Tested: Australia’s new $115k monster truck
1) Our auto industry isn't dead
Yes, we still make cars in this country. OK, not from scratch as we used to but Walkinshaw Automotive, in Clayton, Victoria, is keeping the legacy alive. Walkinshaw used to produce fire-breathing V8 Commodores, some of the best muscle cars in the world, under the HSV brand. Now, it does right-hand drive conversions in partnership with a few manufacturers, including General Motors, which supplies the left-hand drive Chevrolet Silverado and the Camaro performance coupe for conversion.
2) A complicated process
A Silverado arrives from the US as a fully manufactured left-hand drive pick-up, so the right-hand drive conversion process initially requires "unmanufacturing" - separating the body from the chassis, stripping out of the cabin and extensive cutting and welding in the firewall among other steps. Then right-hand drive components go in, such as the dash, heating and ventilation plumbing and steering gear. Each conversion takes about 100 hours and requires 700 new parts, 60 per cent of which come from local businesses that were once part of a much larger supply chain for Ford, Holden and Toyota. Walkinshaw's Chev conversion is backed by GM, which provides the digital files required for precise measurement and manufacture of the various mirrored components used in the conversion.
3) This thing is B-I-G
The Silverado 2500HD, a double-cab pick-up with four versions priced from $114,990, is 6.085 metres long - so it won't fit in the minimum, mandated Australian Standard size garage, which is 5.4m. The 3500HD is even longer, at 6.564m. A Silverado is almost 2.4m wide and 2m tall, while its tub is almost 2.5 metres from rear window to tailgate. Its kerb weight of 3616kg-3710kg is about 1.4 tonnes more than the Ford Ranger.
4) You don't need a truck licence
The Silverado 2500HD has a gross vehicle mass of 4491kg, so it just scrapes in under the 4500kg GVM maximum you can drive with a car licence. With a truck-style pintle hook it can tow up to 5890kg. The 3500HD's GVM is 5908kg, so it requires a truck licence. Its maximum towing capacity is 9000kg.
5) Prime grunt dept
You would think that the 6.6-litre Chev V8, with 1234Nm - and that's not a misprint - of prime grunt would be able to haul a heavier load than its main rival, the RAM Laramie 2500, which has a 6.7-litre straight-six that can only manage a feeble 1084Nm. Not so. The RAM, which also limbos in under the 4500kg GVM limit, claims a maximum towing weight (with pintle hook) of 6942kg, more than a tonne greater than the Chevy. Both will tow up to 3500kg on a 50mm towball and 4500kg with a 70mm towball.