How did Australia come to give the world the ute? As Unique Cars pointed out this week, there’s two conflicting reports on the origins of the coupe utility, and naturally, both Ford and Holden vie for the title of ute inventor.
There had never been any argument about this being an Australian invention, but the former managing director of General Motors’-Holden (1934-1946), Sir Laurence (‘Larry’) John Hartnett, claimed in his 1964 memoir Big Wheels and Little Wheels to have come up with the idea himself.
It’s a tale that makes good reading, but it is missing a key word: ‘Ford.’ Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that in November 1934 the boss of GM-H could fail to be aware that Ford Australia was already selling precisely such a vehicle. This seems disingenuous because at least one photograph of a Ford ute was taken during the construction of GM-H’s new Fishermans Bend headquarters in 1934!
* How did the British team manage to win the 1968 London-to-Sydney Marathon when it ran in third place behind German and French teams? Crashes, one right after the other, and one of the two rather suspicious, according to Citroënvie.
On the last competitive stage, the German Ford Taunus driven by Flying Finn Simo Lampinen failed spectacularly in a bust-or-bust-through lunge, elevating a British car to second place. But Belgian Lucien Bianchi in a works Citroën DS21 emerged from the last night of frenetic activity with an unassailable 11-point lead and was cruising to the finish at the Warwick Farm Grand Prix circuit. Then he was crashed out of the event by a head-on collision with a spectator’s car.
“It was rumoured that the occupants of the Mini were a pair of off-duty policemen who were both ‘drunk as skunks’.” Actually there were a number of rumours (including one which said that BMC had intentionally sent a Mini to crash into the Citroën) but the facts are more mundane. The Mini which collided with the Citroën was actually driven by a couple of 18 year olds who were neither drunk nor in the police force.
* Just a Corvair Rampside that’s been sectioned, set atop a tube chassis with a mid-mounted twin-turbo LSx V-8, flared, fit with a Rambler-esque schnozz, and running Lambo doors. Seen one, seen ’em all, amirite?
* On TheFrabricator.com, Josh Welton has been diving into the history of the jerrycan and discovered some interesting twists and turns along the way.
Of particular interest is Paul Pleiss, of course, the man identified as an American engineer who had just finished working in Germany before all hell broke loose. At the same time, Pleiss was building an overland vehicle and preparing for his epic road trip from Berlin to Calcutta. Every story, in one manner or another, told about his co-pilot, a German engineer who he roped in on the adventure, and how this man eventually used his knowledge of location and his security clearance to nab a few jerrycans just for use on their trip. They hid the cans under their vehicle and made it through almost a dozen border crossings before the German engineer was physically retrieved by the German army, though not before he basically gave Pleiss a blueprint for the Wehrmachtkanister.