BRUTE FORCE

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents -

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.

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