Than a Car...More Than a Truck
A Brief History of Car Based Pickups
By: John Gunnell Posted:
04-17-07 13:05 PT
© 2007 PickupTruck.com
  
you call a car with a pickup truck box? “Coupe-Express?” “Sedan-pickup?” “El
Camino?” “Ranchero?” “Ute?” Let’s
start with Ute. Even though some American trucks like the Model T Roadster-Pickup,
the Star Express and the Bantam pickup were close to a combination car-and-pickup,
it's generally agreed that the Australian “Ute” initiated
this class of vehicles.
The Ute Started it All
The Ute began as Slim Westman idea. He was an Australian farmer who heard
about pickup trucks used by American farmers. Slim contacted the Ford
of Australia to ask if they would consider building a dual-purpose
vehicle – one that combined the styling and comfort of a passenger
car with the utility of a pickup.
wanted a car that could take his family to town and a truck that could
haul his produce to market. Being relatively small, the vehicle he envisioned
would be cheap to operate. In addition, it would allow poor Australian
farmers to get by purchasing one vehicle, rather than buying a car
and a truck.
Bandt, chief designer at Ford in Geelong, Victoria, adopted Westman’s
idea to a sedan and created the first Coupe-Utility: the 1934 Ford
V8 Model 302 UTE. It was so popular that Bandt also designed a Coupe
Panel Van. Most Utes used a 5-window passenger coupe on
approximately the front half of the vehicle. The normal rear deck lid
of the coupe was replaced with a integral cargo box. The Ford model gained
almost immediate acceptance and inspired Holden (GM’s Australian
branch) to develop the GM-H Ute model.
GM-H Ute was based on a 1934 Chevrolet, imported from the United States
in CKD (completely-knocked-down) form and assembled by local workers.
For a long time, it was the best-selling Ute. In 1948, a new Ute based
on the Holden 215 became the first Ute designed and manufactured in
entered the Australian Ute market with Dodge and Fargo models. Pontiac
made a number of military Utes, with wooden boxes, for World War II
that continued to see use after the war ended. Dozens of other car
companies, including British makers, also produced Utes Down Under.
The market for these vehicles was very strong until the mid-1960s,
when small Japanese pickups invaded Australia and eliminated all competitors
except Ford and Holden.
In the 1930s,
40s, and 50s companies
like Hudson and Crosley tried their hand at selling a car-based pickup
in the U.S..
full size Hudson Coupe-Express was very similar in concept to Australian
Utes but it never really caught on with buyers. And Crosley's diminutive
cars lost favor several years after World War II ended when large vehicles
became the rage.
be until the late 1950s, when Ford and General Motors started large
volume production of coupe-express automobiles, that the car-based
pickup would gain sales traction and appeal with American buyers.