TTAC Salutes The Ute On Its 80th Birthday

Phillip Thomas
by Phillip Thomas

As far as automotive marketing goes, a truck story is always going to appeal to your emotions. More so than any passenger car, truck buyers ask more from their pickups, put them through more strenuous tasks and treat them in a very different way.

It’s fitting, then, that Australia’s Ute has a similarly heart warming story, one that we can all connect with – even if the Ute was never sold here.

In 1933, a poor Australian farmer needed a single vehicle that could “go to church on Sunday and a truck to take the pigs to market on Monday.” He mailed a letter to Hubert French, managing director of the Ford Motor Company of Australia. With this short letter in hand, 23 year old Lewis “Lew” Bradt was tasked with designing something that gave the day-to-day comfort of a sedan, with the utility of a truck. In 1934 Ford’s Ute was born, though christened the “coupe-utility” by Lew.

The main body shell was a Ford Model 40, but from the front doors back a cab wall was added, along with steel bedsides integrated into the body, with a wooden bed floor. This was a new step from the traditional method of a separate body and bed. It helped to maximize the load floor area, while maintaining a compact and streamlined body, by eliminating the extra forward bed ‘wall’ and the gap between the bed and cab of a traditional truck. The Ute spawned a cultural icon for not only Australia, but in the U.S. as well with our El Camino and Ranchero.

Ford would like to credit the little Ute to their success with the F150 and global Ranger, despite its plans to end Australian production of the Ute and its Falcon twin by October of 2016.

So hats off, mullets free to the wind; and thank that thrifty farmer for his modest wish.

Phillip Thomas
Phillip Thomas

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  • -Nate -Nate on Feb 26, 2014

    In the 1930's a " Coupe Express " was an RPO for most American car makers but no one remember them because all they did was remove the deck lid and slide in a steel bed ~ *very* handy but the car's body took a real beating from the full milk cans rattling 'round in the back... Thankfully a few remain . In the mid 1970's through the late 1980's enterprising Aussis began importing old dead Utes full of bondo and cheap paint works to America via the West Coast , I liked the Chevy (? Holden ?) Utes but was put off by the $10K asking price for a car that needed total restoration to avoid rusting to junk in maybe 10 years , I kinda wish I'da bought one new , they're BIG $ these days . -Nate

  • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Feb 26, 2014

    So why does the publicity photo showcase a Ranger instead of a modern Falcon ute? Any reason besides the fact that the Falcon is ending production and the Ranger isn't?

  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.
  • Akear What is GM good at?You led Mary............................................What a disgrace!
  • Randy in rocklin I have a 87 bot new with 200k miles and 3 head gasket jobs and bot another 87 turbo 5 speed with 70k miles and new head gaskets. They cost around 4k to do these days.