The Complicated History of the Rugged, Versatile Ute

Australian automotive history buffs often butt heads on whether the beloved ute or utility vehicle did originate in Down Under. It’s a hot issue (sort of) as Utes are such distinct sights and a significant part of Australian automotive and business culture.

The Farmer’s Wife’s Tale

The majority of petrolheads will reference the story of a Gippsland farmer’s wife in 1933 being the definitive ute origin story. As the story goes, the farmer’s wife wrote a letter to Ford Australia and detailed her need for a rain-proof vehicle that she could use to go to church and that her husband could use to transport pigs to the market.

A young designer by the name of Lew Bandt obliged by installing a tray on the back of a 1933 coupé and strengthening its chassis for load-carrying capability. And that was supposed to be how the ute was born.

Contention from Across the Sea

Ford USA contests these claims, stating that the 1925 Ford Model T with its two-seat body, canvas hood, and heavy-rated rear springs was the first real production ute. Then again, Dodge claims otherwise, one-upping Ford by saying it had a soft-top pickup among its 1924 lineup.

Apparently, the Ford and Dodge utes predate Australia’ s famed church-going, pig-carrying utility vehicle by almost a decade. But Aussies refuse to back down, resorting to semantics to keep the fight alive. Definitions of ‘ute’ became the talking point, with the Gippsland farmer’s wife’s criteria getting insisted as the standard.

More Disputes

In this regard, the 1928 Ford Model A becomes the contender, featuring both soft-top and closed-cab variants. But a Swedish startup called Volvo entered the fray in 1927, having produced cars and pickups featuring both open and closed bodies.

At the end of the day, Jaram agrees that the ute stays as an esteemed Aussie icon, having never gained a cult following in urban Europe, with the US being the only credible market for it. This is evidenced by record-breaking sales of F-series pickups, hindered only by dismal export sales.

It’s also quite fitting that a farmer should be the first Ute user. Agribusiness is big in Australia, explaining the fondness Aussies have for this unique and infinitely useful automotive creation.