic Aussie vehicle. Enter the HSV GTSR Maloo. HSV decided to honour the performance Ute by sending it out with a bang and a model truly representative of performance in every sense of the word. Power was well and truly taken care of with the 435kw Supercharged LSA 6.2L V8 engine. A tuned HSV performance suspension package plus numerous electronic aids takes care of handling while stopping power is handled by the massive 6 piston calipers and two piece discs. 20” wheels and an aggressive styling package complete the head turning aesthetics.

Although it is a sad day to see the traditional Aussie Ute finish production, we will always have the memories of such an Aussie institution.