Exclusive: Magnum force, the last V8 Commodore Ute
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Exclusive: We test the last Aussie-built Holden Commodore ute ahead of its Fieldays appearance
Holden New Zealand's celebrating the last of the authentic utes with the arrival of a special limited-edition Commodore Magnum.
As Australia's Holden plant finishes production in the next few months, the company has a limited series of only 51 to be being sold in New Zealand.
Priced at $74,290, the Magnum is making sure the Aussie-built single cab ute is going out with a bang - and a V8 bang at that.
The SS-V Redline ute is a pure sports-performance vehicle that is one of three special Limited Edition Commodores built to commemorate motorsports' greatness.
The 2017 Magnum ute is inspired by the original Magnum developed by the Holden Dealer Team in 1983, while the Motorsport Edition and Director Edition are based on Commodore sedans.
The new Magnum Limited Edition is the quickest and best equipped Holden ute created, says Holden, as it commemmorates the final year of ute production in Australia.
The Magnum includes heated performance front seats, hard tonneau cover and unique decals for ultimate road presence.
But beating beneath the bonnet is an impressive 6.2-litre, LS3 V8 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
It also has its rear suspension calibrated towards improved ride and handling - and the 20in split forged alloy wheels come with charcoal Brembo callipers.
The Magnum has unique badging and decals and rear window graphic.
The ute stands apart, thanks to its individual vehicle numbering and unique build option code (UTE), plus a commemorative presentation case.
"Given the undeniable sales success of Commodore in New Zealand, as well as the numerous victories for our drivers in the Touring and Supercar Series, we have taken the opportunity to add our own Kiwi flavour to these limited edition models," said Holden NZ managing director, Kristian Aquilina.
"In light of the motorsport heritage of Commodore, we asked our own Holden Supercar legend -- four time Bathurst champion, Greg Murphy -- to be part of this project.
"Greg has graciously agreed to allow us to feature his famous number 51 as a key component of this exciting limited edition release."
Both the Director and Magnum will be restricted to 51 units in New Zealand, while the Motorsport edition will be 151 vehicles.
Though double-cab utes now dominate the New Zealand new vehicle market, there is still a place for single cab sports ute, as I found during Driven's exclusive first drive of the Magnum before its appearance at Fieldays this month.
That V8 engine produces 304kW of power at 6000rpm ,while it produces 570Nm of torque at 4400rpm.
It is full of safety features found in Commodore SS-V sedans, such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning, head up display and blind spot monitoring.
It is also track-capable up to GM Level 3 - and it shows with the looks and performance, as this ute is built for the race track rather than dirt track.
I took it to one of its spiritual Kiwi homes, West Auckland, where it blended in among other Commodore utes, a few Hilux single cabs, and its mortal enemies, a few Ford Falcon utes.
The rumble of the V8 was a calling card in West Auckland. Added to that was the bimodal exhaust that helps produce that gutsy sound that's slightly refined.
But not so refined as it caught the attention of driver and passengers of an early model Toyota Corolla, with the car of fans following me as I did the almost sacrilegious of tasks, a run to the tip. (Hey, it was only a few branches. Okay?)
This ute isn't for everyday around-town commutes, like the double cabs utes are now doing. Instead, it loves the open road.
I left the tip and headed north of Auckland along the SH16 to Helensville where, again, single-cab utes are popular. That showed in the waves and "choice ute" the Magnum attracted from locals.
But on the open road, the V8 simply powered along.
One thing I was was wary of, after watching too many Australian ute races on TV, was the tail flicking out as I entered corners at speed. However, the boffins at Holden Australian had that covered with the electronic stability control keeping the Magnum on track and traction control keeping an eye on wheel spin.
With the new suspension and the retuned front and dear dampers, it's a comfortable ride -- and a nostalgic one to say goodbye to the Aussie battle ute.
Best Holden on the day
When Drury businessman Mark Grey found out he was speaking to the first owner of an original 1953 Holden FX utility, he knew he'd found what he wanted.
He was on the phone to John Pavich, who purchased the ute in Perth on July 8, 1954.
In 1966, Pavich eventually "saw the light" and moved to New Zealand, bringing his Holden.
It would be used as a daily driver for 10 years, before being parked in storage for 14 years. It was at this point that Pavich decided to sell, and Grey wasn't going to let the classic slip away.
Grey placed his winning bid for the FX in 2007. This began what would turn out to be a five-year full restoration process to return the ute to its original, factory condition.
All the work to the body panels, chassis, parts, interior and engine were carried out by either local workshops in South Auckland, or knowledgeable friends Grey had met through various Holden clubs.
In 2012 there was one final push to get the car finished for the Ellerslie Concours.
"I put the last hubcap on, stood back, and said 'damn, it's all done'," Grey said.
He has owned a range of Holdens, including a current Commodore Sportswagon.
Come Concours day, this 1953 FX helped the Early Holden Car Club win the best team award, and the ute won best club car of the day.