End of an Aussie icon

On July 29 this white XR6 became the last Falcon Ute built in Australia

TOBY HAGON

1933

Ford Australia M D Hubert French receives a letter from a farmer’s wife requesting a car that can “go to church on Sunday and … take the pigs to market on Monday”. Lew Bandt designs what he dubs a “coupeutilit y”, based on the Model 40 five-window coupe.

1934

Production of the first Ford ute commences in January.

WE KNEW this moment was coming, just not so soon. By the time you read this, the Ford Falcon Ute will be history.

The very last Falcon Ute – a white XR6 automatic – rolled off the production line on July 29, two months before Broadmeadows builds its last Falcon and 82 years after the company created the first car-based utility back in 1934.

From humble pig-hauler to mighty performance hero, the Falcon Ute has reached its end.

Ute number 467,690 is destined to become a museum piece, never to carry anything or to turn a wheel in anger.

We’ve seen an incredible variety of Falcon utes over its eight decades, including four-wheel drives, high-riding rear-drive offroaders and high-performance V8 track stars.

In recent years there has been a lack of development with the ute, with ‘innovations’ limited to features such as USB inputs and ABS brakes. In a time when Holden switched the focus of its Ute from load-lugger to sports car – exchanging a live-axle leafsprung rear for an independent set-up with coils – Ford has not messed with a formula that was once so successful.

Despite a boom in demand for four-wheel-drive utes and various body configurations, Ford hasn’t touched the compact two-seat cabin of the Falcon.

1961

A decade after Holden’s f irst ute (based on the 48-215) the first Falcon ute (XK) enters production at Broadmeadows in Melbourne and Br isbane’s Eagle Farm.

1966

Second generation XR launches.

1972

Ford produces only 4WD Falcon ute, based on the XY. Third generation XA (above) launches.

1979

Fourth generation XD launches.

1982

Ford drops V8 engine, and it won’t be back until 1997 XH II.

1988

Ford produces 1951 Falcon utes wearing Nissan badges as part of a deal encouraged by the government.

2002

Turbo six joins V8 for BA series performance push.

2003

Ford RTV ( Rugged Terrain Vehicle) launches. Driving only the rear wheels, it has a locking diff and higher ride height.

Lew Bandt’s 1930s design eventually swept the world, spawning generations of coupe-utilities

That has seen sales plummet in the face of dramatic growth in imported dual-cab utes, which offer the ability to carry more tradies, or an entire family.

Ironically, that family focus is the reason Ford invented the ute in the first place.

Born of a young nation growing in confidence and prosperity, the ute’s story dates to the early 1930s, when a Gippsland farmer’s wife, weary of crude chopped-down sedans with tacked-on trays, asked the carmaker to develop a vehicle that could be driven to church on Sunday and take the pigs to market on Monday.

The challenge was handed to Ford Australia’s only designer at the time, Lew Bandt, aged in his early 20s. His solution was to continue the profile of the coupe’s bodywork, creating a single side skin that provided a roomy passenger compartment up front, with a larger tray area out back.

Bandt’s design would eventually sweep the world, spawning generations of coupe-utilities that would eventually etch their way into the Australian lexicon. Now the word “ute” faces extinction, with the rest of the world referring to the load-lugger as a pick-up.

It wasn’t until 1961 – a year after the sedan – that the Falcon ute arrived, capitalising on the hype created almost 30 years earlier.

Sales have at times boomed.

Falcon utes regularly accounted for more than one in four Falcon sales, and in recent years the model has represented more than 30 percent of Falcons.

The peak for Falcon ute sales was 20,212 in 2004, while the highest percentage of ute sales for Ford was 30.9 in 2015 as Falcon sedan sales plummeted.

The most popular Falcon ute was the XFII (44,406 sales), closely followed by the BA (43,225).

1992

Fifth generation XG launches.

199 9

Sixth generation AU launches, splitting tub and cabin for the first time. Cab-chassis model added.

2004

BA II Ute sales peak at 20,212.

2008

Seventh generation FG launches. FPV Super Pursuit 315kW 5.0-litre supercharged V8 is most powerful Falcon ute ever. uper itre e

2016

15 Final Falcon ute rolls off the Broadmeadows production line.

Museum piece

The final Falcon ute is a white XR6 with an automatic transmission. Under the bonnet is a Geelong-cast 3984cc in-line six-cylinder iron block fitted with an all-aluminium head, paired with a six-speed auto.

It rolled off the Broadmeadows production line – which has produced every Falcon ute since the original in 1961 – at 2.15pm on Friday, July 29.

The car will join Ford Australia’s collection of significant vehicles, destined never to be driven on public roads. It will instead spend time in the Heritage Centre in Geelong and be wheeled out for shows, displays and in museums.

While the final ute has rolled off the production line, Ford plans to sell them for a few months, having stockpiled some to account for anticipated demand.