By on March 21, 2008

2010-pontiac-g8-sport-truck-600.jpgOne of TTAC's Best and Brightest asked the obvious question: "is Lawrence Ulrich working for you secretly?" Nope. It's just that love is breaking out all over for the new Pontiac G8 pickup ute sport truck thingie. More specifically, The New York Times car hack asks "Who exactly was clamoring for a two-seat, gas-guzzling pickup with the cheapest-looking interior this side of a Motel 6?" [NB: TTAC would have said "Who the Hell…"] The Wheels' description of the G8 without the rear seats is plenty pithy: "The 6-liter V-8 from the G8 sport sedan, good for 361 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds. The 74-inch cargo bed can handle just under 1,100 pounds, and there’s a 3,500-pound towing capacity. Now, if it could only tow itself away." Ulrich describes the "we don't know what to call it so you do it" Aussie import as "Like Hell Camino: a pointless hodgepodge that’s worthy of an expletive-filled diss from 50 Cent himself." [thanks to Nicholas Weaver for the link]

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29 Comments on “NYT: New Pontiac G8 Ute is “Hell Camino”...”

  • avatar

    Nothing like an objective review from the NYT.

    Regardless, I think it looks sweet as hell and I hope it sells decently. I’d rather see the road filled with V8 El Caminos instead of Blandmrys.

  • avatar

    I agree that it looks great. At least from the back.


  • avatar

    NYT SSDD, Does Ulrich even drive?

  • avatar

    To GM’s Mr. Barger, and others who accuse TTAC and its readers of bias: note that GM is not immune from praise on TTAC.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    It’s just an extremely niche lifestyle car. It’s not supposed to be a volume vehicle, it’s not supposed to compete with any actual utility vehicles. It’s just meant to be a coupe version of the G8 but with a big trunk and that’s exactly what it is.

    Keep in mind, this cost GM literally nothing to develop, since it was already being done for Australia. If they sell 6000 a year, then that’s 6000 a year.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Actually, 6K a year DOES cost GM, just like the GTO cost GM:

    Its being imported, which means you are fighting the declining dollar.

    It needs to be federalized, which is a pile of paperwork, which costs money.

    It needs advertising, which costs money.

    It is a gas guzzler, so it’s a CAFE drag.

    And if there is ANY different sheetmetal, moulds for logos, etc, that costs money for tooling.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Nicholas Weaver:

    Fighting the declining dollar doesn’t cost money. They aren’t losing money on the G8 pickup truck, so even if the profits are smaller, that’s still a net gain.

    Federalizing was already done for the G8 sedan.

    They’re not going to advertise it much, if at all.

    CAFE is a good point, but GM has bigger fish to fry (and gas guzzlers on the road).

    And the tooling work was already paid for by the Holden Ute and Pontiac G8 creation process.

  • avatar

    And, to follow on Nicholas Weaver’s laundry list…

    The steering and controls must be switched from right to left.

    Or… are they not going to bother? Can they describe it as a feature? “Improved view of the gutter?” “Park and step straight out onto kerb?” Is LHD even a legal requirement?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Guys, the complaints you’re raising like switching RHD to LHD are issues with the G8 in general. There’s a good argument to be had about whether GM should have brought the G8 to the US at all.

    But once you’re at the point where the G8 is in America, the costs for the Ute are really close to nothing.

    In terms of LHD/RHD, the Holden Commodore (Pontiac G8) was engineered to be ambidextrous from the beginning because they sell a substantial number of these cars in the Middle East and China.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    KixStart: THOSE costs were paid for by the G8 sedan, however.

    Federalization will have cost for the variant.

    Tooling has cost for the variant, for every part which is different on the HellCamino from either the Holden Ute or the G8.

    But the most important, fighting the declining dollar DOES cost money.

    Back in 06, when the G8 was greenlighted, 1 US pesodollar bought ~1.3 Australian dollars. Now, in 2008, it buys ~1.1 Australian dollars.

    So the cost of manufacturing, from when the G8 was greenlighted to today, has gone up by nearly 20% just do to currency fluxuations.

    And when/if G8 production shifts to the US, bringing HellCamino production over here also has significant costs in new/additional sheetmetal tooling over the normal G8.

  • avatar

    NYT….yeah right.

    Anyway, I smell SSR all over this. Fortunately, GM knows the volume will be super low so their expectations should be low as well.

    They already have plenty of tire smoking muscle cars in their lineup, I just wish they’d use their $ to regain technological leadership and build great, fuel-efficient cars.

  • avatar

    Looks like a Subaru Brat raping the backside of a Monaro.

    I like it, though.

    Mullitude returns!

  • avatar

    Add this to the list of GM cars that look really interesting to me, and that I would love to own in some respect…..yet I will never buy one because what I really need is a decent, fuel efficient sedan for the daily slog to work. And the 07 Accord does that just fine. But really, if I had extra $$ I would like the Camino…or SSR…or Camaro. I guess this is the crux of the GM problem?

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    If I lived in post-apocalyptic Australia and needed a car, this might be it. Really, it would be a fly ride, especially with me sporting gunbelts and bandoliers and a mohawk scalp in my grill. But how does this play in current day Des Moines? Anybody?

    BTW: Can’t wait for the ultimate response…the Ranfusionero.

  • avatar

    “Who exactly was clamoring for a two-seat, gas-guzzling pickup with the cheapest-looking interior this side of a Motel 6?”

    Who the Hell doesn’t? Americans already buy these vehicles by the hundreds of thousands.

    We call them “fullsize trucks” and even Toyota makes one now. It features a huge gas-guzzling V8 engine, immense size, immense weight, obnoxious styling and a cheap plastic interior.

    Compared to them this car is a fuel sipper.

    It is also capable of doing most of the work Americans typically use their fullsize road hippos for without the capacity overkill, fuel consumption or dynamic penalties. It also fits in garages and parking spaces easily.

    It’s a brilliant car. But is selling it as a Pontiac instead of a Chevrolet as brilliant as the car itself is? I guess we’ll find out.

    Kudos to GM for having the balls to bring this car stateside. It is unlike anything else on the road.

    I even like the name Hellcamino for it.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Ummm…didn’t GM drop the El Camino/GMC Diablo in the 80’s for lack of sales? And that was when gas was cheap relatively speaking.

    TriShield, you’ve got it backwards. A full size truck can do everything this El Monaro can do, and more. OTOH, there are things this vehicle can’t do (like drive down a forest service two track) that a real truck can.

    You can also get a full size truck with your choice of cabs – note that almost all Urban Pickups driven by office dwellers (like me!) are not regular cab, but are extended cab or double cab designs.

    I don’t see this selling in large numbers. Now, for those who say “it’s not supposed to sell in large numbers” then my next question is: then why bring it over at all? How does a small-volume niche car help GM? We can debate the cost of bringing this vehicle over but if the cost is anything over $0 (and I’m sure it will be) then what is the ROI? For that matter, if selling an El Monaro means not selling a Silverado, is it really a win for GM?

    It’s interesting to note that the car/pickup thing has been tried a number of times in the past 25 years or so: Dodge Rampage, Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup, Subaru BRAT and Baja, and probably a couple of others I’ve forgotten about. All of those attempts now rest in the “where are they now?” heap of automotive sales failures. Why does GM think this will be any different?

    Or is it simply a case of trying desperately to resurrect the success of the 1960’s by making the same kind of cars they sold back then?

    It’s not enough to make a vehicle people talk about, or people have fond memories of. It’s not enough to generate “buzz.” People may love a vehicle in the abstract but if they’re not willing to lay down their money, it’s a failure, no matter how interesting it may seem. GM shouldn’t be in business to generate “Buzz” they should be in business to make cars people actually want to buy, not just talk about.

  • avatar

    No Martin, I do not have it backwards.

    I do not need a vehicle that tows 10,000 lbs, can hold 4,000lbs in it’s bed, that has four wheel drive, that averages 10-14mpg, body rolls around corners, takes long distances to stop from freeway speed, accelerates slowly to freeway speed, that I have to climb up into and that completely dominates my garage. If I did I would buy a fullsize truck.

    I do however need to haul things like appliances, tools, plants and rock for landscaping and other miscellaneous items for errands. I enjoy vehicles with performance oriented rides and driving dynamics. This car would be perfect for my needs and really that’s all most people really need.

    I rarely ever see anyone haul anything more than what I listed in a fullsize truck. In fact the majority of them I see only have one person in them and nothing in the bed ever.

    If you tow heavy loads or haul heavy loads routinely then you need a fullsize truck, but for a commuter a vehicle like that is definite overkill.

    The Holden Ute/G8 ST can haul what most people actually haul and can also serve as an excellent commuter car with excellent performance, comfort, interior amenities and driving dynamics. It also looks unlike any other new car on the market.

    It’s not hard to see why they are everywhere in Australia and why most people there don’t buy trucks. Maybe those Australians are on to something afterall.

    The last El Camino was discontinued because GM phased out the G-body platform it was built on and replaced it with the FWD W-body platform. It was not suitable for carrying a car like the El Camino on. It’s also the same reason GM stopped building Buick Grand Nationals which was another G-body car.

  • avatar

    The big problem I see with the G8amino is utility/cost compared with other pickups – the traditional BOF p’ups are a lot more useful and cheaper.

    Long before the recent Subaru Bahahaha, Chrysler and VW made light-duty pickup trucks of the Omni 024 and Rabbit in the early Eighties. Some Chrysler exec said that once all the pool cleaners in the country got their own, demand dried up.

  • avatar

    i had the misfortune of having a full size Toyota Tundra as a rental car for a day while my GTI was in the shop. (thanks alot enterprise). Trucks are stupid. No let me rephrase that, anyone who buys a full size pickup truck for a daily driver is stupid. The ride was horrible. The interior was garbage. The brake where scary bad. “handling” was no where to be found. all this while getting 15mpg!!!! and damn near $30,000. for what!? i really dont get it.

    i see tons of trucks on the road. 99% of the time the bed is empty and there is one MAYBE two people in it. And the trucks that i see actually being used for there intended purpose are NEVER brand new. they are always +10 years old. dented up. rusty. dirty…LIKE A TRUCK.

    for the price of a full size truck you could buy a really nice sedan. the money you save in gas could be used to RENT a truck for the 2 or 3 times each year that you use to justify buying the truck.

    good luck pontiac. this has alot of potential as a “crossover” vehicle for people that are getting out of full size trucks but still think they need one. i feel there is an untapted market for a truck crossover vehicle. (Ford Explorer -> Edge; Ford F150->G8 ST. you get the idea) give it a diesel engine for the full utilitarian feel.

  • avatar

    You guys don’t realize how perfect this thing is for NYC, where plywood comes 22 inches shorter than in the rest of the country.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    No Martin, I do not have it backwards.

    I do not need a vehicle that tows 10,000 lbs, can hold 4,000lbs in it’s bed, that has four wheel drive, that averages 10-14mpg, body rolls around corners, takes long distances to stop from freeway speed, accelerates slowly to freeway speed, that I have to climb up into and that completely dominates my garage.

    …and the key word in your response is “I.” Just like people who say “nobody needs an SUV” (Translation: I don’t need an SUV) the sales figures show otherwise. People vote with their wallets and people will buy what they think they need, regardless of whether someone else thinks they need it or not. Unless you (or GM) have a way of somehow converting the truck-buying public to your way of thinking, they will continue to buy real trucks, not converted cars. I can’t think of one thing this El Monaro does that a pickup doesn’t do.

    Furthermore, with it’s small bed and limited cargo capacity (likely to be under 1500lb, I’m sure) the proper competition for this truck is not full sized pickups but compact pickups, which are more versatile, more rugged, more economical, and unless GM sells these at fire-sale prices, likely to be less expensive.

    The last El Camino was discontinued because GM phased out the G-body platform it was built on and replaced it with the FWD W-body platform. It was not suitable for carrying a car like the El Camino on. It’s also the same reason GM stopped building Buick Grand Nationals which was another G-body car.

    That makes no sense whatsoever. If there had been a market for an El Camino, GM could certainly have spent the money to upgrade one of their other platforms to an El Camino style body. There have been numerous FWD car/pickups, I named 3 of them in my previous post: The Dodge Rampage, the Subaru BRAT and the Volkswagen Rabbit pickup.

    GM didn’t make a new El Camino when they could have. Why do you think that was?

  • avatar

    Because they opted to push the S10/S15 and concentrate on continuing to convert all their products to front-wheel drive.

    They could have continued producing turbo Buicks and Monte Carlos too and didn’t though people demanded they stay in production. The mass push to front-wheel drive killed the G-body and it’s most popular variants. The Monte returned later but it was never the same.

    Just because you can’t think of one advantage this car has over a truck doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any.

    It accelerates better, it corners better, it brakes better, it uses less fuel, it carves through traffic with ease, it has a shorter turning radius, it is vastly less prone to rollovers in hard cornering or emergency situations, it’s easier to enter and exit, it’s easier load due to it’s low tray floor, it’s easier to park in tight spaces and garages, and it’s going to turn heads unlike anything else on our roads.

    Last I checked there’s no real truck out there that has those merits. Not even the SVT Lighting or Ram SRT10. This car can also haul more than the old GMC Syclone which was an actual (and very cool) truck.

    “Compact” trucks also aren’t so compact anymore and use just as much fuel as their fullsize counterparts. The only one left standing is the Ranger and Ford is putting that to death soon.

    Everything Justin said about this car on the first page is correct. It’s in it’s own niche.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the Hell Camino being anymore successful than the last Holden Monaro GM brought to the states (although this one at least looks marginally better than the Cavalier-with-a-thyroid-problem appearance of the 2004-2006 GTO).

  • avatar

    You can name the Pontiac Whatever on their website and see how it looks on a name badge. I named mine “Crap Thunder” and submitted it. I hope it wins.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    During the 40s and early 50’s, Dodge, and probably other marques, offered a ” business coupe” A 2 seater with a huge trunk. Great looking cars and very practical for a salesman or somebody in a service trade.

  • avatar

    TriShield: Is this thing really going to use much less fuel than a truck? The G8 is rated at 17/25 with the 3.6 and 15/24 with the 6.0; I’m not sure if the G8 ST is going to be any different. A 2WD Chevy Colorado, on the other hand, gets between 18/24 and 16/22. Seems like a pretty negligible difference.

  • avatar

    its a cool performance car with a truck bed. i like it, given the bed is large enough to carry more than what a backseat and trunk will hold. most people who buy trucks don’t use them for their intended purpose. hell, i see 20 feet tall trucks that have never been offroad in their life. trucks somehow gained a “cool factor”. the popularity of the SUV is because its a “cool” (although poor) replacement for the Minivan. its not about function, people. if it can create hype and people like it, then it will sell. people are stupid that way. i just wonder how many people rushed out to get minivans since Brad Pitt was seen driving one…

  • avatar

    OK… these Aussie Utes have one very important distinction…. the Japanese and the Europeans have NOTHING like it (Brat doesn’t count.. not even close).

    The bed, although smaller than a full sized picked up, is fine for most people’s need. The Aussies don’t seem to have a problem with it. I see then all over being used. And I also noticed that if an Aussie needs some extra load room, they haul a utility trailer behind it. Almost every fuel station rents trailers there.

    Rather than compare it to a full size truck, compare it to the smaller pickups, such as the Toyota Tacoma.

    I’ve taken from long road trips in these performance utes (and in Western Australia, they are looooong trips). And they are very comfortable.

    Fuel wise, they aren’t bad. Not as good as a compact sedan. But better than a full size truck.

    The question that keeps getting banted about is “Who is going to buy it?””. In Australia, it is CUBs, slang for “Cashed Up Bogans“. What we used to call in the US “Oil Field Trash”. Blue collar, hard working males in their late 20’s and 30’s who have lucked in to some good paying jobs. They have earned some cash, don’t have a wife and kids to worry about, and they don’t want a snobby BMW or a boring Toyota. They have enough money for fuel. Hell… They spend more on beer on one night than they will spend on fuel for week.

    The NY Times would of course dismiss this ute. It is not something that would go over there. But it would go over very well in parts of California, the South, and the Midwest. This car is for the same people that like NASCAR, like their cars to roars, and can’t stand pretentious posers in BMWs.

    Unfortunately, I think the pool of Yank CUBs is getter smaller every day. The key to being a CUB is to have money left over on Monday after being paid Friday and drinking all day Saturday.

  • avatar

    This the perfect urban truck. Compare to trucks, it get great gas milage. I would venture a guess that 75% of truck owners only use 50% of their trucks capabilities. Trucks are more of a status symbol here in the midwest. There are plenty of actual people that need their trucks for work they do, but most are posing as if they are the hard-working, salt of the earth types. This thing is perfect for the posers and for its light truck capabilities.

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