There will likely be two main types of people who read this article, the first will be Americans who have never seen this version of the El Camino, and the second type will be Australians who are here to tell me that this is actually a Holden HQ Ute.
In a way the Australians would be right, this version of the El Camino was never sold outside of South Africa, and it is very closely based on Australia’s venerable Holden HQ Ute.
Fast Facts – The African El Camino
- The Chevrolet El Camino is a cross between a regular car and a pickup truck, it was first introduced in 1959 and sold until 1987 over five generations.
- Over in Australia where this vehicle type was invented, they were proving wildly popular, they called it the “Ute” which is short for “Utility,” and the two main competing brands were Holden and Ford.
- The Holden HQ model series was introduced in Australia in 1971 and sold until 1974, it was offered in a number of body styles including four-door sedan, four-door station wagon, and two-door ute.
- Holden was a General Motors owned company, and as a result they opted to offer the HQ in the South African market with American badging. Among other cars this resulted in the Chevrolet Kommando (four-door sedan), and the Chevrolet El Camino (two-door ute).
The Mighty Australian Ute
Although it isn’t common knowledge in the motoring world, the humble ute was actually invented by an Australian lady who lived and worked on a farm in Victoria with her husband. She wrote a letter to Ford Australia asking for “a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays.”
To their credit, the folks at Ford took her seriously and realized she was onto a good idea. Ford designer Lew Bandt created a two-door coupe with a pickup truck-style rear end and it was released in 1934.
The ute quickly became a cultural touchstone in Australia featuring in songs, films, television shows, books, and magazines. No other country adopted the ute with quite as much enthusiasm as Australia, though they did see some popularity in the USA with the El Camino and the Ford Ranchero.
General Motors saw South Africa as potentially a good market for a ute, and so they had a special version of the Holden HQ Ute built with Chevrolet and El Camino badging. This Ute would sell alongside the Chevrolet Kommando which was the four-door sedan version of the HQ, and the Chevrolet Constantia which was the more luxurious version of the HQ sedan.
The Kommando was offered with just the 4.1 liter Holden straight-six engine, whereas the Kommando could also be ordered with the more powerful 5.0 liter V8. Interestingly, the El Camino could be ordered with either of these engines or the 3.3 liter straight-six.
It’s not known how many examples of the HQ-based Chevrolet El Camino remain in South Africa, but we do know that they only very rarely come up for sale outside the country – making the car pictured here all the more unusual.
The Chevrolet El Camino Shown Here
This vehicle is a 1975 South African Chevrolet El Camino, the final model year before Holden introduced the HJ series. Under the hood you’ll find the popular Holden straight-six engine with a single carburetor, and power is sent to the rear wheels via an automatic transmission.
The vehicle looks largely original throughout with a few minor changes here and there, the wheels, badging, and interior all look completely stock.
Bonhams is due to offer this unusual El Camino at the MPH auction on the 11th of December, the price guide is a rather reasonable $13,000 – $20,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
Ben has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with millions of readers around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.