Australian For Pickup: 1936 Ford Ute

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The history of car manufacturing in Australia goes back many years. It’s a way longer and more complicated story than we can tell here. Over the years, a few Australian made cars have made it to our shores, but not on a large scale. GM has been selling Australian made cars in America for a few years now; the Pontiac GTO of 2004-6 and the G8 of 2008-9, and now the Chevy SS that will be sold at least for another couple of years until GM shuts down its Holden plant. In fact, Australian car manufacturing will cease altogether by 2017, it seems, which is a shame.

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Over the years cars have been made there, Australia has produced some pretty cool and sometimes unusual cars. Somewhat isolated in their own continent, Australians have developed their own unique culture and lifestyle. A big part of the Australian identity is the linguistic variation from mother England’s version of English, and the term “Ute” is one of the many unique words in Australian English. It’s based on the term “Coupe Utility,” which is a passenger car with a small truck bed instead of a trunk. We’ve seen a few cars like this in America, for example, the Studebaker Coupe Express. Wikipedia has a good description of the origin of the Ute in Australia:

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Photo of restored Ute from Jalopy Journal

The worlds’ first “Closed Cab” Pickup truck was developed by Henry Ford in 1928, and while the Ford Model A (1927–1931) Roadster Pickup was produced in the United States from 6 years earlier, Ford is claimed to be the first company to produce an Australian “ute.” This was the result of a 1932 letter from the unnamed wife of a farmer in Victoria, Australia asking for “a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays.” In response, Ford designer Lew Bandt developed the ute and the model called a “coupe utility” at the time was released in 1934. When the Australian version was displayed in the US Henry Ford nicknamed it the “Kangaroo Chaser.” 

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One of our readers, Mike, from Bedford, NH, turned us on to this fairly solid looking 1936 Ford Ute for sale here on craigslist in East Windsor, New Hampshire, and this is one of those times that when a seller says a car for sale is rare, it’s true. You can’t help wondering who went to the trouble of bringing this car here from Australia, and then gave up on its restoration. These are really cool looking cars – or are they trucks? No wonder the Aussies gave them their own name.

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This car is right hand drive, of course. It is said to have a mostly complete original dash, the wood bed and tailgate and most of the coupe parts are there. Doors and front sheet metal look decent. There is no engine in the car, but the seller says he has a flat head V8 that could be added to the deal (no price mentioned).

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What we have here is definitely a project, but the asking price of $9,500 almost seems fair, considering the rarity of what you’re getting to start with. 1936 Fords are great looking cars and this one is no exception, once restored at least, it will be one of the rarer versions in any car show on these shores. It’s a fine example of Australian ingenuity and cultural singularity. The Aussie Ute Club has a Facebook page in case you want to sample the culture around these cars.

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Comments

  1. Healeydays

    How many Mike’s from Bedford NH are there lurking here? Nice Ute project. It’s listed on the NH Craigslist, but it’s actually located in CT. http://hartford.craigslist.org/cto/5453443858.html

    Oh if I only had time and a bigger garage…

    another Mike from Bedford, NH

  2. AMC STEVE

    Talk about “Slab Sides”

  3. Steve Eckart

    Don’t forget that the Caprice PPV is made in Australia, also. Mine is a Detective Model. I’ve swapped the entire interior from a 2009 G8.

    The PPV is 8.1 inches longer.

    Steve Eckart
    in Leander, TEX

  4. Jay

    There are some really interesting and creative old Utes. I have seen a couple imported to Western Canada up close.
    Definitely function before form styling.
    There were also some differences in the late 30’s Australian built pick ups,-roof lines, etc.

  5. brakeservo

    I’ve imported a few Utes from Oz, and wish I had one now. Great fun and usually attract favorable attention. Must say, I think this one’s fairly priced, even though it’s a major project. Just hope whoever buys it won’t ruin it and convert it to LHD.

    • Tony - Australia

      In Australia we leave LHD US cars as they are, if they are converted they no longer remain (American), they’re a ‘nothing car’, not Oz as they were never built here and not US as America didn’t build RHD cars, well not many. Converting depletes the value of them because they’re no longer original.
      Also they just don’t look ‘right’. We can register and drive them if they’re over 25/30 years old in most states without converting.

      • 67 GT fastback

        Tony that’s fine if you don’t drive it daily – try regularly entering a card swipe basement car park … I agree in general but there’s a murky middle ground – I ve had a number of coupes converted using their aus 4 door equivalent to do as close to a factory conversion as possible . The practicality of RHD does have it’s benefits if you do use them regularly . But yeah some cars it just wouldn’t make any sense at all .

      • Tony - Australia

        67 GT fastback. I drive a LHD 77 Chev El Camino as my daily vehicle, I must admit I stay away from pay carparks and the carpark at the Airport in Adelaide, ya gotta jump out and run around to get your ticket and the the same to pay on the way out, all while the guy behind is getting a bit pissed off waiting.

  6. Keith Matheny

    Guy looks like a REAL Ford lover. I Like the ’67’s in the background, have a ‘vert myself. Couple of thirty something’s and a ’70’s mustang there too!
    Roof looks caved in, or are they still cloth in Oz at that time? U.S. should have all steel by then, yes?
    I like this, but I’d change the steering wheel.
    Everyone can flame me now!

    • Tony - Australia

      Keith, most US cars around this era in Oz had a full steel roof except some of the 4 door sedans, they still had the wood and vinyl/canvas insert in the center of the roof. All the 3 and 5 window coupes were full steel, except of course for the wooden internal body and door frames and some floors, etc.

  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    When I saw my first Ute a few years ago, I was a little startled by the body style. But through the years the style has kind of grown on me. Now I’d like to have one for myself. Of course cars like this are completely out of my budget but I can still dream can’t I?

  8. sdwarf36

    It still hasn’t sold? Its been up for almost a year I know of.

    Like 1
  9. Charles

    I know that this is rare…

    If someone is inclined, it will make a really cool street rod.

  10. CattooButt Member

    I’d love to have one of these.

    • Tony - Australia

      Check out the Holden 1 tonner on wikipedia, a ute cab chassis with a flat aluminum tray, you used to be able to get a 6 wheeler from GM when they were new in the 70’s to early 80’s. All the ‘tradies used them and some still do today but they’re getting a bit old and ratty now and the cheap Chinese ‘Great Wall’ rubbish has taken over.

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