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Australian GM and Holden Information by Pete Robins
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Pete's '46 Holden-bodied 'Ute What is a Chev anyway?

Hey there John,

    I couldn't let your comment of "We Americans think we invented everything sometimes" go by without commenting. Comes down to what we have in common being the most important. You guys stateside did all the hard work on the Chevs and GMCs back in the 40's. We just whacked a ute back and tailgate on them! Actually there a couple of fellows here who call them El Caminos even though they were never called such.

   What is a Chev anyway? General Motors Holden produced a large Aussie sedan here back in the early 70's ... a Holden Statesman it was called. Unique to Australia, designed and built here. It was no Caddy but was at the top end of the market. It came with 202 cu in 6 cylinder or a choice of 3 V8s, 253 cu.in., 308 cu.in (both Holden designed and built motors) or with a US 350 Chev.

   The Chev-powered version was also exported to New Zealand, South Africa with a revised grille as opposed to the local domestic Australian example and was sold and badged as a Chevrolet vehicle overseas. I only refer to the Chev ute as being Holden bodied as a matter of being technical. I think pretty well everyone didn't consider it an "Aussie Chevrolet." It was considered a Chevrolet period. Same today. To everyone it's a Chev and I doubt many Aussies would believe it was produced here in Aust.

General Motors Holden

   Anyway, Holden were coach builders and produced motor vehicles for GM for many years before GM bought them out. Hence the present day name General Motors Holden. When GMH first produced motor vehicles in its own right in 1948, I think the number of GMC or Chev vehicles began to decline in order to market its own lines of vehicles better. GMH has traditionally sold its own locally designed and built vehicles although there have been plenty of times over the years when GM in Detroit sent out designers. So it doesn't matter what the name, GM, GMC, Chevrolet or GMH -- it's all the same family. Anyway that's a rough run down on that.

 

Big Truck Differences

   I also own a Mapleleaf Chev 7 ton truck (Photo at right). That's what they were called out here. Same cab and grille etc. as Cam's Pick Up. Thought to be built in Canada (hence the Mapleleaf name) and assembled by Holden in Australia.(right-hand drive). Cam's dead right there are several cab variations around. Some have flip out vents in the panel between the door and the front guard (inside it's right at the kick panel. I'm led to believe this is a good indication it was built for in Australia for the Aussie market. Editor's Note: You can tell the differences between the US-bult truck (white cab) and the Holden-built truck (red cab). Holden cab is more rounded, doors have vent windows and there is a flip-out vent in front of the door (you are looking at the passenger side of both trucks). Also, the windshield on the Holden truck is a two-piece fixed windshield (Australian roads are dustier than US roads, I guess -- read below) and the US-built truck is the crankout variety. The fender (or guard, as it is called down under) on the US-built truck is cut out suggesting military use.

   The wind-out windshield is another thing that has several variations. My ute originally had a fixed, non-adjustable windshield with "Armourplate" glass. Usually on the Aussie models, the best way to tell the year of the vehicle was by the plates bolted on the firewall. But there appears to be discrepancies here. If you were to look at the very small word "Armourplate" frosted on the glass, there would be a small dot frosted above one of the letters. If it were above the "m," for example, it would mean the vehicle left the Aussie plant in 1943. Above the first "r," 1941, etc. This hasn't been factory confirmed to my knowledge but the old Chev buffs assure me it's almost fool proof.

   Yes, a replaced windshield could lead you astray but the side and rear windows have the same frosting. The military versions have slight differences in dashes, front windshields. One piece door windows with a metal rim around the glass edge on non-Australian military (also yet to be confirmed) as opposed to the type with a small quarter venting window in the door. Mine has one piece windows but we converted it to that as I couldn't easily find replacement parts.

   Mine (Ute) came from a farm but we believe it was originally of military origin as the dash (mine didn't originally have the fan style speedo dash) had a large round speedo with four gauges around it. We're led to believe that this points to a military life towards the end of WW2. It made for easier component replacement and were cheaper to produce. (I have replaced my old gauges with new VDO gauges but kept the same sizes and gauge pattern.) There are at least two types of front guards on the large trucks (around 6- or 7-ton). The military ones (or some of them at least) have a much larger radius wheel arch, to provide better clearance I guess. Some even had a roof hatch and an X-bracing that crossed the grille for extra bracing. (The grille bracing may have been a non-Chev addition.)

   A friend of mine was telling me that during WW2, his father was an Australian soldier and was in a convoy that went from Perth to Darwin in the Northern Territory. (That's a heck of a drive nowadays even with sealed blacktop ... it was all rough dirt tracks back then.) He said the truck was brand new when they left and arrived in Darwin without one single grille bar ... shook to pieces!!

 

The fun of tin hunting!

   There seem to be two slightly different doors on the trucks (two photos above) and I guess this has alot to do with place of manufacture. One version might have been made in Australia but this also is yet to be confirmed. There were also at least two different stud patterns on the large trucks ... we found out. I bought the 7-ton Mapleleaf Chevrolet Truck at a farm clearing sale roughly 60 miles from home. The next day my Dad and I went back to the property to pick it up. We went very well prepared with chains, tow hitches and a towing A-frame as well as two spare wheels! Just in case. We knew at least one tyre (tire) was shot. Well the spare wheels we took are 10 stud of a similar truck. The Mapleleaf unfortunately had 5 stud. Luckily we had a portable air compressor and kept the tyre going all the way home. The only downside was the little inspection door in the floor was missing and after 40-45 miles of dirt road in the middle of a hot dry summer's day I received a right dusting.

   There were two other trucks in the sale. A 7-ton Jailbar Ford with running flathead, and a British 7-tonne Bedford. All around the same age, all about the same condition. They were bought by a scrap metal dealer who planned to wreck them for scrap. Apparently he heard I was after the Chev for parts so he kindly backed off during the auction.

   After expelling close on 100 lbs of dust out of my lungs, eyes, ears, hair and clothes, I wasn't sure if I really had alot to thank the scrap guy for. Anyway that's all part of the fun of tin hunting. Actually it was pretty funny, well maybe not then but since then it's become pretty funny. You see the dust was bugging me that bad I came up with this beaut make-do-technology initiative. I opened the door, stood on the running board, shut the door and began to steer thru the window. This was all very well and fine ... until! There was a bit too much play in the steering box I guess. So one minute it's steering straight, the next it veered severely off to the gutter. It made correcting pretty scary, too. It went pretty close to jack-knifing in those few tense moments. As a result, I can assure you that adrenaline is BROWN! I quickly got back in the cab, wrapped an old rag around my face and thought about how the big truck would look when it's restored. Cough, splutter, gasp ... we made it eventually.

   The fun of tin hunting!!!

Pete Robins

   If you liked this, see Mike Kelly's Holden History lesson, also! ~~ Editor

v. Jan 05


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