Back in 2001, Holden’s Jackaroo was marking its twentieth year in the Australian market, but the Isuzu-based four-wheel drive wagon was getting a bit long in the tooth. An upgrade had been released in 1998, but this ‘U8’ series was mainly a cosmetic change to the ‘L2’ series Jackaroo that dated back to 1992.
While the Jackaroo was a bit stale at the dawn of the new millennium, Holden’s concept car game was fresh, with the Commodore coupe (aka new Monaro) of 1998 setting the market alight. That was followed by the hybrid ECOmmodore and Sandman concepts in 2000, then the HSV ‘HRT Edition’ Maloo and Utester concepts in 2001.
To maintain interest in the Jackaroo and keep sales plugging along, it made sense to sprinkle the same fairy dust on Holden’s off-road range, which the carmaker’s local designers duly did, creating a wild concept for display at 4x4 shows around the country.
Making its public debut at the National 4x4 Show, Melbourne, in 2001, the ‘Jack8’ remained identifiable as a Jackaroo, at least at the front end. From the firewall back, it was a different story!
Based on a Jackaroo SE four-door wagon, the mods started with removing the roof and fitting a comprehensive roll cage in tube steel. There was still a windscreen, but the rest of the glass was gone, along with the rear doors, while the front doors were extended by 200mm.
The flanks aft of the longer doors were smoothed off, with this treatment continuing at the rear. Welding up the asymmetric tailgate and removing all the seams made the back end look like one wraparound piece of metal. The standard Jackaroo tail lights and fuel filler were retained, but the spare wheel, normally mounted on the longer of the two tailgate doors, was moved to the rollcage.
This arrangement’s resemblance to off-road racing rigs was intentional, and Holden’s chief designer on the Jack8 project, Warrack Leach, cited open top, V8 desert racers as particular inspiration.
Leach was a fresh face in Holden’s design team back then, but would subsequently create the VE Commodore steering wheel and VE ute exterior, as well as the GMC Denali XT pickup and Buick Avenir sedan concepts.
The Jack8’s off-road racer vibes continued with a 50mm body lift and an extra heavy duty suspension package, consisting of endurance rated shocks, heavy-duty front torsion bars and extended rear springs. A tubbed rear and Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tyres on custom six-spoke 16x8-inch alloys helped fill the flared wheelarches.
Custom bumpers were fitted at each end, with the front bar carrying an integral winch and fog lamps. The sills were also customised, with the most obvious difference being the inclusion of a pair of functional side exhaust exits for the engine, which was the Jack8’s other big deviation from a stock Jackaroo.
Instead of the usual 3.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder or 3.5-litre petrol V6, Holden's designers managed to shoehorn a Gen III 5.7-litre V8 into the Jack8. Unsurprisingly, the engine bay needed modification to accommodate the 225kW powerplant, along with a specific radiator and air cleaner. Those side-exit exhausts led back through high-flow catalytic converters to custom-built extractors.
While many Jackaroos of this period were manuals, the Jack8 used the available four-speed automatic, recalibrated to suit and running a specific power control module.
A 140-litre fuel tank, aluminium underbody bash plates and AP Racing brakes with four-piston calipers were also fitted.
As you’ve probably gathered by this point, the Jack8 was a running, driving concept and even carried Victorian registration, although whether it would have passed a roadworthy check was another story!
Finishing touches outside included a brilliant deep red metallic paint with a tinted top coat, body-coloured mirrors, a CB aerial and twin halogen spotlights on the roll cage.
Inside, the Jack8 concept ditched the dull Jackaroo cloth seats for sporty Monaro bucket seats, trimmed in leather and featuring power adjustment. The rear seats were a pair of Monaro front buckets, too.
A Momo sports steering wheel, Monza alloy pedals and rubber floor and side trim were further deviations from stock, but the dash and instrumentation were unchanged, along with the shifter and hi-lo range selector.
The audio system did get a major tweak, though, with a premium JVC stereo fitted that came with video display, MP3 compatibility, three 560W amplifiers and nine speakers, including a subwoofer with a pulsing blue light. Hey, it was the Auto Salon era, after all!
A CB radio and dash-mounted Garmin GPS completed the interior fitout.
After it did the rounds of the 4x4 shows, the Jack8 went into storage and there was some speculation that it had been crushed, but a recent announcement concerning the future of all Holden’s concepts confirmed the Jack8 is very much alive (see breakout).
The Jack8 didn’t result in a major improvement in Jackaroo sales, as the model was discontinued in 2003, replaced by the Commodore-based AWD Adventra, but it would have made an awesome off-road competition vehicle. Holden already had a presence in the Australasian Safari back then, but could the Jack8 have given them an extra advantage?
Jack8 going to Toowoomba
This past December, General Motors confirmed that the ‘Holden Heritage Collection’ of concept vehicles, milestone production cars, engines and other historical material would be dispatched to museums around Australia.
While GM will retain ownership of a collection that’s reported to be worth millions of dollars, this decision ensures the public gets to see the collection, in turn keeping the memory of Holden alive.
Of the 80 vehicles and 30 engines from the collection, the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia, has received some of the best-known vehicles, but the Jack8 is going to the Collins Holden Collection in Toowoomba, along with Colorado and SST ute concepts.