Modern El Camino: 2004 Pontiac GTO Sports Truck!

By conventional wisdom and research, we know that Chevrolet discontinued the El Camino at the conclusion of the 1987 model year. But Holden, GM’s now closed Australian subsidiary, constructed what they referred to as the “Ute” short for “utility” for years, right up to the time that they exited manufacturing operations in Australia. Endowed with GM powertrain pieces, the Holden Ute was the modern-day El Camino that many of us in the states wanted but could not have. This example has an interesting story behind it and it will take some explanation, so let’s proceed. Located in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, this Pontiac Ute is available here on eBay for a current bid of $18,500, one bid tendered so far.

Pontiac’s “Sports Truck” 2009 Prototype

The story is a bit confusing in terms of branding so let’s set that straight. This Pontiac/Holden started life as a Holden vehicle. It was imported into the U.S. where it was converted to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FVMSS), had a 2004 Pontiac nose piece grafted on in place of the original Holden piece and is now titled, in Massachusetts, as a 2004 Pontiac GTO (the listing states the year as “1904”, probably a fat-finger typing error). The listing also references the brand as being a Chevrolet but since this vehicle is titled as a Pontiac GTO, a Pontiac brand it will be. What this half truck/half passenger car looks like is the nascent 2009 Pontiac “Sports Truck” that was built as a prototype but never made it to production before Pontiac had its plug pulled.

It’s interesting that Pontiac went with Sports Truck for the prototype, as they had already built a car-based pickup prototype back in 1959. That one was named the Catalina Safari pickup but is often referred to as the El Catalina. Perhaps they didn’t want to tie the new truck back to a long-forgotten relic, but it sure would have been a great call back to the height of Pontiac design. You can read more about the El Catalina here on Hemmings.

Many of the FMVSS mandates are hidden from view but there is the assumption that this Ute has been converted from RHD to LHD. Holden’s were designed with that modularity but it is still a huge undertaking. This 49K mile example shows beautifully, the major exterior modification being the swap from the Holden front cap to the GTO version. The 2004 Ute was based on the Holden Commodore, while the 2004-2006  GTOs are Holden Monaro derived but the nose conversion has worked well. Body panel fit and finish appear to be fine as is the lustrous black paint hue. To further add to the brand confusion, this Ute has a Holden badge on its tailgate and SS emblems adorning the tailgate and lower quarters.

Power is courtesy of a GM, 5.7 liter, “LS1”  V8 engine, developing 350 net HP – the standard powerplant for the 2004 GTO. Transmission duties are handled by a GM four-speed automatic unit. The seller claims that this Ute “runs and drives great”. It is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes, a new battery and is ready to go. Also, all of the power accessories work as designed.

The interior looks like half of a 2004 Pontiac GTO, and with good reason. The interior looks OK but the seats have something going on with their covers, they are wrinkled and misfitting. They actually look like aftermarket covers that have been placed over the original upholstery – not sure what’s up with that but it detracts from the interior’s original quality construction. Charcoal gray, black and gray were the typical shades used in 2004, as they still are today, in so many different makes and models.

Finally, note the cargo bed, it has a modern plastic liner in place which makes it completely functional. I don’t know how many El Caminos I have looked at that have perfectly restored beds, they look great but are completely relieved from any viable cargo hauling.

The pros? A unique GM based sports truck with GM powertrain components, not one of a kind in the U.S., but not far from it. And one of the biggest pros? There is a legitimate title in existence, a challenge for “foreign” made vehicles, under the age of 25, that don’t comply with FMVSS. The cons? Model-specific body components/hardware that will be increasingly difficult to source now that Holden as gone the way of Pontiac. Nevertheless, if you are interested in an El Camino but are looking for something with a slightly different twist, this may be your truck.

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Comments

  1. Classic Steel

    This GTO / camino is confusing as a billy goat 🐐 on Astro turf trying to eat… 😂🙈🙉🙊

    Like 10
  2. jerry z

    I wish they made the El Camino back in 2004, would have bought that than the GTO. Having the best of both worlds in a Ute!

    Like 7
  3. Matt in L.A.

    GM was stupid to get rid of Holden. While GM was making all this front wheel drive junk here (except for the Camaro), the last hold outs were the Holdens. And Aussie car people were rightly proud of their rear drive V8s! I love this Ute! Good work to whoever made this baby. Wish I had the cash for things like this. Nice daily driver!

    Like 14
    • Mitchell Member

      Absolutely agree. GM was also stupid getting rid of Pontiac I feel, but then I’m no businessman.

      Like 7
      • David Bailey

        It’s not GM’s fault!…The Southern senators put in a provision to kill off Pontiac, etc., to get govt. backed loans…Naturally, ALL foreign car plants in US are IN THOSE STATES!!! Tens of thousands put out of work in Union/North, thousands of non-union foreign jobs in THOSE STATES!!..GM also had to cancel any future HUMMER , etc., plans.

        Like 3
    • Hans

      And the 2010+ Camaro was designed by Holden Engineers. As an owner of a 2006 GTO, it was sad to see Holden close, but Australia relaxed their import standards for cars, making it very difficult to justify manufacturing operations for local consumption only in Aus.

      Like 4
    • OzyJohn

      Absolutely right Matt in LA.
      Holdens were built here since 1948, and when Detroit pulled the pin, half the country were let me say, less than impressed. (The other half did the same when Ford pulled out). Sadly we have no passenger vehicle building in Australia now. 😢

      Like 2
  4. gbvette62

    I love this thing, but I’d be scared to death to buy it. I’d want better proof that it was brought into the country legally, then a Mass title for a 04 GTO “Coupe”. It might just be me, but this thing screams rear ended 04 GTO, that someone acquired a cowl back body from a Holden Ute, and mated to the GTO. The VIN and trim tags shown in the listing just look sketchy to sketchy to me. I could see them setting off all kinds of alarms, to a halfway knowledgeable cop or DMV inspector.

    Legality aside, it is pretty neat, and you would have just about the most unique vehicle, and any local cruise night.

    I think Chevrolet really blew it in 2014, when they turned the Holden into the SS, and didn’t bring over the Ute as an El Camino.

    Like 15
    • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

      gbvette62:

      I thought the exact same thing but didn’t want to “color” the subject with that speculation. The GTO VIN, in particular, shouldn’t be transferable to a wrecked(?) or whatever Ute.

      Thx,

      JO

      Like 2
    • Larry

      The Aussie Ute would have had to go thru customs both in Australia and again here so there is no chance it is hot lol! They probably bought a wrecked GTO from the junkyard to use as a donor car – you switch the firewalls out with a few other bits and pieces to make the LHD conversion. So youre not looking at a chopped up rear-ended car!! I’ve already done one of these and are about to start on the second as soon as the Ute arrives!!

      Like 9
  5. 1-MAC

    they imported some rear drive Holdens as Caprices they were rear drive big v-8 and very fast. I think some were sold as police cars.

    Like 4
    • Tony C.

      GMH in Adelaide, Sth. Australia always had a stash of Chev LHD cop cars in their holding yard behind the factory ready for shipment to the US, they also sent some to Saudi Arabia with the Saudi police logos on the sides, rear plastic seats and a lexan screen and handcuff rings bolted to the floor in the back. A buddy of mine used to traytop truck them to the harbour on a regular basis for ‘roll on roll off’ shipping to the US, until the plant closed that is.

  6. qmmq

    New Jersey State Police run Holden Caprice’s. Very capable vehicles, unfortunately you would have to be a municipal to purchase.

    Like 2
  7. Racer-x

    US: Pontiac GTO, Pontiac G8, Chevrolet SS, Chevrolet Caprice PPV

    They were approaching perfection with the VF/HSF GenF when Chevy killed it, just like clockwork.

    ~20K VE/VF imported to the US.

    My DD is a 2016 Caprice PPV. Love it.

    Like 4
    • Racer-x

      Ute conversion company (may not be affiliated with subject ute)

      http://www.lefthandutes.com/

      Like 3
    • qmmq

      Agreed…Chevy has a habit of killing cool things, as do most US automakers. Just think Saab (GM) and Volvo (FMC). Not that pacific auto makers are far behind in this respect. Honda and Toyota use to make some cool cars. Even Bavarian cars have become bland. Maybe only the the Koreans, with the Stinger??? IDK…

      Like 2
  8. Mitchell Ross

    They could have just brought a Maloo rear clip and spliced it onto a GTO

    Like 1
  9. CCFisher

    This has to be the front end of a GTO, including cowl, welded to the back half of a Holden Ute. There is simply no way an individual can bring a single vehicle into compliance with FMVSS. How do you crash test it?

  10. JoeNYWF64

    Do you HAVE to make somethin like this left hand drive to use it here?

    • CCFisher

      No. It makes drive-thrus complicated, but RHD is legal here.

      Like 4
    • Patrick Anderson

      If you import a car into Australia, if it is left hand drive it absolutely has to be converted to right hand.

      Like 1
      • Tony Carter

        Patrick, ‘WRONG’, provided a vehicle is over 30 years of age since it’s production date it can legally remain LHD and be fully registered and driven on Australian roads, in Western Australia it only needs to be 15 years old. All they need is a roadworthy/safety inspection and you’re good to go. No smog or emissions testing required either, in any of the states. I’m the registrations officer for the Cadillac La Salle car Club of South Australia Inc.and we cater for any brand of American production vehicle.

        Like 5
  11. Jamie Gershowitz

    So I contacted the seller regarding the seats and asked if those were seat covers. Also asked for photos without the seat covers. He replied that those were original GTO hard leather seats.
    Then I Googled Synterior (the label on the upper seat back) and found the seat covers on Amazon and eBay.
    Would you buy a used car from this seller?

    Like 11
    • Jim ODonnell Jim ODonnell Staff

      Jamie:

      Nice job, thx!

      My neighbor has a ’67 resto-mod Camaro with seats from an 04′ GTO and they don’t like the ones in this Camino/Ute/GTO, whatever you want to call it, vehicle. Plenty of reasons here to be suspicious.

      JO

      Like 3
  12. Maestro1 Member

    Several people above have commented on the stupidity of GM, I among them, I sold my stock and stopped buying the cars.
    This is very interesting and unique. Someone should buy it just to own it;
    I have no room.

  13. ace10

    The Feds would use that Mass Title for bathroom tissue.

  14. Chuck Dickinson

    In Australia, there are a number of Pontiac Sport Trucks around. After dropping Pontiac here, Holden still had plenty of Pontiac parts which had been destined for the unborn US version, so they are/were available for local purchase. A friend in Melbourne ‘converted’ his Holden Caprice to a Chevy Caprice by simply going to the Holden dealer and buying all the right Chevy badging that had gone unused. Same thing with creating a Pontiac ST out of a Holden ute. On the exterior, it’s basically a change of the front fascia and some emblems.

    Like 2
    • TC Oztralia

      In Oz there are plenty of late model Holdens running around with the Chevvy bowtie badges on them either bought from the US or China or stolen from the GM factory by people who worked there, most people make fun of them and reckon they’re a joke. The usual comment is something like, ‘you have to be kidding pal it’s just a Holden with Chevvy badges on it, who do you reckon you’re kidding’? It must have something to do with Chevvy envy by people who couldn’t afford to buy a real one. There’s even bumper stickers making fun of people with the Chev badges on there cars.

      Like 1
  15. Len Burke

    Guys, I`m an Aussie in Fl. There are a couple of ways you can pull this of under the 25 year rule. Buy a ute shell or fully running ute in Oz,.
    Pull the motor and some interior, and ship as parts. As mentioned above use a LHD donor for the firewall and install a LHD spec engine.
    Or you buy same shell and cut half way up the “A” pillars and across the floor behind front seats.Bingo, tack on the front of a Pontiac or Chevy SS of same model year. There are a number of guys who have done this.
    The lovely DMV in Fl don`t inspect anything if it doesnt show a damaged vehicle title.When you get one then you add a big 5 post Aussie “Roo” bar
    Google Aussie “Utes” you will be amazed at what we do down under.

    Like 3
  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    3 hours left and it looks like the Seller is going to “win” this one with that single bid.

    Like 2
  17. dave

    You can build your own UTE I have a VW Beetle conversion Smyth Performance also makes a kit for the Dodge Charger http://www.smythkitcars.com

    • Claudio

      🤢🤮

  18. Erik

    To me this thing is as ugly as the Aztek. I was a HUGE Pontiac fan into the late 1980s but then by the mid 1990s Pontiacs became as bad looking as a woman who did not know when to stop and got too much plastic surgery done to a once beautiful face. The final Pontiacs were overly plastic cladded (bulbous fronts, too thick side rockers, thick rear ends, unnecessary airdams) that catered to few buyers. And interiors were plasticville and like they had been injected with botox. Ultimately was the look of Pontiacs that made them poor sellers and killed them off when it was time for GM to get financially lean in order to survive. If they would have been making nice looking vehicles that sold as well as the hot selling Hondas and Toyotas of the time then the Pontiac nameplate would live today and could have rode the retro wave with GTO and Firebird but likely by now would be selling rebadged GM crossovers and SUVs…so nothing would be really different.

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