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The future of the ‘ute’ in Australia

By Matt Raudonikis, 02 Apr 2018 Opinion

utes australia future

Ute, pick-up, truck? Call them whatever you want.

THE end of the GU Patrol and Land Rover Defender left a huge hole in the 4x4 landscape, not only for the loss of these popular models, but more so because of the loss to the heavy-duty 4x4 ute segment.

Nissan still sells a Patrol in the form of the Y62 wagon and Land Rover is promising a replacement for Defender in 2020, but neither of these new models will spawn or are likely to spawn a ute.

Before we look too far into this, a traditional ute, as coined by Lew Brandt’s Ford Coupe Utility, was a vehicle with a cargo tray integrated with the passenger body. This is what differentiated a ute, as the name was shortened to, from a pick-up, which had a separate passenger compartment and load bed.

With the demise of the Holden ute last year, there are technically, by definition, no more utes available in Australia. The GU and Defender were, by definition, pick-up trucks, just as Land Cruiser 79s, Rangers, Hiluxes, Tritons and all the other one-tonne, load-carrying vehicles are. But the term ute has been corrupted to include these pick-ups within its usage; although, call them what you will, we’re not fussy.

Read next: 2017 4X4 Of The Year Winner: Toyota LandCruiser 79 Double Cab

The Land Cruiser 79 is the only heavy-duty 4x4 ute/pick-up/trayback/truck still readily available in Australia from the manufacturer. American pick-ups are also available from grey importers who convert them to right-hand drive for Australian use, but none of these come from the vehicle manufacturer. Nor are any of them as suitable to our four-wheel drive usage as the 79 is, or the GU and Defender were. They are great for towing and load hauling, but aren’t as tough and rugged as these three specialist vehicles.

Another alternative is to create your own, and we’ve seen plenty of chopped Land Cruiser 200s, 100s and GQ/GU Patrol wagons, but Peter Thorpe’s double-cab is the first Y62 ‘ute’ we’ve seen. There is another double-cab Y62 in Queensland, and Andrew from Ontrack 4X4, who did much of the work on Peter’s rig, is currently working on a single-cab Y62 for himself.

Wagons chopped to utes are nothing new, and with the demise of the GU and Defender we’re sure to see more of them. We’ve seen Land Rover Discoverys, Toyota Prados and even an FJ Cruiser converted to a ute. It’s a trend we love, as it harks back to the ingenuity of a great Australian designer working for Ford back in the 1930s, when he created a vehicle that could “both take passengers to church on Sunday and pigs to market on Monday”.