American auto enthusiasts have long cried out for the return of the Chevrolet El Camino. The half-car, half-truck model departed from America in 1987, but it still thrived in The Land Down Under (where it was started), referred to by Australians as ‘utes’. Randy Reese, owner and operator of Left Hand Utes in Denver, Colorado, realized there may be a small niche market for utes in America, and began importing Holden ute bodies from Australia as parts vehicles, then combining them with General Motors vehicles from America, thereby making them legal to be registered in the U.S.
Reese told Jalopnik that his utes aren’t just “chop and weld jobs”. He uses all the safety equipment that comes with the original ute, including air bags, ABS and traction control. He even hooked the heated seats up for a customer once.
“90% of the original ute wiring harness gets used,” Reese said.
To create later-model utes, built after 2011, Reese uses the platform from a Caprice police car. For models built before 2011, Reese uses Pontiac G8s as donor cars. The vehicles get their own VIN, similar to a kit car, allowing them to be legally registered stateside.
“I don’t make any guarantees until (the ute parts) get into the United States, because you never know what’s gonna happen on the boat,” Reese told Jalopnik.
Reese says automotive registration and documentation in Australia is much different than it is in the U.S.. Because vehicles Down Under are usually registered electronically, a lack of physical paperwork when bringing the cars into the US can create a headache. Apart from the paperwork and actually getting the vehicles into the States, the next most difficult part of building a left-hand drive ute is the wiring. Reese says he has trouble getting wiring diagrams for the utes, which can have some pretty advanced electronics.
“There was a 2012 Maloo which had something called the Advanced Driver Interface made by MoTec. It monitors the track, tells you if you’re oversteering or understeering, over braking or under braking. Basically the same setup as the GT-R… that took a LOT of work to set up.”
Reese has built eleven utes so far, and is currently working on an Ivy Green 2010 Holden Maloo which is receiving a 6.2-liter engine and a manual transmission. Check out some more of his builds at his website, lefthandutes.com. If you like what you see, drop Reese a line and let him know you want one, but be prepared to fork over about 30 grand.