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Rare Aussie Ute: 1958 Chrysler Wayfarer

For a big country with a small population, Australia has provided the rest of the world with some pretty impressive inventions. Black-Box Flight Recorders, Wi-Fi, Racecam technology that allows live pictures to be streamed directly from race cars, Crocodile Dundee, and from an automotive perspective, the humble Ute. These became a staple of Australian new car manufacturing and were soon adopted across the globe. One of the rarest of the Australian utes is the Chrysler Wayfarer, which only remained in production for 3-years. This 1958 model has found its way from the land Down Under to Kissimmee, Florida, and is looking for a new home. You will find it listed for sale here on eBay where the bidding has reached $9,511. The reserve has now been met, so a new home is a reality for this Chrysler in the very near future. I do need to say a big thank you to Barn Finder local_sheriff for spotting this great Aussie classic for us.

Even on Australian roads, the Wayfarer was a pretty rare sight. Production commenced in 1958. It ended in 1960, but some of the final examples didn’t find homes until 1961. During that 3-year production run, a mere 1,205 Wayfarers rolled out of Chrysler’s factory. For our American readers, there is probably something vaguely familiar about the styling, and this is because there is more than a little borrowed and reworked 1955 Plymouth P25 sheet-metal that you can see, especially around the doors and front fenders. Some restyling was performed by Chrysler Australia, and the sedan version was sold as the Chrysler Royal. The ute morphed from that, but due to budgetary restraints, as much of the original Chrysler America tooling as possible was used. The result was a distinctive vehicle, and from my perspective, it sort of sits somewhere between the Plymouth and British vehicles such as the Ford Zephyr in appearance. The owner states that when he undertook to restore the Wayfarer, he came to the conclusion that Australians don’t use salt on the roads Down Under (correct) because there was virtually no rust to repair. The vehicle has been stripped to bare metal, one small patch was welded in to address the single rust spot, and a fresh coat of Yellow and White paint was applied. The bed features a combination of the original, painted steel, interspersed with strips of timber. The exterior trim and chrome is all in beautiful condition, as is the glass. Two of the harder trim items to locate today are the original rear bumper and the hubcaps. The bumper ends were quite prone to damage, but the rear bumper on this Wayfarer, complete with an original stainless steel center section, looks close to perfect. The same is true of the hubcaps. Those that weren’t damaged by curb strike would tend to shake loose on some of Australia’s rougher rural roads (Fact: Australia has, on average, the roughest rural roads on the planet). This Wayfarer retains all four of its original hubcaps, and they are all in great condition. For those long-time readers who might find the Wayfarer to be familiar, this is understandable. Back in December of 2018, I wrote this Barn Finds article on a huge collection of hidden classic vehicles, and a Wayfarer is briefly mentioned and glimpsed in the associated video to that story.

The spotless presentation continues when we open the doors and take a look inside the Wayfarer. The first thing that most of you will notice is the fact that the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the vehicle. Australian cars are, as is the case in the UK, right-hand drive. Take it from someone who has swapped from one discipline to the other on numerous occasions, this isn’t difficult to get used to. What will probably be harder is getting used to the shifter. It is a 3-speed column shifter, but unlike the majority of US vehicles, the shifter is on the left side of the column. Once again, this is something that doesn’t take a lot of getting used to. My first car was an EH Holden, and it was blessed with the same feature. That makes this car a bit like an old friend to me. Leaving those idiosyncrasies aside, the best word to describe the presentation of the interior would be “perfect.” There really isn’t anything to be critical of, with the upholstery, carpet, and dash all presenting beautifully. The wheel shows no signs of wear or cracks, but the lack of creature comforts such as a radio tell you that this was a vehicle that was designed to be a workhorse. One other creature comfort that you won’t find is a heater. Depending on where the next owner lives, this might not be a problem. Otherwise, this might be a warm-weather car. Having said that, I do believe that the heater from a 1955 Plymouth might fit the Wayfarer, so that could be an option that is worth investigating.

Powering the Wayfarer is the 230ci flathead 6-cylinder engine. This sends its power to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. There is a widely held belief that this was the only mechanical configuration available for the Wayfarer. If anyone tries to tell you this, then they are wrong. While records today are quite sketchy (at best), it was possible to order a Wayfarer with the 313ci Canadian V8, backed by a TorqueFlite transmission. A nice V8-only option was power steering. Therefore, if any of our Australian readers spot one of those for sale, they should seriously consider buying it. They are probably the single rarest vehicle to come from Chrysler’s Australian production. Anyway, back to our Wayfarer, and once again, there are few luxuries. Neither the 4-wheel drum brakes or the steering benefit from power assistance. With 90hp at the driver’s disposal, performance for the Wayfarer was quite decent, and the vehicle was well and truly capable of carting in excess of its rated ½-ton payload. The only issue that the owner identifies with the Chrysler is the fact that the tires are getting old. The radiator has received a re-core, and the vehicle gets driven at least once a month. It is said to run and drive perfectly, the brakes stop the Wayfarer straight and true, and there are no signs of temperature issues or leaks. Given the lineage of this vehicle, it is worth noting how potentially easy it would be for the next owner to locate any mechanical components that might be required in the future. Don’t fret about having to potentially source parts from Australia, because the vast majority of these are essentially American Plymouth components. That means that the majority of components should be readily available locally.

Chrysler Australia remained quite disappointed by the public’s reception when the Wayfarer was released. The company was preparing itself for a significant sales windfall, but only 380 people chose to give a new Wayfarer a home in 1958. Sadly, that year also rated as the high-point in Wayfarer sales, and production ended in 1960. The scale of the failure is best explained by looking at the final sales figures. In 1960, a total of 244 Wayfarers were sold. Even though production had ended in 1960, Chrysler still had 225 cars left that they sold in 1961. These are a rare sight in Australia, and there can’t be more than a very small handful living in the US. This one is quite probably the nicest of those cars, and represents an opportunity for someone to own one of the rarest Australian utes in existence today. That makes it a tempting proposition.

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    What a neat vehicle. It’s a ’55 Plymouth pickup. Goes agin everything us Yanks hold dear. We in the US, never heard of the Aussies accomplishments. The 1st time many of us even knew about them was “Men at Work”. They clearly had some neat cars.After many attempts, Americans just didn’t buy these car/pickups, but looks like they sure did. And I’m sorry, after driving millions of miles with the “regular” setup, I’d never get used to RHD, and that shifter, someone gonna “round off” reverse,,.

    Like 4
    • Steve R

      Americans did embraced this sort of vehicle. They were the 1964-1987 El Camino and 1961 to mid-70’s Ranchero, not so much the late-50’s versions. Their death came about after the rise in popularity of cheaper purpose built compact pickups by the imports and later the domestic manufacturers, as well as GM moving to FWD unibody mid-sized cars. They were also more popular on the west coast when new and are still a common sight roaming the streets where I live

      Steve R.

      Like 8
    • Dave

      You never heard “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”?
      Having a shortwave radio when I was a kid made those places in the geography book come alive.
      Radio Australia had one of the most distinctive interval signals on the air and many times the strongest signals in the 31 meter band. I would love to get up before dawn on a cold winter’s weekend morning just to hear the place where summer spent the winter. It was a sad day when they ceased broadcast activities…where is the challenge and adventure in clicking the “listen now” tab on a website?

      Like 8
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      Actually a 1956 copy………

    • Clay Bryant

      56

    • arizman2

      Looks like a 1956 plymouth station wagon with back half of the station wagon roof removed.

      • Lee Exline

        The base body is a 1954 Plymouth the tooling was sent to Australia in 1955 to allow them to produce bodies locally. They continued using the same base body shell through the early 60s onbthe Chrysler Royal series.

  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    Chrysler’s answer to the ‘57 Ranchero and ‘59 El Camino? You’re right, Howard, we didn’t really embrace the Ute concept here initially, as is evident by Chevys decision to drop its version in ‘61. I wonder why the difference 4 years later?

    Anyway, this is really a unique ride, and it looks like a pristine example of the kind of car Australians are good at!

    Like 6
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      NO it’s not…..it’s a UTE…..long before the Americans – so they copied our Australian friends !

      Like 1
  3. Rex Kahrs Member

    I wonder why the ebay listing says 1958 El Camino.

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      Probably not many ‘mericans searching for an Aussie Chrysler pickup on the US ebay site, but it would attract the same prospective customers looking for an Elky or Ranchero. Seller states there isn’t any category for it

      Like 2
  4. Mike LaRoche

    The styling is actually borrowed from the ‘56 Plymouth, the ‘55 taillights were not that long and the ‘55 hood ornament did not have ‘wings’

    Like 5
    • stillrunners stillrunners Member

      1956 Plymouth tail lights….55 is much shorter……

      • arizman2

        It is practically a ’56 Plymouth station wagon with back half of the station wagon roof removed. i fact, i bet that is what it is

  5. Lee Exline

    I will stick with the previous version of this model, it is also based on the 1954 Plymouth P25 platform but is a 1956 Desoto Diplomat UTE. It is believed to be the only one in the states and very rare even in Australia. It is currently being restored by Stellar restorations in Windom KS before it returns home to Iowa where it will confuse the local car collectors.

    Like 2
  6. Classic Steel

    Yute better obtain this one only if your trophy shelf has enough space.

    I actually love it 😍 even though it’s right
    🖐 drive ….

    Good day mate spoken in a Foridian voice
    🤣

    Like 2
    • TC Oztralia

      Classic Steel
      You got it wrong it’s not good day mate, it’s g’day maaaaate, look up ‘strine’ on google, ‘strine’ is the way of saying ‘Australian’ in the local tongue or ‘lingo’ we tend to slur our words. There’s no men or women they’re ‘blokes’ and Sheila’s !

  7. Jay E.

    I like it! Pretty sure it has sheet metal from a 56 Plymouth Fury, one of my favorite cars. It would make sense, considering the sheet metal was all new for the Fury in 57. Too bad the interior wasn’t from the Fury, but I guess a spartan interior was better for the trucklet crowd.

    Like 5
    • Bill W

      Yes, the sheet metal on the 1956 Plymouth Fury is the same as used on all 1956 Plymouth models (as well as export Diplomat and Kingsway models). Fury trim was unique, though.

      Chrysler Australia had ute models prior to the Chrysler Royal. A ute model based on the 1953-54 body was introduced in 1954 and offered on all three Australian-built models – Plymouth, Dodge Kingsway and DeSoto Diplomat. Chrysler Australia used the 1953-54 bodies through 1956 and updated the bodies with 1956 front and rear sheet metal for the 1957 Chrysler Royal.

      The Australian ute dates back into the 1930’s. And in the US Hudson (1934-1947) and Studebaker (1937-1939) offered what we would call ute models.

      • Lee Exline

        The passenger car based UTE on this platform was introduced in Oct 1956 then the shell continued to be used for the AP2 series UTE in 1958 even though the Royal came out in 1957

  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Nice looking car. I’ve heard of the Chrysler Wayfarer, but because I’m not from Australia, I’ve never seen one in person. If only our American versions were designed, tested, developed, and built the way Australian built cars were. It’s a shame that this wasn’t a good seller in Australia. The only things I’d order if I were to purchase one would be a radio to listen to the news and music, and a heater and Air Conditioning unit.

    Like 3
    • B.J.

      Dave
      Down here in OZ we get a lot of European tourists who go and rent a car and take out our drivers on the wrong, (left hand side), of our roads, quite q few Aussies have been killed or badly injured, mostly on country roads in the tourist areas like the wine regions, etc.

      Like 1
    • Brad T.

      Car Nut, in Australia in 1958 we only had 5 radio stations in my state and only 3 were worth listening to, if you could hear them that is over the noise from the dirt road you were belting along on, we had never heard of airconditioning in cars in 58 either, if it got too hot you just opened another window, or another cold beer if you’d run out of windows, either one was just as good and that first pub you saw was like heaven. In summer the old cars refused to pass a pub if you came across one on a 110 degree day, they seemed to have this 6th sense built into them they just steered towards them somehow? In winter you just put more clothes on.

  9. Brakeservo

    I had an Australian built 1964 Valiant Ute. RHD, slant six and a torqueflite. Sold it at Barrett Jackson many years ago.

  10. Mitch Ross Member

    The Chrysler Royal, upon which the Wayfarer is based , was a 1954 Plymouth with the front and rear clips of a 1956 Plymouth. that’s why it looks taller and shorter.

    Like 2
  11. Del

    Nice, but right hand drive kills it for me

    Like 1
    • Tony C.

      Del
      Try living in a RHD country, it’s either get used to it or walk. I live in Australia and if you turn up at an American car cruise night in a RHD American car it’s frowned upon because the car is no longer original, it’s LHD or it’s nothing. A RHD 64 Mustang convertible or anything else US just doesn’t cut it, the wheel MUST be on the left, if you have to convert it to RHD ‘cos you don’t like to drive LH you’re a pansy!

      Like 3
      • Dave

        I dont know…how many LHD enthusiasts shed a tear when that 59 Chevy got trashed in Mad Max? What’s common over there isn’t common over here, generally speaking. Visit the Bahamas, where they drive LHD cars on the left side of the road.
        There is currently a high profile motorcycle fatality case in Great Britain in which the wife of an American diplomat killed a motorcyclist by driving on the wrong side of the road.

        Like 1
  12. Brakeservo

    I live in America , but every single fun car I own is RHD! If I could find a suitable RHD daily driver I’d buy that too!

    Like 1
  13. Roosty6

    The “Utes” might have sold well here in Western Canada farming country. We built our own out of old sedans. I have photos of a 55 Pontiac with the back half of the roof and trunk lid gone. Cheaper than buying a new truck and able to burn tax free farm fuel. .

  14. moosie moosie

    A ’58 Chrysler that looks like a ’56 Plymouth with a Dodge name, whats not to like. I dont think learning to adjust to RHD would be too difficult. I like it, but it needs at least a warmed over 340 for motivation, and of course a Torqueflite.

    Like 3
    • Lee Exline

      The hardest part of a RHD car for us yanks is getting in the right side of the car. I often open the wrong door to get in. If people are watching I yell, someone stole my steering wheel.

      Like 2
      • TC Oztralia

        Lee, try driving through the pay station at the airport or any parking station in a RHD country and you’re in a LHD car, you can’t reach to put you’re credit card in or pay the guy in the booth either. When I go to get in the wrong side of my 62 Imperial I reach around on the floor as if I’m looking for something then shut the door and walk around to the other side and get in, embarrassing stuff.

  15. Bob S

    The right hand drive wouldn’t bother me in the least. Is this thing sweet, or what!! If the bidding stays under $10k, I’d say someone is going to get nice ride for a decent price! GLWTA

    Like 3
  16. Bob C.

    I disagree this only has 90 horsepower. The lowest rating the 230 had since its introduction in 1942 was 102. I think 125 to 135 sounds more realistic by this point.

  17. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Soooo if this came from “Bill’s” collection – has he let some go ?

  18. Robbie M.

    I have a cousin named Vinny that has 2 of these…..

  19. Lee Exline

    The base body is a 1954 Plymouth the tooling was sent to Australia in 1955 to allow them to produce bodies locally. They continued using the same base body shell through the early 60s onbthe Chrysler Royal series.

  20. ken

    nice

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