THE LAST-EVER locally built Ford Falcon ute rolled out of the company’s Broadmeadows assembly plant at 2:45pm (EST) today, signalling the end of 82 years of Ford-badged, Australian-built light utilities.
While there are still a few months to go before the plug is permanently pulled on Ford’s Broadmeadows operations on October 7, its high-vis wearing workhorse cousin has now officially ended its historic march down an Australian Ford production line for good.
Fans of The Blue Oval – and even, dare we say it, some Holden-lovers – have been steeling themselves for a sad goodbye to the ute, given that Ford created the first “coupe utility” in 1934 in response to a farmer’s wife’s request for a car that could be “[driven] to church on a Sunday and take the pigs to market on a Monday.”
The resulting design, penned by young Ford designer Lew Bandt, featured a single steel side pressing that merged a two-seat cabin with a deep tub and a drop-down tailgate. Ford set the template, which was subsequently mimicked not only by chief rival Holden, but cars like the Chevrolet El Camino, the Subaru Brumby, Suzuki Mighty Boy and Proton Jumbuck.
Even Toyota got in on the ute game with the 1960s-vintage Crown and Corona pickups. Compatriot Nissan decided they couldn’t out-ute Ford, and sold a rebadged version of the XF utility as the ‘Nissan Ute’ between 1988 and 1991.
In more recent times the humble ute has steadily lost market share to ladder-framed dual-cab pick-ups, with models like the Ford Ranger, Volkswagen Amarok and Toyota HiLux winning over buyers with the availability of 4WD, rugged go-anywhere capabilities and roomy two-row cabins.
Last year the Falcon ute and Holden ute together accounted for just 7590 sales, a fraction of the 40,457 sales recorded for the 4x2 commercial segment as a whole. Over the same period, the 4x4 commercial vehicle segment notched up a whopping 134,003 sales.
The 439,742th ute to be built by Ford Australia – a white XR6 manual – will make a beeline for Ford’s collection of museum pieces, where it will spend the majority of its life at the Ford Heritage Centre in Geelong. It will most likely never be driven on public roads, let alone take pigs to market.
But while that car is destined for the white-glove treatment, Ford still has plenty of utes stockpiled for sale. If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of Ford history, now is your chance.