The Holden One Tonner chassis vehicles first started carrying loads back in 1971. It remained in production until 1984 when it was discontinued, until its re-emergence in 2003 when it ran off the production lines for another two years. The One Tonner was a chassis cab wagon with a large tray, and it was designed with a stronger, longer wheel base and extra leaves on the suspension to carry the heavy loads.
The design was big and beefy, a strong durable shape for cruising across rough terrain, delivering goods to remote outposts. The HQ was the first model, recognisable by its sheer size, large painted grille, round indicator lights, and bulky steel bumpers. Holden's commercials marketed them as ‘Tough with a capital T.’
The range went on to include the HJ, HX, HZ, and WB cab chassis models before the line was ended. Due to a loophole in the design laws, the One Tonner’s cab was more comfortable and safer than its smaller ute rivals. They had to contain good ventilation and good vision.
The first real change came with the HJ models in 1975 and featured more square edged grilles with dual headlights. They also brought out a special HJ Ambulance series at this time. Holden made changes to the ute range with the HX models, but the only real difference to the One Tonner was in the cab, where it received the new HX dashboard.
Changes introduced in 1977 again only saw further internal alterations, and it still kept its HQ front-end styling. The HZ appearance package gave the option of a chrome bumper and sedan-style hubcaps instead of painted rims. The first real change to the One Tonner came in 1980 with the WB range; most of the updates were technical, but the WB did feature a full-width grille and headlight rig with wrap-around indicator lights.
The impact of the One Tonner’s heavy commercial customer base was to create an expectation of the same level of comfort, refinement, and performance demanded by passenger vehicles. The second-generation One Tonner came in VY and lasted only two years; they reflected the continuing call for more stylish, comfortable heavy-duty cabs. These were very much influenced by the Commodore range.
The first Holden One Tonners were fitted with 2.8L or 3.0L V6 engines or the more powerful 4.2L and 5.0L V8 engines The engines were linked to either 3- or 4-speed manual gearboxes or the new 3-gear, Trimatic, automatic transmissions. By 1975, the more durable and practical TH400 automatic gearboxes were widely available and proved to be better suited to the tough commercial world in which the One Tonners operated.
Performance was also enhanced further by the late 1970s with disc brakes and the Radial Tuned Suspension system (RTS). The 1980 WB range wasn’t officially offered with 5.0L engines, but examples are known to exist; they were, however, fitted with the 3.3L V6 and the 4.2L V8 engines. The whole range was finished off by 1985 in advance of new emissions regulations and the introduction of unleaded petrol.
The Holden One Tonner was famous not only for its powerful engines and crash-tested cabs; they also had a lower centre of gravity, more stability, and little mechanical and wind noise, making it a great ride for a commercial vehicle.
The later 2003 Holden One Tonner was powered by a 5.0L V8 engine, which it shared with the Crewman range. It was capable of putting out 179kW of power and 434Nm of torque through its 6-speed manual gearbox. Performance figures gave the newest of the One Tonner vehicles a fuel economy of 16L/100km.
The original One Tonne had elevated levels of comfort for its class, but it was still a pretty basic vehicle inside. For a commercial truck, it had a contemporary, passenger vehicle dashboard, armrests, and noise-dampening soundproofing. Many of the trim levels were aimed at the front grille, wheel hubcaps, and engine size. The HQ range had foam seats as standard in 1973, while the HZ had the ‘Appearance Option’ that included chrome bumpers, grille, and hubcaps. The seating was also upgraded to more comfortable bucket seats by the time the 1980 WB models were released.
The later 2003 One Toner came with a much-enhanced interior, leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control, power windows, electric adjustable seat with lumber support, 17-inch alloy wheels, and ABS. There was a driver’s airbag included but the passenger’s airbag and air-con were considered options.
The original 1970s One Tonner was a revolutionary workhorse of the commercial world, setting new standards in design, comfort, and performance. It was rough and ready in comparison to the cars of the day but a step up from the delivery vans that everyone else produced.
The newer One Tonner’s competition came in the form of Fords Falcon XLS V8, Mitsubishi Triton, and Toyota HiLux.