G’day again Autopians! Mark was having internet problems so I have stepped up to give you a Down Under Edition of Shitbox Showdown. Hopefully you’re not saying to yourself “oh no, not you again.” Looking at yesterday’s Basket-handle convertible challenge, the VW was far and away the winner of the showdown with more than two-thirds of you going for the three-pedal German versus the self-shifting American:
Thomas gave us some Aussie nuggets to decide between back in December ( ) as part of a global Showdown theme, so I’m going to give you some more prime cuts of Aussie nugget-dom. I’ve tried to pick two vehicles that aren’t absolute dungers, at a price point that would be tempting enough for those of you willing to import something to draw a crowd at your local Cars & Coffee.
Engine/Drivetrain: 3.8-litre pushrod V6, 4-speed Automatic, RWD
Location: Pallara, Queensland
Odometer: 210,000km (130,000 miles)
Runs/Drives: Yes, allegedly rebuilt engine and transmission to boot!
What you’re seeing here is not a Photoshop – this ute has been extended by 23.6 inches!
The ‘VS’ Series Holdens were made from 1995 to 1997 in Sedan and Wagon form, but continued in Utility (‘Ute’) until 2000. This was the final refresh of the second-generation Commodore, tracing back to the ‘VN’ series of 1988 which replaced my favourite Commodore, the ‘VL’ series.
These Utes were converted in Australia’s country-music capital, Tamworth (home of the Golden Guitar!) by the now-defunct Jakab Industries to be ambulances. Here’s a video of a still-complete Rural Ambulance Victoria model.
The idea behind the use of a ute body as reported via Curbside Classic was that the ambulance compartment was installed as a ‘pod’ and could be removed after service to be swapped to the next ute body to cut down on costs for the emergency services departments. The used vehicle could then be sold to tradies which it was hoped would pay extra for the greater load space over a standard ute. [Editor’s Note: That’s kind of brilliant! – JT]
Powered by the long-lived 3.8L ‘Ecotec’ V6 and shifting gears through a 4L60E automatic should mean that parts wouldn’t be too much of a worry if the vehicle made its way over Stateside. A great way to get a 90s GM ute without hacking up a mouldy Buick (love ya, SWG)!
The extended-length means the load floor goes from 1790mm (70.47in) in a standard-wheelbase version with tailgate closed to a monstrous 2389mm (94in)! You could flex on all the rival dads at the hardware store as you drive away with uncut lengths of timber or transport all kinds of weird and wonderful objects from upright pianos to church pews or a bulk-delivery of Reschs, no worries!
All this could be yours for the princely sum of $3,986 US Dollars.
Engine/Drivetrain: 4.0-Litre OHC Inline-Six, 5-speed Manual, RWD
Location: Beechworth, Victoria
Odometer: 390,000km (242,000 miles)
Runs/Drives: Yes, though it apparently needs work
I was hoping to find something that wasn’t a Ford Falcon to counter the Holden Commodore, but nothing was forthcoming that was in the same price range or had sufficient information/photos to give a fair fight.
The EF Falcon was a significant refresh of the boxier EB, a sleeker skin to match the VR Commodore which looks nearly identical to the VS model of the ute above. With only the doors carrying over from the previous model, this generation looked like it had cast off the 1980s rectilinear shapes and entered the 90s proper.
Whilst the shape was successful in racing with the exception of the Bathurst 1000, this is not powered by the venerable 5.0L ‘Windsor’ V8, but by a multi-point fuel-injected single-overhead-cam 4.0L inline-six, an also well-loved engine with a reputation for durability and a favourite of taxi drivers during the period.
The first factory-turbocharged Falcons were released in the ‘BA’ Falcon range in 2002 with the now-legendary ‘Barra’ double-overhead-cam inline-six, there were several aftermarket tuners that released kits and completed cars in the 80s and 90s to add forced induction via turbos or the even more unique twin-screw-supercharged version released in extremely limited numbers by GP Sportscars.
This Falcon looks to have copped a home-brewed turbo kit, of which the overall quality appears good based on the limited photos. The seller confesses that there has been no tuning performed (which would mean a ‘chip’ to the original ECU) nor is there an aftermarket ECU such as a Haltech or Link installed. Hopefully with just 5psi on tap there hasn’t been too many hard runs and the Autometer Air/Fuel gauge means there was some care taken to not melt pistons due to leaning-out.
While ‘Car needs work’ is about the most vague statement outside of a political press-conference, let’s hope that phrase isn’t hinting at anything too sinister.
Putting this unknown amount of extra power through the original ‘T5’ manual gearbox and Borg-Warner differential shouldn’t be too much cause for stress as these items are known for being quite stout and up to quite some punishment.
Priced a bit higher than our long-boy Lion at $4,656 USD, it could be a way to get a boosted Falcon on a budget. Get some dyno tuning done, throw another 4.0L engine and common wear parts into the boot before putting in a ship across the Pacific and like the Holden it should last a while before needing a substantial overhaul.
So Autopians, what will it be? Take the XL Commodore, or roll the dice on a boosted-bird?