1949 Ford F100
You might have heard the one about the Australian farmer’s wife, who, some 80 years ago, sent Ford’s Australian head office a letter born of frustration. “My husband and I can’t afford a car and a truck,” she wrote, “but we need a car to go to church on Sunday and a truck to take the pigs to market on Monday. Can you help?” Ford Australia wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to appease the farmer’s wife, and its humble ute was born. [ The first manufacturer-built utes came from Dodge in 1913; from Dodge in 1924; and Ford — based on a Model T — in 1925. Ed.] Designed by young Melbourne-based engineer Lew Bandt, it wasn’t long before that ute was in production in the US, with Henry Ford himself christening the new creation “The Kangaroo Chaser”. Of course, today, Ford’s ute continues to wow audiences with its capable chassis and sturdy build quality (even if manufacture has been sent to Ford outposts across the globe).
Somewhere in between now and then, Ford began thinking aesthetics, and the F-series pickup truck was born. The F-series was, and continues to be, the mainstay in the utility line-up in the US, built big and tough for the everyman to work hard and, more recently, to act as a status symbol. In New Zealand, the F-series was officially only sold briefly, largely to successful blue-collar company directors and foremen. They were something of a novelty and proof you were doing OK.
We were lucky enough to recently come across this stunning red example of a 1949 first-generation F100 Bonus. Following a conversation with the owner outside a local cafe, we began to piece together the truck’s history. Registered new in New Zealand, this was a New Zealand Forestry truck that spent its early years beating a path into rugged backwoods to check on lumberjacks in the deep south. The original ownership papers show it was retired from forestry service in 1956 and passed through several sets of hands in and around Motueka before finally landing in Auckland. The previous owners were the Maddren family, who bought and restored the F100 in the 2000s to be used as a promotional vehicle for the buildingsupplies business. While it’s not a completely original example, we were impressed by the quality of the restoration and era-correct parts used throughout.
When the time came to move on from the ute, the current owner happened to be jogging on the spot looking for a “fun car”. This trusty workhorse is relegated to light duties these days and used to cart surfboards around the place most weekends, while the Cleveland V8 provides a soundtrack reminiscent of 1950s cool.
1975 Range Rover
If we sat down and played one of those word-association games, there are fewer certainties than your response if I said ‘Luxury 4x4’. Range Rover. It’s that simple. The Range Rover sits in a now-very-noisy segment alongside seemingly every manufacturer’s big five-door, but the British aristocrat continues to outpace its rivals in terms of pure presence and doing what Range Rover does so well — remaining first among equals. The fact that Range Rover is a sub-brand of Land Rover is often overlooked, due to the power of the name.
Our featured original three-door 1975 Range Rover was bought brand-new by man of the Mackenzie Country Donald ‘Mt Cook’ Burnett. Burnett ran one of the country’s largest stations until his death at age 95 in 2010. He owned the Range Rover for 23 years, using it as a farm truck and town commuter.
The current owner, Matthew Gibson, bought the Range Rover from a Palmerston North– based Crown prosecutor several years ago. While it was in good condition, with some of the restoration work already completed, Matthew decided to put the Range Rover in the capable hands of Michael Wolf, in New Plymouth, for a full restoration. The job took Michael 18 months, and, as the engine was in excellent condition, a full recondition wasn’t in order, although the gearbox was rebuilt at a Land Rover specialist in Hamilton.
The original throaty 3.5-litre V8 remains, paired to a powerful security system in the form of the original four-speed box, which proved too much for some of the New Zealand Classic Car team to manage when we needed to manoeuvre it around for the photo shoot (the author claimed a “dicky synchro” when attempting to engage reverse; no one else noticed this problem).
Of course, while it has nowhere near the levels of luxury and comfort offered by the modern trucks, the excellent paintwork (the vehicle was originally a cream colour; Matthew chose this excellent green, worthy of a classic Rangie), along with the fresh interior (custom made in the UK), make the old Rangie a simply lovely place to be.