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Friday, November 21, 2014

Matchbox Holden Ute's, Then and Now



One of my most favorite Matchbox releases as of lately is the Holden VE Ute SSV that was released in 2010.  This stylish and sporty pickup was not the first time that Matchbox has ventured into the Ute territory:  There's the FJ Holden Panel truck based on the FJ Ute and the Holden Ute, in regular or Mad Max fashion, that was released in the 1970's.



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Ute in Australia = El Camino in USA

Holden has supplied Ute's for its car-line ever since the beginning of the Holden brand in Australia, which is also tied to the global chain of General Motors nameplates.  The current Commodore line has supplied the Ute since the end of the 1970's.  This one shown here in red is based on the Holden HX Kingswood of 1976-1977.  This version has a very American-style front-end with round headlights and grille from a 1970 Monte Carlo and parking lamps from the 1972 Chevelle.  The typical side panels resemble even the El Camino.  Out back is vertical taillights and, in the Matchbox version, no tailgate to allow dirt bikes to be in the back.  However, the plastic molded piece for the bikes can come off easily and be lost without a trace (like the one I have here), though the pickup bed is still left in place.  Also the Ute benefits from a trailer hitch to tow various Matchbox trailers at the time.  The red is simple, as is the sticker on the hood that is about ready to come off.


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The base is metal and simple, the wheels ordinary but able to allow the Ute to roll smoothly.  The interior is simple with two seats and a steering wheel, but the dashboard is barely there!  Powering the Ute in 1976 is a choice if I-6 or V8 engines, all badge Red.  The max engine is the 5.0L V8 tied to a 4-speed manual.  This Holden Ute is nice and stock, but is rather plain-looking compared to the VE Ute's.  Later in the 1970's Matchbox revised the casting with a plastic base, raked rear suspension, treaded 8-spoke tires, a front grille guard, and the rear contains lots of gear including a spare tire.  Think of it as a truck made for the Outback, or the 1979 Mad Max film.


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The Hot Rod SSV Ute

But nothing compares to the VE SSV Ute that was so revolutionary that Matchbox had to make one for 2010.  It's interesting to note that the U.S. almost had one of these as the Pontiac G8 GT, but when Pontiac was dropped from the GM bankruptcy restructuring the hopes of the G8 GT faded as well (though Chevy is trying to get one sometime in the future).  Now you're only shot is this Matchbox replica.  The colors are eye-catching: Lime Green, Red, Metalflake Blue, and Purple.  The details from the projector headlights, grille with Holden lion badge, to the rear taillights and SSV badges, along with vanity license plates front and rear.  The SSV adds ground effects, revised front bumper with larger grille slots and integrated foglights (there in there in this casting.  Look closely), and quad exhaust at the rear.  It's a real looker!


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The base showcases the simple drivetrain and sits nicely on the 5-spoke wheels.  The interior is a major difference from the original Ute with a nicely laid-out and detailed dashboard joined by a 4-spoke wheel that is properly-detailed as well.  The center console has the right pockets and cubby areeas, and the seats are the proper sport seats for the SSV.  Under the hood of the SSV is the 6.2L V8 from the C6 Corvette that produces 425 hp. through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic to the rear wheels.  As for the bed Matchbox originally planned motor bikes in the back just like the original Ute, but fell through to an ordinary bed which is nice and capable, though in SSV trim it probably won't haul as much or tow as much due to the high performance nature of the SSV.  Still it's awesome, though sadly Holden, along with Ford, want to get away from the Australia-only RWD layout for a globally-shared FWD platform so this may or may not be the last Holden Ute, even though unlike Ford the Commodore lives on for another generation and as a Chevy SS sedan for the U.S.


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The lime green was the 2010 model that arrived rather late in early 2011, then followed by a 5-pack where the purple version was released, then again followed by the red recolor, and then followed by the metalflake blue in 2011.  The last version was the 2012 in white with side graphics and blacked-out wheels.  With the first four so nicely done I was glad to pass on the 2012 version.  I just hope Matchbox revives this casting for another run in the same suit that made the 2010-2011 versions very popular with collectors.


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