It’s a funny feeling when one encounters a car from a far-flung country that looks kind of “off”. On this site, we see 1960s-vintage Chevrolet Opalas treated to 1980s redesigns and Lincoln Town Cars tweaked to become Hongqis and we think, “That just doesn’t look right.” This Holden Commodore ute is probably tripping your “off” detectors right now. Rest assured, they didn’t all look this weird.
Does it look more normal now? Admittedly, it’s still a bit unsightly. A company called Jakab Industries, based in rural Tamworth, New South Wales, stretched the Commodore ute by 23.6 inches to allow for this fiberglass pod to be put on the back for ambulance duty. For context, a regular Commodore ute was 191.57 inches long on a 111-inch wheelbase.
The photo above is from Flickr user sv1ambo, who also had this to say:
The design was such that ambulance services could remove the module and fit it to a new extended ute when the car was due for replacement, thus reducing their operating costs. Further adding to the savings achieved was the belief the longer utes would be popular as trademan’s vehicles after their service life and achieve a higher resale value than that of a used ambulance.
Jakab performed these ambulance conversions on Commodores throughout the 1990s, in addition to building ambulance pods for the Ford F-Series and assembling busses. The VS Commodore ute, the last in a line dating back to the VN Commodore-based VG of 1990, ended production in 2000 in preparation for the new generation VT models. Jakab didn’t do any conversions of the new VT utes and went out of business in 2002. I wonder if the increased use of vans for ambulance duty hastened their demise.
I’m not sure these Jakab Commodores were ever used in Queensland, where I live. We’ve been using Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans as ambulances for so long in Queensland that I’d forgotten most of what was used beforehand other than the Ford F-Series. Though I have no recollection of these Jakab Commodores in service, I’ve certainly come across a few over the years sans pods. I’d always wondered what the story was behind these weird, stretched-taffy Commodores. Now I know, and now you know.