OUR FAVE WORKHORSES
As faithful as a Labrador, there has never been anything like the Aussie ute and there never will be again.
Once considered just a tool of the trade, the humble ute has evolved into a sports luxur y vehicle and a status symbol among tradies.
In our ‘Salute the Ute’ we’ve bookended the first and last models to leave the Holden factor y.
Holden drove its first ute, the 50-216, based on the original 48-215 passenger car, off the production line in Januar y 1951 and is driving out of the factor y for the last time this October, in the SS-V Redline ute, the hottest hombre ever to wear a Holden badge.
So, let’s take a look at the two and see how the humble workingman’s car has evolved.
When you see them together two things strike you. One, how much the young pup dwarfs the old timer. And two, how elegant the chrome makes the 1951 model look and how its elimination makes the SS-V look positively mean.
The SS-V Redline stands a shade over five metres long, nearly two metres wide, a tad under 1.5 metres tall and its wheelbase is near as dammit to three metres. The ‘Humpy’ as it was affectionately known for obvious reasons is just 4.3 metres long, 1.7 metres wide, 1.56metres tall and sits on a 2.6-metre wheelbase
Today’s mechanics would love the simplicity and ease of working on the 2.1-litre straight si x and three-speed manual gearbox of the original, which took an agonising
“THE 6.2-LITRE V8 PACKS MORE PUNCH THAN DANNY GREEN LIFT THE BONNET, THERE’S BARELY ROOM FOR A FEELER GAUGE IT’S LIKE WEARING A SIZE 8 SHOE ON A SIZE 10 FOOT”
18.7 seconds to reach t he lega l limit due to its modest 45kW and 135Nm output.
Lift t he bonnet on t he Redline and t here’s barely room for a feeler gauge. It’s like wearing a size 8 shoe when you have a size 10 foot, wit h ever y t hing so jammed in.
The 6.2-litre V8 t hat lurks under t he big plastic cover packs more punch than Danny Green and belts out 304kW and 570Nm slinging it to 100k m/h in 4.9 secs in eit her si x-speed manual or auto form.
That said, for a ll its brawn t he SS-V Redline can only carr y a measly 630kgs due to its sports underpinnings, not shedloads more than the 355 k ilograms of the ’51 model. And while t he SS-V Redline’s cargo area looks like a big plastic bin, t he timber paneling and metal strips in t he back of t he ’Olden are a work of art.
Underneath the ’Olden shows the simplicit y of t he short- and long-arm independent coil-spring front end and t he rear Hotchkiss drive wit h semi-elliptic springs and single ex haust out let.
Then there is the worm and sector t y pe steering and 9-inch drum bra kes front and back.
Peek under the SS-V Redline and you notice the huge Brembo bra ke ca lipers and la rge disc bra kes, t he slip dif f and la rge ex haust pipes a long wit h t he multi-link rear suspension and fat sway bars t hat are part of t he top spec sports suspension.
While t he ’51 offered no assistance whatsoever, t he SS-V Redline gets electronic power-steering to turn t he fat, low prof ile, 8.5-inch-wide, 19inch-diameter a lloys. Many of today’s sports motorcycles have fatter t y res t hat t he ’51 ute which wore four-ply t y res on15x5-inch rims.
Open the door of the ’51 model and it’s as sparse as a tent, wit h just a big slipper y v inyl bench seat to give you third degree burns or hy pothermia, depending on the season. There’s matching v inyl on t he f loor t hough and wind up windows and a choke and a huge Bakelite steering wheel wit h t he gear lever poking out one side of t he column. There is no radio, no vents, no… Well… Not much of any t hing rea lly.
Visua lly, t he SS-V Redline interior is a lmost v isua l overk ill af ter stepping out of t he old timer. There is fau x carbon, gloss black and chrome trimmings, sports seats and leat her steering wheel, paddle shif ts, carpet, cup holders, multi-choice air con, power windows and handbrake, USB ports and storage space behind t he electrica lly adjustable and heated seats. It is hardly what you’d ca ll a work horse.
Sitting in t he SS-V Redline you are confronted wit h a multitude of gauges, sensors, an infotainment screen, Bluetooth and even head up display on the windscreen. The ’51 dash looks naked wit h just a big speedo, small petrol gauge and warning lamps for coolant temp, oil pressure and t he generator.
Safet y features were prett y sparse back in the 50s and the crumple zone usually ended up being the occupants. We’ve become a lot more safet y sav v y and the SS-V Redline has anti-lock bra kes wit h electronic bra keforce and bra ke assist, traction and stabilit y controls, la ne monitoring, adaptive cruise control, blind spot a lert, a reversing camera and a swag of airbags.
However, af ter a ll t hese years, some things haven’t changed.
Both utes are of monocoque construction, bot h feature a high-mounted centra l stoplight and to start eit her t he 1951 model or t he 2017 model, you push a button.
As with the demise of the advanced Concorde in av iation circles, light commercials seem to be heading back to the past– from coupe utilities to cab/chassis pickups. Exact ly what t hey were before a clever young bloke from Geelong gave us our f irst ‘ute’ way back in 1934.
ABOVE Elegant chrome hub caps of the 50-216.
ABOVE Chrome gives the old-timer elegance – the lack of it gives the young one purpose
ABOVE They share the lion badge, push button start and monocoque construction.