Barn-find HG ute seized by French customs in 2018 finally returned!

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

HG Ute saved HG Ute saved

Remember the little HG Ute that found itself at the centre of an international controversy?

Here’s something we’re extremely happy to report!

Remember that barn-find HG ute that was seized by French customs around this time last year?

Well, after a tumultuous 12 months, the humble ute is back with its owner, a UK-based Aussie named Travis McKimmie.


The 1970 HG Ute was originally delivered to New Zealand, and spent 14+ years sitting idle in the Netherlands before being uncovered (with a red twin) in an Amsterdam barn by a Holden-crazed friend of McKimmie’s.

The red one was in mint condition and was claimed by his mate who got first dibs with the find. He offered the yellow one to McKimmie in exchange for parts once he received it in England where McKinnie had plans to restore the old girl to its former glory. McKimmie already owns a HK Brougham which was imported into the UK in 1968 as a GM-H display vehicle, and used to own a HG Ute back in Australia (below).


The HG Ute was seized by French Customs at the border in a routine inspection.

French authorities found a bag of marijuana in the vehicle which did not belong to him, and was likely left by its previous owner. While the substance only carried a small fine of €70 Euros, French authorities really took exception to the ute’s double floorpan which they asserted could be used for smuggling. The ute, looked like it was destined for the crusher.

Travis wrote back, pleading to save his ute. Along with extensive documentation, McKimmie pointed out that the double floorpan was nothing malicious, but instead was a cost-cutting engineering method of production when manufacturing the utes out of station wagon chassis’.

French authorities seemed immovable however, stating that the car was seized under Article 323.2 of the French Customs Code, and further stated that McKimmie’s only option was to contest the driver’s settlement agreement with French Customs who would subsequently "be obliged to bring legal action against [McKimmie] for the offence and to request a fine accompanied by a prison sentence of up to ten years"…


Fast forward almost 12 months, the HG ute is back with its beloved owner.

In the end, thankfully, French authorities didn’t end up crushing the car, and instead decided that it would be used for "educational programs to show how drugs were trafficked".

To McKimmie’s surprise, three weeks ago he received an email from French Customs stating that due to the evidence he had supplied, and special exception; the humble Holden could be returned to him.

"Today I made the 800 mile round trip to collect it" he stated, closing the book on what we can only imagine has been 12 months of head and heart ache.

We’re overjoyed that his little piece of Aussie history abroad has been saved, and we wish Travis all the best in restoring the old gal. We’d love to see her when she’s finished!


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