Farmer’s Letter Caused the Ute
In 1932, during the savage depression years, a letter arrived at Ford headquarters in Geelong.
Addressed to the Managing Director, it was from a farmer who asked simply: “Why don’t you build a car in which I can take my missus to church on Sunday and my pigs to market on Monday?”
The letter went to Sales, Finance and then Production. The production superintendent asked the chief body engineer, who asked the body designer if it could be done.
The designer, Lew Bandt, made some quick sketches, calculated stresses and was surprised at the result.
Staring up at him from the drawing board was an ingenious, balanced vehicle that appeared to suit the farmer’s specifications.
“Build one”, came the order from the top, and the Coupe Utility was born – a first not only for Ford and for Australia but the very first vehicle of its kind in the world.
The rest is history.
Ford’s V8 Coupe Utility caught the imagination of motorists everywhere and production was hard pressed to keep up with the demand.
The first test vehicle went on the road in 1934, production models were available later that year, and utilities have been coming out ever since.
Lew Bandt went on to enjoy a long and distinguished career with Ford Australia, he was awarded British Empire and Australian Design Awards in 1939, 1947 and 1948, and only retired as Advanced Engineering Manager in 1980.
In a similar vein to the manner in which the pig farmer’s letter turned up in 1932, Lew’s original design sketch recently made its way onto the Ford News desk at Head Office.
It prompted a search back through the company archives and revealed a rather auspicious history for the vehicle regarded by most as a workhorse.
As the first of its kind, the Coupe-Utility opened new markets right around the world.
The passenger compartment contrasted dramatically with the draughty half-door or doorless T-model delivery trucks, vans and buckboards of that era.
It offered farmers and tradesmen personal transportation with passenger car comforts, and a handy cargo space all in the one unit.
And although today utilities bear no comparison, in terms of styling and all-round performance, the original design has endured, with very little change being made to the original concept.
Over 80 years later, the ute is increasingly ingrained in Australian culture. We may no longer require the ute to take us to the church or the pig market, but the original principle of flexibility and comfort remains as popular as ever.
(Victor Harbour Times [SA]: 6 Sept.1965)