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When the going gets tough – Looking back at the Holden One Tonner

When it comes to workhorses, there is no vehicle more Australian than the iconic Ute. With a perfect mix of comfort and practicality, this timeless shape has been one of our countries favourites since the 1930’s. Although Ford claims bragging rights for being the first to introduce the ute to the Australian market, Holden has produced many notable examples, but none more distinct than the classic One Tonner.

From 1951to 1971 Holden’s "utility “was sold as part of the 50-2106 to HG model ranges, and was a hit with farmers and tradesmen alike. It wasn’t until the HQ that Holden decided to introduce a unique cab chassis frame to their commercial model range that could support an impressive one tonne load. The cab chassis allowed the owner to assemble any desired aftermarket equipment of their choice which meant that the vehicle could be customised to their own specific needs.

The HQ One Tonne ute featured the entry level 173ci and 202ci straight 6 ‘red’ motors as well as the larger capacity 253ci and 308ci V8 powerhouses mated to either the trusty ‘Aussie’ 3 and 4 Speed manuals or 3 speed ‘Trimatic’ transmission. The vehicle featured uprated rear leaf springs from the HG allowing the ute to withstand a heavier load and was an instant success with its unique look and endless practicality.

The One Tonner itself remained much the same throughout its life in the HJ era, despite some minor cosmetic and interior updates. It wasn’t until the HX that Holden had to make changes to the engine in order to comply with Australia’s tightened emissions restrictions and fuel economy regulations. At this point Holden fitted a brand new blinker stalk that could control washers, wipers, blinkers and hi-beam with ease.

Once the HZ rolled along the One Tonner gained Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) which improved handling greatly and radial tyres were fitted as standard. The One Tonner kept its unique front end until the WB in 1980, however it was fitted with a HJ Premier front and door trims when optioned with ambulance package that could be built up the regular cab chassis frame. The WB One Tonner saw a new unique grill, headlights and taillights and featured Holden’s ‘blue’ motors that were also released in the VC Commodore. Although the vehicle line was popular, it was discontinued in 1984 along with the WB.

Even though Holden re introduced the One Tonner between 2002 and 2006, there was a special charm that these classic workhorses had, which probably explains why they still have such a loyal following today. Have a tonnes of stories about your One Tonner? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and share them in the comments!


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