Thailand might be the second largest market for pick-ups, but the world’s adoption of this style of vehicle comes from Australia, where they are known as “Utes”, a colloquial term for the original designation of “coupe utility”.
The first design became metal in 1934 and the body style was developed after a Victorian farmer’s wife wrote to the then boss of Ford in Australia, Hubert French in 1933, asking for “a car and a truck but we need a car to go to church on Sunday and a truck to take the pigs to market on Monday.”
The first pick-up in 1934.
The man chosen by French was a young design engineer called Lew Bandt, who incorporated a two door cabin with a load carrying tray at the rear, blending the tray sides into the coupe body – rather than the separated cabin and trayback truck commonly used until then. The first ute had a payload of 545 kilograms on a wheelbase of 2845mm, and Bandt was even responsible for the name, calling his creation the “coupe-utility”. And that was 80 years ago.
After receiving approval from French, the “coupe utility” was released in Australia in 1934 and won an immediate following amongst rural Australia. With the success locally, examples were then sent to America, where it also met approval.
It became a popular vehicle style in Australia, with 22,000 sold between 1940 and 1954, and spawned generations of Ford Falcon utes, which have sold more than 455,000 since the first XK Falcon hit the dealerships in 1961. And the Australian influence continues. The Aussie designed and developed Ford Ranger is a strong seller in more than 180 markets around the world, and incidentally is manufactured here in Thailand at Rayong.
Lew Bandt’s original drawings are archived by Ford in Australia, and one of the original coupe-utes is still on display in a Victorian museum. Its descendants have gone on to resounding global success, with Ford selling more than a million Ranger-based vehicles around the world in 2013, while the F-Series ute marked its 37th year running as the top-selling truck in the US. Ironically, whilst Lew Bandt might have breathed life into the body style, Bandt died after an accident while he was at the wheel of a restored version of his coupe-utility in 1987.