Homemade Holden Commodore SS Ute Replica Is For Sale Here, But It’s Sketchy

It takes parts from U.S.-market cars, but that might not be enough.

byNico DeMattia| PUBLISHED Apr 19, 2022 4:49 PM
Homemade Holden Commodore SS Ute Replica Is For Sale Here, But It’s Sketchy
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Between 2007 and 2017, Holden—General Motors' Australian arm—made a Commodore SS performance ute. Sadly, it was never brought here to the United States, despite being mechanically similar to cars we have here. The Commodore SS also isn't old enough yet to be legally imported to the States, so if you really want one, you're going to have to make it yourself. Luckily, that's what one guy in Tennessee did by combining an Australian-market Commodore ute shell, a Chevy Caprice PPV, and a Chevy SS.

It's even up for sale on Cars and Bids. But be aware that this Frankenstein Commodore doesn't have a spotless or fully documented history—and that it includes its VIN.

According to the seller, this ute conversion was made by importing the aforementioned ute shell and stuffing in the 6.0-liter, naturally aspirated V8 from a Caprice PPV, as it's the same engine used in the second-gen Commodore SS. The Caprice PPV also donated its exhaust headers, catalytic converters, and suspension. Additionally, a Chevy SS sedan gave up its six-speed manual, limited-slip differential, hubs, 19-inch wheels, and cooling system. The seller then swapped out its Chevy badges for Holden badges and voila—an American Holden Commodore SS was born, for the most part.

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Now, importing a disassembled car isn't as easy as slapping in a new engine and transmission and calling it a day. The U.S. Department of Transportation lists the details for doing so as such:

"A disassembled vehicle that is shipped without an engine and transmission is treated for importation purposes not as a motor vehicle, but instead as an assemblage of motor vehicle equipment items. Such an assemblage can lawfully be imported into the U.S., provided any equipment included in the assemblage that is subject to FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards), but was not originally manufactured to comply with that FMVSS or was not so certified by its original manufacturer, is removed from the assemblage prior to entry into the U.S. Equipment items that are subject to the FMVSS include tires, rims, brake hoses, brake fluid, seat belt assemblies, glazing materials, and lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment."

The seller claims that all of the important FMVSS components were removed and replaced with those found in either a U.S. market Caprice PPV or Chevy SS. However, there aren't any images of the actual build process, so there's no photo evidence. Commenters have taken issue with this, as well as the VIN belonging to a Chevy Caprice.

This is where the going gets tricky, and it's also why most people just wait until a car is old enough to import it as a whole.

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Since it was built for Australia, the Commodore SS chassis is right-hand drive. Legally importing a right-hand drive car to the U.S. can be tiresome if it's not at least 25 years old, even though Chevy sold what is essentially a mechanically identical left-hand drive version of the Commodore SS in America. Still, even if there's a U.S.-certified left-hand drive version of the car, it needs to be deemed substantially similar and that isn't always the case.

How do you know if your right-hand-drive import is indeed substantially similar to a U.S.-spec car? According to the NHTSA, the manufacturer must supply a letter saying the RHD vehicle would perform the same as a normal U.S. car in crash tests; if that's unavailable, then the importer would need to prove it's capable themselves. That's not so easy when you're building a one-off like this.

Cars & Bids

Was any of this done? The seller doesn't say. The FrankenHolden is supposedly registered in Tennessee with a "Specially Constructed" title. That hasn't stopped commenters on Cars & Bids from arguing with the seller about the legitimacy of his build, nor does it really answer the question about the VIN that could very well throw a red flag for regulators if they decided to look into it.

If this car legally checks out, it would be awesome to own. A 6.0-liter V8, manual, rear-wheel-drive performance ute? Most definitely. Just make sure you know what you're getting into before pulling the trigger.

Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: nico.demattia@thedrive.com