Ford Australia says it mixed Ford's built tough truck character with ideas that explore lifestyle and sporty uses for future utes when it designed the 4-Trac concept version of the new Courier.
"Our designers have taken the typical (ute) and given it a lot more sophistication, style and purpose," says Fordf Australia marketing general manager Rebecca Martin.
It has true off-road capability, rugged features and durable aluminium surfaces.
"At the same time, owners would be proud to use it as stylish transport for their active families on weekends and holidays," Martin says. "Our consumer insight research has told us local customers need and want (utes) that are rugged for the workplace and stylish for the family. We used that information to inspire the look for the 4-Trac concept."
Ford Asia Pacific chief designer, Paul Gibson, penned the 4-Trac, which he says is "a response to the needs and aspirations of a new generation of consumers. It clearly shows Ford will continue to produce trucks that make a statement for a younger, bolder generation of consumers who want a vehicle that provides more possibilities for them to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle."
It's based on a four-door crew cab Courier, but has a US pick-up-style vertical front and and prominent Ford oval in the middle of the three-bar grille. The grille fronts a power bulge that runs from the bonnet through to the undercarriage. It is flanked by high-tech headlights and integrated fold-out rope hooks.
There are large, clean surfaces down the body side, pronounced wheelarches with integrated side repeater lights; and 17-inch six-spoke Turbine alloy wheels shod with with all-terrain tyres.
Ford is coy about the mechanical specification: our questions brought an "it's a concept" response.
The media release talks of a "powerful engine," but no-one at Ford wants to say what engine. We'd guess at the potent 3.0-litre V6.Ford says it also has "excellent 4x4 ability and dynamic stability control."
The 4-Trac concept is specced for rescue work with an emergency red paint job, heavy-duty power winches front and rear, integrated rope hooks and tie-downs points.
State-of-the-art LEDs - 172 in total - are used for high-intensity warning and rescue lights on the roof, which are mounted on an integrated sports bar. LEDs are also used in the headlights, tail-lights and on the door mirrors.
At the rear, 4-Trac has a unique double-folding, power assisted tray with three-step access. This tailgate within a tailgate offers inner and outer sections operating together or independently. The outer body-colour section folds down to the ground, acting as a ramp; the inner aluminium section, with large 4-Trac branding, folds 90 degrees for ease of loading and unloading. It can also be folded flat to carry longer objects.
The rear cargo area includes six portable containers - inspired by offshore rescue boats - for carrying a variety of gear.
A hatch enables access from the cargo area directly into the cabin.
Asia-Pacific design team
4-Trac designer Paul Gibson is in charge of interior and exterior design for all Ford vehicles in the Asia-Pacific region.
His team works closely with Ford regional and national marketing specialists in 12 countries throughout the region.
The 4-Trac concept is the team's latest project following a Focus Concept sedan shown at Auto China 2004 and the unveiling of the Equator concept SUV at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show.
The car that Bandt invented
Ford Australia's Coupe Utility of 1934 had two distinct developments that separated it from earlier passenger vehicle-based utility vehicles.
The new Coupe Utility combined the stylish five window coupe roofline (two door windows, two side windows and a rear window) of Ford's rakish long-tailed coupe models with a unique one-piece side pressing that extended from the doors to the rear of the load area. Compared to what had come before it, the effect was dramatic.
Because the company had already offered a wide range of light utility trucks based on the earlier Model T, Model A and the first V8, Ford Australia more than any rival knew how much its new 1934 Coupe Utility differed from its predecessors and the substantial gamble on tooling it represented.
Ford Australia already had a standard utility car or roadster utility in its range which was little more than a long rectangular box behind the windscreen with a seat and rudimentary fabric roof separating the vehicle occupants from the load area.
Long before 1934, Ford utes in the US had fully enclosed steel cabins but were totally different. They were short steel boxes with doors that offered just enough room for driver and passenger. They were chopped-off vertically ahead of a narrow load box located between the rear wheel wells. The wheel wells were left exposed on the outside, hence the stepside description applied to US designs.
Styling of these first steel cabin pick-ups wasn't a priority when they consisted of a load box and a cabin box with Ford's latest bonnet and grille attached. Those early US utes evolved into a pick-up range separate from the passenger cars and ultimately became the F100/F150 series.
The idea for the Australian Coupe Utility began with a 1933 letter penned by the wife of a farmer on his behalf from Gippsland in rural south-east Victoria to Ford Managing Director Hubert French.
"Would Ford build for me a vehicle: the front is the Coupe, to suit my need of taking the family to Church on Sunday; the back is to be the Roadster Utility box, so I can take the pigs to town on Monday"
At first it was treated as a "luxury" request, but French handed the letter to Director of Manufacturing C.C. (Slim) Weston who called on the services of Lewis T.Bandt, then Ford's only designer. Bandt (22) had already designed several fabric roof utilities for a South Australian body builder and was given the task of combining the style of a Ford coupe with an integrated utility tray.
Bandt's watercolour concept sketches - still in Ford's possession - ndepicted the new model in typical Aussie contexts such as creek crossings, clambering up banks and across ploughed fields. He showed an intuitive understanding of how hard it would have to work in a country where there were more tracks than roads and four-wheel drive was another decade away.
Overhang was kept to a minimum, ground clearance high, and the cabin had to be big enough to stow gear out of the weather. Most importantly, it had to show some style, enough to do a family proud as they arrived at church on Sunday.
That model is the key to the unique Aussie ute heritage. Light trucks in other markets provided workers no more than necessary to do their job and were little more than a work tool. In Australia, the economy rode on the sheep's back and the rural sector was the main market. Australian farmers were tough and independent.
The Ford Coupe Utility had to earn its keep in tough isolated conditions but also reflect the owner's self-employed status. This quickly grew to include tradespeople and other small business owners who wanted a vehicle to look smart after knock-off time.
Westman believed that cutting down a passenger vehicle and putting a tray on the back would result in the vehicle tearing itself apart once there was a load on the back. Bandt hit on the idea of installing a frame that ran from the back pillar. An extra pillar was added to strengthen the weak point where cabin and tray joined. Upon completing his fabled masterpiece, Bandt told Westman: "Boss, them pigs are going to have a luxury ride".
Christened the coupe utility the vehicle went into production in 1934 - the first major job in the expanded Geelong tool shop and body press shop.
Two were sent to Canada - with Bandt in tow - and shown to Henry Ford. So impressed with the design Ford revealed the radical new vehicle to his key men who asked what it was.
"A kangaroo chaser," Ford replied. "And we're going to build them here."
Ford US would built many coupe utilities based on the Australian concept, the later models wearing the Ranchero badge.
The new-style vehicle was an instant hit for Ford Australia and each new Ford V8 model brought a new coupe utility. The early Ford V8 models were out of reach of most Australians and the fact that the latest coupe utility models always sold steadily provide an insight into the importance of the rural and building trade sector in the fledgling economy. They also found a market with the Australian military.
After World War 2, the 1946-1948 Ford coupe utilities featured a shortened version of the sleek 1946 coupe roofline incorporating the Coupe's oval rear window.
Ford Australia carried over this style for unique coupe utility versions of the all-new 1949-1951 Ford Custom V8 range. These were followed by similar Mainline ute versions of the 1952-1954 side-valve Customlines. They became a force in Australian motor racing and challenged the notion that a racing car had to be based on a passenger car.
The rules eventually caught up with them but not before the Ford V8 ute had earned a worthy racing pedigree.
Ford Australia then introduced its most powerful ute, the 1955 Mainline, the first and only ute in Australia with an overhead valve V8 at the time. These big Mainlines were the last Australian Coupe Utilities based on US V8 models and ended in 1959.
Coupe utility replica
Ford's Discovery Centre in Geelong near Melbourne displays a replica 1934 Ford ute belonging to the Bandt family. Because most original 1934 coupe utes were worked into the ground or hotrodded, Bandt built the replica from a chopped down sedan after his 1976 retirement. Tragically, Bandt was killed in it in 1987 on his way home from filming an ABC documentary on the first coupe utility.
The Early Ford V8 Club of Victoria rebuilt it with Ford Australia support as a memorial to Lewis Bandt. It was never intended to be a historical reference as its sedan roofline slopes in the opposite direction to that of the correct coupe roofline.
She's a Mongrel, mate
Meet the Mongrel Ute; yes, we did say mongrel.
Who else but an Australian would call a vehicle it planned to merchandise brand-new, a mongrel? Sure, we know about the Japanese using Dingo as a vehicle name, but it doesn't have the chachet of mongrel.
And I doubt if you'd be lining up to take a Dingo to Bachelors' and Spinsters' balls all around Australia.
The Ford Falcon Mongrel ute which was unveiled in 2002 followed in the footsteps of such iconic Falcon ute specials as the Terra (based on a LOngreach) and the Sandfire with its Ferrari-style cut-away front wheelarches.
Ford designed the bright yellow
Mongrel has been designed as the ultimate B and S ball ute (the balls are Outback or country gatherings where unattached blokes and sheilas gather to eat, drink and be merry - and presumably engage in dancing of some kind.
Ford's Mongrel project was the result of the combined talents of Ford, Allan Nixon (an Australian identity known as the Uteman) and several aftermarket suppliers.
Based upon a styleside Falcon ute the Mongrel sits on heavily modified suspension designed to raise the ride height without compromising the ride and handling.
The Python 17-inch by eight-inch alloy wheels are fitted with massive Wrangler F1 235/65R17 tyres. Fitted out for the roughest conditions modifications include an off-road snorkel, chrome bullbar, running boards and a roll bar with four high-mounted lights.
Inside the cabin the Mongrel is trimmed in yellow and charcoal leather.
Additions to the cabin include automatic climate control, a fold-away television screen and an enhanced stereo system.
The Mongrel came with a matching trailer fitted with a hard tonneau cover thattransforms into a two-man or one bloke and one sheila tent when raised.
The Mongrel toured rural Australia with the Uteman throughout 2001.