1975 Holden HJ Sandman ute - Buyer's Guide

By: Guy Allen, Cliff Chambers

Presented by

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While the numbers of Sandman utes has dwindled, there is still a reasonable selection on the market at halfway reasonable prices...


1975 Holden HJ Sandman ute

Looking back now, it’s unquestionable that Holden’s Sandman series was prescient. Sure it was riding a 1970s wave that saw the rise of the panel van from humble load carrier to surfie transport of choice. And mobile bedroom – depending on who you talked to. No, that was very much a vehicle of its time.

The prescient part was the Sandman utility – the forerunner of the sports utility that really took off through the 1990s, some two decades later. In fact our crew reckons the VT SS ute of 1997 was the next true successor to the Sandman.

| Read next: Holden Sandman review

holden-sandman-4.jpgA very rare sight on our roads and still turning heads

Prior to the HQ series, a ute was a ute. It was a load-hauler that you threw ladders and half empty paint tins into, along with the cement mixer and wheelbarrow. But, all of a sudden, here was a variant with stylish wheels, lairy stripes and full GTS instrument kit. In the brochures of the day, they were carrying dirt bikes and surfboards.

| 2017-18 Market Review: Holden HQ-HZ utility/van/One Tonne/Sandman

Really it was a stroke of genius. A way of glamourising what was, underneath the eye-watering paint, a fairly conventional piece of engineering and finding a younger market that saw a whole new use for it.

You could in fact keep the spec pretty humble. From the start Holden offered the two sixes, plus the 4.2 and 5.0lt V8s. Really it was the 4.2lt V8 mated to a four-speed M20 manual transmission or Trimatic which typified this series.

holden-sandman-front.jpgThe Sandman proved a novel way for the General to move more commercial units

Underneath you had a live axle and leaf springs at the rear, albeit with the springing rate backed off at the rear.

As a series, the Sandman nameplate lasted through to HZ. Some early development work had been done on a WB version, but it was not to be.

Read next: Holden HQ-HZ & WB V8 utes

For Holden, the Sandman helped to make up for the slow demise of the Monaro nameplate and just maybe helped retain some customers as a result. However the overall production numbers don’t seem to be huge, while the survival rate is low.

holden-sandman-rear-2.jpgChrome touches take it from tradie to tempting

Rarest of the breed is a clean HQ version. These came out very late in the life of the HQ series and are now thin on the ground. The HJ – which covers this example – is arguably a better-looking car. For some reason the more prominent square-jawed radiator look seemed to suit the van and ute far better than the sedans.

There has of course been a mini industry spring up, converting vans in particular to Sandman spec. That means that, if you’re in the market, make sure you know what you’re paying for. A good tribute car will always be worth substantial money, but the original will always command more.

holden-sandman-11.jpgGTS wheels, chrome, stripes and bright yellow paint...must be the 70s

Ian G, the owner of this stunning 1975 HJ, credits his son with finding the car. It’s the 4.2lt manual version, which they sourced out of Toowoomba in Queensland.

Why this car? "My son and I love going on the Targa Tas Classic Rallye – a fantastic event – and we’d been running about in his GTS Monaro for about three years. He’s a car aficianado and called and told me he’d found a car for me.

"We test drove it in Toowoomba. There were only 800 made and I fell in love with it. It had been given a body-off restoration, a complete rebuild, and ran like a dream.


"We took it to a Holden show judge. He took a look and said, ‘If you didn’t buy it I would have.’

"It had a few little non-original things, which we changed. It’s not concours. But cars, in my opinion, are there to be driven!"

What’s it like to drive? "It is absolutely sweet. It is as steady as can be, and isn’t light in the tail."


It’s running fresh Monroe shocks all round, and he has a lot of regard for its handling. We’ve seen it action in Tassie and can vouch for the fact it gets along very well.

So does he have any prior history with the Sandman nameplate? None that he’s admitting to. There was some vague mention of shaggin’ wagons and then, "I’d rather not comment. Let’s just say I really like Sandmans…"



Buying a Sandman without panel-van bodywork does kind of defeat the purpose of having one. If enjoying sun, sand and sexual freedom are (or were) your intentions, then nestling down for the night in a tray that was open to the elements or under a claustrophobic tonneau cover didn’t hold a lot of appeal. It is therefore accepted that far fewer Sandman utes were sold new than were vans, however finding accurate production numbers is not possible. What we can say with some certainty is, despite being less common, the ute is going to cost you less than a van of similar quality.

holden-sandman-gearstick.jpgFour on the floor was the only way to go

Buying a correct Sandman utility can still be costly. Not long ago it would have been near-impossible to pay more than $50,000 for a utility. Today that price is now a starting point and $70,000 is looking viable for one in exceptional condition.

Authenticity remains a big issue. General belief is that all Sandman vans and utes were based on Belmont models but some owners insist they have a Kingswood-based utility. Numbers on the body plate can be a help but five minutes with a drill and rivet gun can move plates from a rusted or damaged genuine Sandman to an entirely different vehicle.

VALUE RANGE - Holden Sandman (ute)

Fair: $18,000
Good: $40,000
Excellent: $60,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)




Ensuring that you are buying a genuine Sandman is essential. Codes XX7 or XU3 following the model designation on the Build Plate should denote a genuine vehicle, but they were only used in the Brisbane factory and some did leave without them. Expert assessment is recommended before buying and even then 100 per cent certainty is unlikely. Despite the vehicles’ popularity when new, HQ-HZ ute side panels are difficult to find, so check carefully for rust and excessive filler. Reproduction tailgate skins. mudguards and the bonnet are available but check around windscreens, wheel-arches, the cabin floor and lower firewall for rust. Reproduction stripes and decals are available or they can be copied by a vehicle sign-writer.



If your Sandman engine isn’t blowing blue smoke, leaking buckets of oil from the rear crankshaft seal or overheating then it probably has a fair chunk of life left. Even if the motor is tired, all the parts needed for a rebuild are available and inexpensive. Retaining the original engine is important if you’re looking to maintain the value of an otherwise original vehicle and a professional bottom-end rebuild should cost $3500-5000. The original four-speed manual or Tri-matic transmissions easily handle the output of standard engines and they too are easily reconditioned.



No endemic dramas here as the HQ-HZ commercial models stuck with coil front/leaf rear suspension which was tough and very basic. Worn shock absorbers and chopped-out wheel bearings are common, so it’s worth giving the front wheels a wiggle and the front end a ‘bounce’ test. V8s had power disc front brakes which are adequate if in good condition. Look for excessive brake pedal travel or hydraulic system leaks. These can be revealed by pressing the pedal for around 30 seconds with the engine running and noting if it heads towards the floor.



Bucket seats, door armrests trim and GTS-style steering wheels are the items of interior trim that put Sandman utes in a class above basic bench-seat versions. The interior plastics were good quality but 40+ years of sun and neglect will cause cracks and possible disintegration of switch-gear. New items aren’t generally available but replacing the centre console with a reproduction item will cost around $1000. Unless the vehicle has been treated to a complete restoration the wiring is likely original and prone to failure, so make sure that indicators, the ventilation fan and high-beam headlights all work. Factory air-conditioning is a major bonus but may need considerable money spent to work reliably.


1971-1979 Holden Sandman utility specs

BODY: Integrated body/chassis two-door utility
ENGINE:  4142cc or 5048cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 161kW  @ 4800rpm, 400Nm @ 3100rpm (5.0-litre HZ)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h:   9.6 seconds, 0-400 metres  18.0 seconds (HZ 5.0 auto)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, control arms and telescopic shock absorbers (f); live axle with semi-elliptic springs, locating links and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES:  ER70HR14 radial



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