Driving up the freeway on the morning commute, I overtook something that looked a bit out of place. While pickup trucks have morphed into all sorts of variations, this one was different. It was relatively stripped, and it was older, with the basic jellybean shape going on. Beyond that, it was small, roughly the size of an old Toyota or Datsun pickup. Most curiously, the bed was integral to the bodywork, and there was a triangular quarter window installed behind the door.
I need to get a couple of things out of the way here, and the first was that I was unable to capture a photo of my catch, as I was driving alone and traffic was being unruly. Second is that, living near the California-Baja California border, it is a solid assumption that when a vehicle, especially a smaller, low-end one, is unfamiliar, it is likely a visitor from Mexico.
The license plate is the key, and though California and BC have similar looking plates at a casual glance, a close look will give away the game. In this case, I was too busy taking in all the small novelties in the appearance of the truck to actually get a glimpse of the plate. The bowtie emblem on the tailgate had an unfamiliar look about it, and the “Tornado” lettering was a new model for me as well. The integral bed and the side window treatment quickly grabbed my attention, and that was all I had a chance to see.
The view from the front quarter explained some things, but also brought on new questions. The belt line of the truck, unlike most, actually begins to dip at the rear corner of the cab, going forward. So while the rear cab window is wide but not tall, the side glass, and particularly the windshield, offer broader expanses of glass and good forward range of vision. From the front quarter view, this thing looks more like a car than a truck.
So, home from work, searching “Chevrolet Tornado” on-line immediately turned up my quarry. It was built in Brazil from 2004 through 2010, and sold in Mexico as the “Tornado”, even as it was sold as the “Montana” in other markets. I assume I saw the older year version, as it was a very basic “stripper”, and the Tornado appeared to get a bit visually fancier over the course of the model run.
The engines were 1.4 liter and 1.8 liter Opel-sourced engines (hmm), with a 5-speed front-wheel-drive powertrain (hmm). Sounds like an Opel car. In fact, the Tornado was a pickup version of a van version (the “Combo”) of the Opel Corsa “C”, built from 2000 through 2006 in Germany, with the production run extended to 2012 in Brazil. So, in fact, it is a car underneath the truck exterior.
I prefer to simply think of it as a baby Australian Ute. How cool would it be to have one of those?