In mid-1933, Ford Australia designer Lewis Bandt was forwarded a letter from the company boss. The letter, from a farmer’s wife in Gippsland, Victoria, complained that they couldn’t afford both a car and a truck, but wanted a vehicle that could do double duty for both stock work and visiting church on Sunday. Bandt got to work.
In late January 1934, his first Ford ute, based on the Model B four-door sedan, rolled off the production line in Geelong. Its innovation was streamlining the two-door passenger-friendly cabin into the rear utility tray, with steel side panels running where a basic wooden or metal board had previously sat alone. The coupe-utility was a revelation, and even caught the eye of Henry Ford himself after two of the first examples were shipped from Australia to Canada.
The ute boasted Ford’s iconic flathead V8 — then in 221ci guise, pushing out a not-exactly-blistering 75hp. That’s 56kW from 3.6L; a relatively recent identical capacity V8 in the 1999 Ferrari 360 Modena, by comparison, easily tops 300kW. Even a Ferrari can’t compare to the ’34 coupe-ute’s beauty, though.
Ford Australia and its worldwide parent have spent the last 80 years tweaking, refining and reshaping the Ford ute. The currrent model is a thing of beauty.
We all know Ford is winding down its local operations over the next couple of years, and the Falcon coupe-ute will come to a quiet end. While that’s a huge pity, at least there’s still the Ranger — Ford’s full-size, work-and-play utility. Lewis Bandt’s vision lives on.