It was 1933 when 23 year-old designer Lewis ‘Lew’ Bandt was handed a letter by Ford Australia Director Hubert French; and the coupe pickup truck as we know it debuted the following year.
The origins of the letter are as famous as the vehicle itself, when a farmer’s wife from Gippsland, Victoria, wrote to French with a request.
“My husband and I can’t afford a car and a truck, but we need a car to go to church on Sunday and a truck to take the pigs to market on Monday. Can you help?”
Bandt sketched out his design on a blackboard, concentrating on incorporating the cabin and load-carrying area into one body.
This bucked the more popular trend of the time, where a tray was simply added to an existing passenger car chassis.
The first ute had a payload of 545 kilograms on a wheelbase of 2845mm, and Bandt was even responsible for the name, calling his creation the “coupe-utility”.
The rest is history.
While Australians are now buying more utes than ever, our taste has changed in recent years as a sales comparison between Ford’s two key offerings demonstrates.
Add in the far more popular 4WD Ford Ranger’s sales figure of 16,913, and the Ranger racked up a total of 21,752 sales for 2013.
Australia isn’t the only country with a thirst for utility vehicles, as Ford has enjoyed enormous and ongoing success with its F-Series pickups in the US since the big truck first hit the market.
Lew Bandt retired in 1975, and was killed following a collision in 1987 while driving a restored version of his own creation.
This year will see the last Australian-designed and built Ford ute come to be, as Ford unveils its final Falcon update later in the year.