In early 2013, I was fortunate enough to come across this almost original 1976 Holden One Tonne (or tonner as they are known). Having had the same owner for the previous 33 years, and the owner being 64 years young, this Ute had almost no flaws.
This ute is not my daily driver, mainly due to the poor fuel economy (you can watch the fuel needle move when on the high way, and are lucky to get 200-300km out of a tank) the lack of power steering, although it isn’t that heavy once up to speed, and the fact that the only safety features on it are the pretention seat belts, disk break front end and my amazing driving skills. In the 18 months I’ve owned this Ute, I have never had a major issue. It even brushed off a 40km/h shunt from behind!
I have found that this Ute has always been a joy to drive, and gets many looks, and comments, especially about the colour, Jamaica Lime, which is a factory colour. Being a HJ, it doesn’t suffer from the emission control restrictions which were bought into the HX model later that year.
Being an old Holden, it is extremely reliable. I have never once had it break down on my. It had its first engine (202 straight 6 red motor producing 101 kW from factory) replaced at 400000 (I have that motor too!) and the replacement has done 278000 km. the chassis has done almost 700000km and there aren’t any major rust issues. It still has the original M21 4 on the floor manual gear box. The M21 was the gear box which most commercial Holden’s of the time used. It had a short 1st gear for if it’s loaded up, but most of the time, you can start from 2nd. It had the original Banjo diff replaced for a 10 bolt Salisbury diff so that in fourth, it gets more drive and doesn’t rev as high on the high way.
Being an old car, servicing cost are low due to there not being a lot to do to them oil change every 12 months or 5000km and that’s about it. As a result, it sets me back around $60 or an oil change. However, being an old car, it does require extra work more frequently than most modern cars. This can include brake maintenance, suspension work amongst other things.
Being the Tonner, it has the same specifications to the Belmont in the style side Ute, sedan and wagon ranges. These models are often referred to as being the poverty pack as they had almost no features. From factory, it had no radio, it has a heater, but it doesn’t currently work. You also get a Speedo, fuel gauge, and idiot lights for when the car has over heated. The lack of Air conditioning means you need to manually wind down the windows so you don’t erupt into flames on the hot vinyl bench seat. In saying all that, these are features which makes these classics what they are and give them the character which we car enthusiast love so much.
When looking for anything HQ-WB it is important that perspective buyers look for rust. This problem obviously plagues older cars, and Holden’s weren’t immune to this. HQ-WB’s usually get rust in the cowl, lower sills, roof, roof gutters, inner guards, and rear quarter panels. They also at times get rust in the chassis rails. When going for commercials, such as the Tonner, expect the worst. I got lucky with mine and got a great example, but most were abused within an inch of their lives, or have been extremely modified. It’s also important to look for one which suits you the best. There isn’t any point getting a HQ Belmont sedan with a 179 straight 6 with a 3 speed tri-matic when you want a HJ Panel van with a 308 and an M22 4 on the floor.
In summary, the 1976 Holden HJ One Tonne may be slow, have awful fuel economy (by today’s standards) have no technology, or safety. It has alright cabin space and mediocre comfort and ok handling. You cannot go wrong with it when it comes to the price as you can get most tonners for under $10000. These are also a great way to get into the classic car scene as there are many spare parts, and lots of people with lots of knowledge on them.