I OWN a One Tonner! If you didn’t catch the news last issue, my much-loved EJ was in a bad prang, so naturally immediately bought an HZ One Tonner as part of the grieving process. I found it online in Bundaberg and asked my mate Kieren to check it out for me. He gave it the thumbs-up, so called the seller and sealed the deal.
With the HZ already registered and running, I caught a bomber to Bundy to pick it up and attempt to drive it home. What could go wrong? The owner met me at the airport with the Tonner, complete with a bonus jerry can of fuel strapped on the back – insurance against the dicky fuel gauge.
I spent a few years in Bundaberg as a kid, so my first job was to cruise around town for a quick nostalgia tour – and to get to know my new purchase.
Like many Tonners, mine is something of a grandpa’s axe. By the looks of it, the car originally came with a red six and threespeed column-shift, but it is now running a Commodore blue motor and Aussie fourspeed. It’s got an HX passenger-car front, some Statesman chrome around the doors and a beaut tray made from fence palings. The paint needs a good buff, and while it isn’t entirely the same shade of red each side, it looks presentable from a distance.
Inside we’ve got a bench seat and no radio. I was particularly taken with the indicator stalk that includes the headlight dimmer and wiper controls. So modern!
The car drove fine, so after a bit of rooting around and catching up with some mates, I made it to my sister’s place on the Sunshine Coast in time for bed. The next day, dropped my nephews at school – gotta love a bench seat in a ute – and then headed down the road to my parents’ house to show it off. I arrived to discover that the old man had piled up a bunch of junk in the front yard so we could do a dump run – in less than 24 hours, the HZ was already earning its keep.
That done, I visited the Brisbane office to have a cuppa with our word guru Brett, but on the way my phone fell out of its windscreen mount and snapped my beaut indicator stalk clean off. Pride comes before a fall, or what? The next day, I grabbed a repro stalk from Rare Spares and enlisted the assistance of Drag Challenge Weekend veteran Richard Horvat to fit it with a minimum of bad language and collateral damage.
I pointed the Tonner in the direction of Sydney via the Pacific Highway. When I arrived, I collected some big-block Chev heads and a cool vintage cash register for some mates and lashed them to the back. I can already see I’ll need one of those ‘Yes, this is my ute and no, I won’t help you move’ stickers.
The Tonner is running like a champ and am thrilled with it. It is slow and noisy, but is a great car for eating up the miles. I’ve wanted a 70s car for ages, and now I have one I can’t believe I’ve waited so long. Of course, when I rolled into Melbourne it was pissing down and I discovered that not only does the heater not work but that the cab leaks like a sieve. Neither ailments were much of a problem in Bundy, but they’ll both receive immediate attention.
I’ll go through the suspension and jam an Aussie Desert Cooler in it and then she’ll be ready for regular duty. Then comes the fun stuff! Everyone seems to like the thin whitewalls, hubcaps and widened steelies look, but I reckon I’ll sell those off and search for some period mags – maybe Hotwires, maybe jellybeans. Or even 12-slotters! I’ll fit a stereo, a toolbox and a towbar, too.
With the basics out of the way, I can start looking for a driveline upgrade – in all likelihood a 253 or 308 and a Trimatic. I’m not really chasing horsepower (famous last words!) – I just want the V8 sound and enough oomph for easy overtaking on the highway.
As I type, I’m on my way back from Red CentreNATS in Alice Springs. Every time we’ve done RCN, I’ve vowed that I’ll stick around for week after the event to do outback tourist stuff with my best girl, but it hasn’t happened so far. I reckon 2019 in the HZ will be the go. s