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Aussie Icon: The Holden Sandman

Aussie Icon: The Holden Sandman

Does the sight of a Sandman take you back?

Once a symbol of independence, freedom, and youthful liberation, these vehicles were very 70s, capturing the public taste and the mood of the era.

The Sandman was sold by GMH between 1974 and 1979, you had the choice of panelvan or ute, and 6 or 8 cylinders.

By today’s standards it was fairly basic, even with the fluffy dice, shagpile carpet and those over-the-top decals down the sides.

The Sandman has a loyal band of supporters to this day.

If anything, the car’s popularity seems to be growing, as have the prices for immaculately restored examples.

There are still plenty of fans, people who don’t mind in the slightest that their pride and joy is around 40 years old, and not always easy to live with.

You will find Sandman Facebook fan pages, swap-meets and so on, and recently I caught up with a group of Victorian enthusiasts, members of the Sandman Car Club of Australia Inc.

Club President, Ivan Rados, says group activities cover everything from club runs to charity work, there’s technical information and support, getting the word out about their beloved vehicles.

“It’s an old car” Ivan admits “so it’s not always pleasurable.

“No fuel economy, but you feel good in them, you feel good. You know you’re in something special”.

Other members echoed the sentiment.

Justin says his interest was sparked by his Dad, who worked in a Holden dealership.

While Justin  has spent precious dollars purchasing and restoring his van and ute, it’s money well-spent he says.

“The cars get plenty of looks, people honking their horns, people waving as you drive past”.

The only drawback with the van seems to be limited visibility from the driver’s seat.

“Being a van with no windows on the side, and very small mirrors…  you’ve got to be fairly careful how you drive it”.

Jenny is another Sandman devotee, proud owner of an immaculate HZ ute.

“I love it” she says “I love the look, I love the way it sounds… I don’t quite love the smell of petrol in the garage, but that’s alright.

“It’s great to drive, and I like that there’s not a lot of them around… utes are less common”.

Chris bought a panelvan on the internet a few years ago, but was amazed to find that the wreck he’d bought as a paddock bomb was in fact, a Sandman.

Chris found remnants of a special metallic pink paint colour on some of the panels, and the restoration began.

Four years later, it still isn’t finished.

Later they found a white HJ van for sale, it was his wife, Jodie, who made the purchase this time, and it’s now their favourite.

Jodie says “It’s great, we get to go out without the kids – two seats – it’s just something that’s fun, something that we can share together.”

Kathy says a shared love of panelvans helped make up her mind when she met Ivan. Because they both appreciated the cars, she decided he was a keeper!

It seems to be a common theme.

Michael says he and Jenny both like old Holdens, the utes in particular, and that it’s good having a wife who shares that passion.

“It’s great fun, it’s a good bunch of guys we meet, you can just sit down and talk all about cars, and just have a great time.”

Their love of the cars is contagious, and if you feel the same way, they would love to her from you. You can check out the club’s website: www.sandmanclub.com

Fans of the Sandman, van or ute, will tell you these cars are a celebration of the Australian way of life, and with their support and enthusiasm, the Sandman story of independence and freedom is bound to roll on for another 40 years at least.

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About Peter Hitchener 64 Articles
Peter is a recent addition to the team, coming on as a writer and co-host of the podcast in the past year. Peter is a familiar face to Victorians as anchor of Nine News in Melbourne for 17 years. Before that, he had a history in radio as a broadcaster at 3AW, 3AK, 4BH and the ABC. Learning to drive on the farm as a kid, Peter was always drawn in by the look and design of cars. A passionate enthusiast, he loves anything with four wheels and a motor and has owned and driven countless vehicles in his lifetime.

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