|The story of the utility truck or coupé utility the
ute began in 1932, when a letter was received by Ford Australias plant at
Geelong, Victoria. It was written by a farmers wife whod had enough of riding
to church in the farm truck and arriving in saturated clothing;
Why dont you build people like us a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday, and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays? her letter asked.
Bank managers at the time would lend money to farmers to buy a farm truck, but not a passenger car, hence the plea from one very fed up woman!
It arrived on the desk of managing director Hubert French who, instead of dictating a polite dismissal, passed the letter on to sales manager Scott Inglis.
He in turn showed it to plant superintendent Slim Westman, and the two of them took it to Ford Australias design department, which in 1932 consisted of one man
Lewis Thornet Bandt was 22 years old and had already been singled out for bigger things with Ford.
Interviewed shortly before his death in 1987, Bandt recalled the moment when Westman and Inglis came to him with the letter.
The brochure for the first utility"
The whole thing had already started to germinate," said Bandt.
"Westman quite rightly reckoned that if we cut down a car and put a tray on the back, the whole thing would tear in half once there was weight in the back.
"I told him I would design it with a frame that came from the very back pillar, through to the central pillars, near the doors. I would arrange for another pillar to further strengthen that weak point where the cabin and tray joined. I said to Westman `Boss, them pigs are going to have a luxury ride around the city of Geelong! "
Bandt began by sketching the coupé utility on a 10 metre blackboard, depicting a front view as well as side and rear elevations. When they were seen by Westman some weeks later, he told Bandt to build two prototypes.
On a wheelbase of 112 inches, with a rear tray that was 5ft 5ins long and had a payload of 1200 pounds, they were the first vehicles to also offer a comfortable all-weather cabin.
On first sight of the prototypes, Scott Inglis authorised a startup production run of 500 vehicles. Westman asked for and got - £10,000 for tooling, and the first coupé utilities rolled off the Geelong assembly line in 1934.
Born out of a womans frustration with car designs of the day, the enclosed cab utility was initially regarded as a luxury. But the `ute was quickly accepted as a necessity of bush life, and won recognition around the world as the ideal farmers or tradesmans vehicle.
Eleven years into his retirement, Bandt died on March 18, 1987, in an accident near Geelong between a sand truck and the vintage Ford ute that Bandt had rebuilt for himself (rego number UT 001, pictured above). This talented Australian is survived by the legacy of his design, which wins new friends around the world every day.
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