New Zealand Classic Car - - EDITORIAL - Words: Lach­lan Jones Pho­tos: Adam Croy

Hu­mour me for a se­cond. Let’s imag­ine you live on a large life­style block not far from town. You’ve done OK for your­self, have a bit of spare cash, and you want your fam­ily to get out and en­joy them­selves, so you’ll hap­pily in­dulge them. You used to have a race car, but you sold it when the kids came. Now the kids are get­ting big­ger. The girls are into dres­sage, with a cou­ple of horses out in the pad­dock and a float to carry them around. The boy, he likes camp­ing and hunt­ing out in the wops. You? Well, it would be nice to get back into that race car. And you’ve got a busi­ness to run; you need a tow wagon — but some­thing nice, and some­thing that can go bush when it needs to. You do big open-road dis­tances. You like be­ing high up. Range Rover won’t do it, you need a tray. Ranger won’t do it, you need to tow 5000kg loads for work. Un­til now, you would have been in the gun for a few cars here. But whoa, Black Betty, Ram-a-lam.

Touch of class

I am a true city dweller with an aver­sion to muddy ve­hi­cles and any kind of the man­ual labour of the sort that a ute driver seems in­clined to­wards. But, last year, as the Ford Ranger con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate the best­seller lists for both com­mer­cial and pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, I thought I’d bet­ter have a crack at get­ting be­hind the wheel of one to see what made a whole lot of Ki­wis fall in love. I didn’t take long to fig­ure it out. There was very lit­tle the Ranger couldn’t do. I went for the Wild­trak, which adds a touch of class by way of leather, a re­vers­ing cam­era and a few other very un­nec­es­sary but pretty en­hance­ments, and, of course, I at­tached the manda­tory 20-inch wheels. The Ranger proved its met­tle, tak­ing to sub­ur­ban tasks as eas­ily as it did open roads, and even once a grassy pad­dock with a hill.

And that is the beauty of the mod­ern ute. It’s still a bit rough around the edges, and ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on a gen­tle in­cline if the set­tings are just right, but it’s more than happy around town per­form­ing slightly less stren­u­ous tasks and look­ing good while do­ing so without shout­ing ‘I paid so much for so lit­tle’, as some over-en­gi­neered SUVS tend to do.

Preach­ing to the con­verted

So, while we’re just catch­ing onto the whole ute-as-a-sta­tus-sym­bol busi­ness, old mates in the US of A have been at it for a fair old while. And if, like in the States, you as­sume big is best in this arms race that is cur­rently led in New Zealand by Ford, Toy­ota, Nis­san, Mit­subishi, VW, Mazda, and Holden, you — and those man­u­fac­tur­ers — could be in for a rude awak­en­ing with the re­cent ar­rival of the Dodge Ram in its first fac­tory-cer­ti­fied right-hand-drive con­fig­u­ra­tion.

While the Ram has been present on New Zealand roads for a num­ber of years, the in­tro­duc­tion of the right-hand-drive

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