Americans are scratching their heads over a right-hand-drive Holden Commodore SS ute that has appeared in an online auction with ID tags from a US police car.
The Holden Commodore ute never made it to the US in an official capacity after plans to export it there evaporated when the Pontiac brand was axed in the grip of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
However, the fascination with car-derived utes such as the V8-powered Holden Commodore has not faded in North America.
General Motors and Holden came so close to exporting the Commodore ute to the US as a Pontiac, rapper 50 Cent unveiled the vehicle at the 2008 New York Auto Show.
The vehicle was supposed to be in US showrooms by the end of 2009, but the project was killed as General Motors went into bankruptcy and the Pontiac brand was axed.
Since then, a small number of specially converted Holden Commodore utes have appeared in the street machine scene.
A handful of vehicles have made it onto US roads after a lengthy compliance process.
Now a black right-hand-drive Holden Commodore SS VF Series I – powered by a 6.0-litre V8 with six-speed manual – has appeared in the online auction website Cars And Bids.
The odometer shows about 82,000km (or 51,000 miles), and the vehicle has an optional hard lid and aftermarket quad exhaust tips.
A front registration plate from Victoria is shown in the photographs, but there appears to be no registration plate for the rear.
The vehicle’s bonafides have been questioned by some experts, but the seller says the paperwork is legitimate.
In the US, privately imported vehicles must also have certain US-certified components, which precludes many cars from being registered there for road use.
The seller’s description on Cars And Bids says: “This is a right-hand-drive, Australian-spec Holden ute that’s registered in Tennessee as a 2015 Chevrolet Caprice with a Specially Constructed title.
“This pick-up was built using a bare ute shell and parts from a Chevrolet Caprice Police Pursuit Vehicle (PPV) and a Chevrolet SS,” the listing continues.
“The list of Caprice PPV-sourced parts includes the 6.0-litre V8, the catalytic converters, the seatbelts, and the airbags. Parts sourced from (a Holden Commodore-based Chevrolet SS) include the 6-speed manual transmission, the limited-slip differential, the hubs, the front clip, and the doors.”
According to the enthusiast website Carscoops, which spotted the listing and was the first outlet to report the mystery surrounding the vehicle: “In other words, the vehicle you see isn’t technically a Caprice or a Chevy SS, it is a Holden ute. It simply had Caprice and SS parts grafted into it to make it run and drive properly. Plus, the VIN corresponds to a Chevy Caprice PPV.”
Carscoops went on to say: “For those unaware, that’s a very murky grey area with regard to legality here (in the United States). The owner argues that it’s legal because … most of the parts on a Holden ute are available here in the USA.”
But not everyone was buying this explanation.
A representative for Left Hand Utes – one of the few outfits in the US to convert right-hand-drive utes to left-hand-drive – alleged the vehicle for sale was “circumventing import laws by changing VINs with a USA Holden vehicle,” and that right-hand-drive Holdens were “not crash-tested-certified to USA rules.”
Interested buyers of the right-hand-drive Holden Commodore SS ute were encouraged to do their research before bidding on the car, which was up to $US22,000 when we last checked.
That works out to be about $30,000 in Australian currency – roughly half the price a similar vehicle would fetch in Australia.
If the car is legit – as the seller says it is – the buyer will likely be getting a bargain at that price.
If a US government agency deems the paperwork for the vehicle is not be up to scratch, industry observers say there is a risk the car could be impounded.
Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.