Unique Cars - - THE HUMBLE UTE -

Look­ing back now, it’s un­ques­tion­able that Holden’s Sand­man se­ries was pre­scient. Sure it was rid­ing a 1970s wave that saw the rise of the panel van from hum­ble load car­rier to sur­fie trans­port of choice. And mo­bile bed­room – de­pend­ing on who you talked to. No, that was very much a ve­hi­cle of its time.

The pre­scient part was the Sand­man util­ity – the fore­run­ner of the sports util­ity that re­ally took off through the 1990s, some two decades later. In fact our crew reck­ons the VT SS ute of 1997 was the next true suc­ces­sor to the Sand­man.

Prior to the HQ se­ries, a ute was a ute. It was a load-hauler that you threw lad­ders and half empty paint tins into, along with the ce­ment mixer and wheel­bar­row. But, all of a sud­den, here was a vari­ant with stylish wheels, lairy stripes and full GTS in­stru­ment kit. In the brochures of the day, they were car­ry­ing dirt bikes and surf­boards.

Re­ally it was a stroke of ge­nius. A way of glam­ouris­ing what was, un­der­neath the eye-wa­ter­ing paint, a fairly con­ven­tional piece of en­gi­neer­ing and find­ing a younger mar­ket that saw a whole new use for it.

You could in fact keep the spec pretty hum­ble. From the start Holden of­fered the two sixes, plus the 4.2 and 5.0lt V8s. Re­ally it was the 4.2lt V8 mated to a four-speed M20 man­ual trans­mis­sion or Tri­matic which typ­i­fied this se­ries.

Un­der­neath you had a live axle and leaf springs at the rear, al­beit with the spring­ing rate backed off at the rear.

As a se­ries, the Sand­man name­plate lasted through to HZ. Some early devel­op­ment work had been done on a WB ver­sion, but it was not to be.

For Holden, the Sand­man helped to make up for the slow demise of the Monaro name­plate and just maybe helped re­tain some cus­tomers as a re­sult. How­ever the over­all pro­duc­tion num­bers don’t seem to be huge, while the sur­vival rate is low.

Rarest of the breed is a clean HQ ver­sion. These came out very late in the life of the HQ se­ries and are now thin on the ground. The HJ – which cov­ers this ex­am­ple – is ar­guably a bet­ter-look­ing car. For some rea­son the more prom­i­nent square-jawed ra­di­a­tor look seemed to suit the van and ute far bet­ter than the sedans.

There has of course been a mini in­dus­try spring up, con­vert­ing vans in par­tic­u­lar to Sand­man spec. That means that, if you’re in the mar­ket, make sure you know what you’re pay­ing for. A good tribute car will al­ways be worth sub­stan­tial money, but the

RIGHT GTS Wheels, chrome, stripes and bright yel­low paint... must be the 70s.LEFT A very rare sight on our roads and still turn­ing heads.

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