If Lao Tzu and the 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT are right that the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long, how brightly must the flame burn that is extinguished before it even ignites? As General Motors stumbled into the Great Recession, Pontiac revived the Chevrolet El Camino, introducing the G8 ST (for “sport truck”) at the 2008 New York auto show. Sharing its powertrain with the G8 GT, the ST combined 361 horsepower, a six-speed automatic, and a lightly loaded rear axle. Visions of oversteer danced in our heads.
GM intended to make the ST by rebadging one of its Australia-market models, the ungracefully named Holden Ute, which took the front half of a Commodore sedan (sold in the U.S. as the G8) and married it to a short pickup bed. In Australia, the things were so popular, there was a racing series in which they battled against Ford Falcon Utes, the Ranchero of its day.
Performance wasn’t limited to the track, though. While GM’s LS engine family was Hulking into ever more muscular derivatives here, the same engines kept ending up in Utes Down Under. Dubbed Maloo, after an aboriginal word for “thunder,” performance editions topped out at 583 horsepower in the Holden Special Vehicles GTSR.
But on our shores, none of it was to be. Less than a year after the G8 ST’s debut, Pontiac called off the plan as part of a desperate restructuring. Just three months later, GM announced it would pull the plug on the entire Pontiac brand. The unreasonably optimistic might have held out hope for the return of the sport truck as a spinoff of the Chevrolet SS, but then the Ute died as Holden shuttered its Australian manufacturing facility in 2017. And GM announced in February that it will discontinue the Holden brand altogether. So really, you can stop waiting.
Are you still here?
Fine. We’ll let you in on a secret. You actually can get a G8 ST or a Holden Ute in the U.S. after all. The folks at Left Hand Utes in Colorado import the trucks from Australia, strip them down, and then rebuild them using just enough parts from a Chevy SS or Caprice or a Pontiac G8 or GTO so that they can be titled and registered in the states. Prices range from $35,000 to $125,000.
From the May 2020 issue of Car and Driver.
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