The car-based compact pickup trucks They’re having a great time: The Hyundai Santa Cruz debuted to rave reviews, and Ford can’t seem to build enough Mavericks trucks to keep up with the demand. But a decade before these two compact trucks, we almost had a modern Chevy El Camino: the Pontiac G8 ST/Holden Ute.
Holden was the Australian division of General Motors. It built several trim levels of the Holden Commodore sedan, including a wagon variant. Until 2017, the Holden Utility was a two-door utility coupe. Holden also advertised it as the “ute” which is Australian slang for a van.
The Australian automaker built several Utes, as far back as 1951. But the 2000-2017 Holden Utility was a different vehicle. By the end of his career, he could choose between a 3.6-liter V6 and a 6.0-liter V8 with special SS trims.
Other Ute variations included the Holden Crewman four-door, Holden One Tonner chassis/cab, and the performance-oriented Maloo which was built by the independent Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) division. In 2006, a Maloo even surpassed the Dodge Ram SRT-10 as the fastest truck in the world when it reached a top speed of 168 MPH.
The Pontiac G8 ST
General Motors revealed a US market version of the Holden Ute at the 2008 New York International Auto Show. This coupe utility was billed as the Pontiac G8 Sport Truck (ST).
Despite the different markings, the Pontiac G8 ST featured the same specifications as the Holden Ute. This included a 73-inch bed, a 3.6-liter V6, and even the available 6.0-liter V8. PickupTruck.com reported that GM had told the press that the Pontiac Sport Truck would be a 2010 model, according to web archive. It was scheduled to start at $31,000.
Just before the Pontiac G8 ST could go into production, the international recession hit. GM, like most car manufacturers, decided to reduce its lineup. The changing exchange rate between Australian dollars and US dollars made the G8 ST especially risky, so GM canceled the project.
The new Chevy Camino SS that could have been
General Motors canceled the Chevrolet Camino in 1987. The Pontiac G8 ST was intended to be its first utility coupe in two decades. But why wasn’t it identified as Chevry Camino?
From an engineering perspective, the Pontiac badge made sense. The Holden Commodore of the time was directly based on the Pontiac G8, and the Holden Ute was a modified Commodore.
But the Commodore was built on GM’s Zeta platform, so it shared a chassis with the Chevrolet Caprice and Camaro. It was also related to the Chevrolet Lumina that General Motors offered in the Middle East, parts of Asia, and Africa. In fact, General Motors briefly offered a rebadged Holden Ute in some parts of the world: the Chevrolet Lumina SS.
General Motors even went so far as to hold a naming contest for the Pontiac G8 ST. The company received more than 18,000 suggestions, some of which must have been “El Camino,” but kept the Pontiac G8 ST name until it canceled the project. Perhaps GM planned to release a special edition, with an even more powerful engine, badged as the Chevy El Camino. Unfortunately, we will never know.
Below, read why Chevy should build a new square-body pickup, or learn about the Colorado company that imports Holden Ute bodies for the Pontiac G8 in the following video from Dough DeMuro: