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Small utes in Australia: A short historical past


Final 12 months, the 2 best-selling autos in Australia have been the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, and mixed they accounted for over 100,000 gross sales. Rivals just like the Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton have been additionally within the prime 10.

Australian patrons clearly recognize the basic idea of a ute: a versatile, do-it-all car with an open mattress that may carry all method of cargo.

Australians will not be alone right here. Whereas the US has had a continuous love affair with their bigger pickup vehicles, small, crossover-based utes have returned there within the type of the Hyundai Tucson-based Santa Cruz and the Ford Escape-derived Maverick.

In Latin America, they by no means left. Numerous fashions are nonetheless out there which have a size of underneath 4.5m and a payload of round 650kg, such because the Renault Duster Oroch, Fiat Strada, and Volkswagen Saveiro, with a brand new Chevrolet Montana on the way in which. These fashionable fashions are all derived from small automobile or SUV platforms.

MORE: Automobile-based utes: The small pickups thriving abroad

In many years previous, numerous automobile producers have tried to promote miniaturised variations of the ute idea in Australia, with various levels of success.

One of many earliest small utes ever bought in Australia was the oft-forgotten Lightburn Zeta Utility, which gave patrons the flexibility of a ute however the extra nimble dimensions of an city runabout.

A product of the fledgling, Adelaide-based Lightburn Automobile Firm and bought for 3 years from 1963-66, the Zeta was a tiny, fibreglass-bodied ute marketed as a second automobile.

That includes a two-stroke, 0.3-litre two-cylinder engine with a prime velocity of simply 60 km/h and a payload of roughly 230 kg, only a few examples have been bought. Alas, the complete Zeta lineup, which additionally included a roadster and wagon, was deemed an abject failure.

Extra not too long ago, numerous carmakers have tried their hand on the small ute idea, and 4 of the extra fashionable fashions on supply have been the Proton Jumbuck, Subaru Brumby, Suzuki Mighty Boy and Datsun 1200 Ute.

Proton Jumbuck (2003-2010)

In Australia, Proton is probably finest remembered for providing a variety of funds hatchbacks and sedans, a few of which wore Tuned by Lotus badges on the bootlid. Certainly one of its hottest autos, nonetheless, was the Jumbuck ute.

The most recent automobile on this checklist, the Jumbuck was based mostly on the Wira/Persona, which have been in flip based mostly on an older era of Mitsubishi Lancer.

A reside axle and leaf springs have been fitted on the rear, whereas underneath the bonnet was a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder Mitsubishi-sourced engine mated to a five-speed handbook transmission producing 64kW of energy and 120Nm of torque.

It weighed simply 1015kg, however the Jumbuck nonetheless provided a payload of 550kg.

The Jumbuck was underneath 4.5m in size and had 170mm of floor clearance, although it was solely out there with front-wheel drive. Two variants have been provided, with the top-spec GLSi together with 14-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, energy home windows and mirrors and a four-speaker sound system.

Priced from $16,990 drive-away, the Jumbuck’s small dimensions, simplicity and low value hit the candy spot for some prospects. These attributes have been clearly robust sufficient to get patrons to miss the disastrous one-star ANCAP score.

Although Proton stated a brand new era was incoming, the Jumbuck ended up being axed from the native lineup in 2010 with no alternative.

MORE: 25 years of failures: The automobile manufacturers that didn’t reach Australia, Half I (consists of Proton)

Subaru Brumby (1978-1994)

Subaru has a well-established picture of being a model for individuals who take pleasure in leisure out of doors actions, made doable by the inclusion of normal all-wheel-drive throughout the lineup (apart from the BRZ).

The Brumby was no exception. Recognized elsewhere because the BRAT and 284, this may be the one ute mannequin ever bought by the Japanese marque in Australia.

It arrived right here in 1978 and initially featured a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, which by 1981 was swapped out for a bigger 1.8-litre carburetted Boxer 4. This produced outputs of 61kW of energy and 132Nm of torque, and was mated to a four-speed handbook transmission.

The automobile’s four-wheel drive system might be activated on demand through a lever located on the transmission tunnel. The Brumby’s small dimension and four-wheel drive made the automobile fashionable with farmers who appreciated its modest rough-road capabilities together with its tough-as-nails reliability.

Based mostly on the Leone (predecessor to the Impreza), the Brumby provided a payload of simply 400kg, however compensated for this with a low value.

In its remaining 12 months on sale, 1994, it was priced from simply $17,085 earlier than on-road prices in base guise, undercutting extra conventional utes just like the Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux.

Subaru previewed a possible successor to the Brumby referred to as the Suiren on the 1993 Tokyo Motor Present. Following within the footsteps of its predecessor, this may have been based mostly on Subaru’s new small automobile, the Impreza, had it made manufacturing.

Sadly, the area of interest standing of the Brumby within the carmaker’s lineup, coupled with a common stagnation within the Japanese economic system, meant that the Suiren remained a stillborn, production-ready idea.

American prospects did obtain a religious successor within the 2000s with the Liberty-based Subaru Baja ute, although it was short-lived.

Suzuki Mighty Boy (1985-1988)

Japan is known for its tiny Kei automobiles, which are sometimes a artistic outlet for producers to squeeze in as a lot practicality, utility and area as doable inside very tight dimensional and energy constraints.

The Mighty Boy was Suzuki’s try to create a ute that match inside these rules, and in addition bears the excellence of being maybe one of many few kei automobiles exported outdoors of Japan, being bought in Australia and Cyprus as nicely.

That includes a complete size of simply 3.2m, the Mighty Boy was satirically very mini in nature, rivalling the Lightburn Zeta talked about above for the title of smallest automobile on this article.

As with different kei automobiles of this period, the Mighty Boy made use of a 0.5-litre (543cc) three-cylinder engine producing simply 19kW of energy and 35Nm of torque, leading to a 0-100 km/h time of a glacial 24 seconds.

Most payload was a stunning (for its dimension) 440kg, and curiously, the Mighty Boy was optionally out there with a two-speed automated alongside the standard-fit 4 velocity handbook.

The Mighty Boy was one of many most cost-effective new automobiles on sale in Australia, at one level priced from simply $5795.

Datsun 1200 Ute

Whereas the Toyota Corona was additionally out there in Australia with a ute physique, the Datsun 1200 is the Japanese load-lugger with the stronger cult following right this moment.

Touted as a half-ton ute and marketed as a “mighty midget”, the little hauler – recognized in Japan because the Sunny Truck – was a ute model of the favored 1200, predecessor to the 120Y.

Because the identify suggests, it used a 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine, producing 52kW and 95Nm. The one transmission was a four-speed handbook, and the 1200 Ute was simply 3845mm lengthy general whereas weighing underneath 750kg.

It had a prolonged run in Australia, being bought from 1971 to 1985. It outlasted its sedan and wagon counterparts, and was bought alongside their 120Y, Sunny and Pulsar replacements.

Nevertheless, that was nothing in comparison with its tenure in South Africa.

There, the favored little bakkie continued to be produced all the way in which till 2008 earlier than it was lastly achieved in by stricter emission and security rules. Although formally bought there because the 1400, it was additionally colloquially known as the “kanniedood”, Afrikaans for “can not die”.



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