LIFE is full of small pleasures, like the sight of an HQ-WB Holden One Tonner in early-morning traffic. Aluminium tray loaded up with tools, riding on a set of Sunraysia rims and almost always on gas; the dashpad jammed with job books, receipts and copies of The Picture; banged up but not beaten, and still earning an honest living, long after Holden first gave up on the One Tonner concept in í84, revived it in 2003, and axed it again in 2005.
While I get a smile out of seeing these old workhorses out and about, no doubt most of the guys driving them for work would prefer to be in a new Thai-built 4x4 cab-chassis if they had the chance Ė those ubiquitous trucks ainít perfect, but theyíre hard to beat for economy, comfort and pulling power.
Nevertheless, Holden One Tonners have started popping up in my musings about future projects. While Iíve always had a soft spot for the old girls, Iíve never actively considered owning one, but now theyíre right at the top of my Ďmost searchedí pile.
The imaginary project car game is a useful one when funds are scarce. Besides providing entertainment, itís useful for planning and researching for when the moment to actually get something done arrives. For mine, the sweet spot where dreams turn to reality arrives when three crucial factors collide: need, opportunity and desire.
In terms of need, a commercial vehicle would be a damn useful addition to the fleet. My work week is often punctuated by trips to pick up parts, pull trailers or drag gear around. Weíre hiring and borrowing utes like nobodyís business, and, while the Chev C10 we share with Unique Cars does its fair share of yakka, it needs some TLC before we ask it to do the real heavy lifting. Plus, the C10 is actually a nice thing under its carbonfibre wrap Ė too nice for serious abuse.
So a Tonner would be handy for work Ė and would be exempt from my long-standing rule to never leave a chrome-bumper car out in the elements. A good thing too, as Iím out of undercover car space at home Ė Iím sure many of you can relate.
That covers the functional side of the purchase, so how about opportunity? In other words, can I afford it? As Iíve discussed in this column before, Iíd sorely like to add a 70s Aussie V8 to the collection; something with more space, comfort and grunt than my faithful EJ can offer. However, the asking prices for these cars have climbed in the time Iíve been fart-arsing around. Except, it seems, for One Tonners. While they can be good enough to win Summernats Grand Champion and Street Machine Of The Year titles, affordable Ė and fixable Ė Tonners still pop up for sale regularly. Sure, they are all going to be shagged out to varying degrees, but I reckon I can find something workable within my budget.
Of course, more powerful than need and opportunity is desire. A VY-VZ or even a BA Falcon tonner would be way more practical, comfortable and ultimately cheaper, but I donít have the desire to own one of them. What would make my heart skip a beat when I open the front door in the morning is a classic One Tonner, preferably with a 253 with a twin system that will annoy the neighbours when I warm it up on early winter mornings. Why a 253? Because Iíve never had one; simple as that.
My ambitions for my thong-slapping Tonner are modest. Inside, Iíd like a bench seat and column-shift Trimatic for threeperson practicality. Iíd also like a tape player, a waterproof cabin and a working heater for Melbourne winters. And, if I get really keen, air conditioning.
On the outside, I reckon Iíd work with whatever the previous custodian left for me, but Iíd love a set of Hotwire mags or Ė believe it or not Ė tradie-spec Sunraysias. And unless something more flash came up at the right price, Iíd probably stick with an aluminium tray Ė with an Esky mounted in or under it. And that would do me (for phase one of the project anyway). Something that will get me to work Monday to Friday, carry a ton of junk around, and be ready for an outback road trip at a momentís notice.
As a DIY budget project, I reckon a One Tonner is a pretty good candidate. On the other hand, I also admire Glenn Torrensís VX LS1 Berlina wagon build Ė see Blowing Gaskets, page 140. It may not be a chromebumper classic, but it shows what you can do with a bit of know-how and almost no bucks. After a bit of work, Glennís got a super-practical wagon that feels like you could road trip it to the moon and back. Is our sport unaffordable? Only if you donít use your imagination.