Car Show Classic: 2013 Historic Commercial Vehicle Club Show – Utes And Vans

It wasn’t all big trucks at the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club’s 2013 annual show; there were some smaller passenger car-based commercials also, including this pretty special 1946 Mercury ute which was surely 50 years ahead of its time, being a “luxury” ute offered to buyers who didn’t want a basic workhorse.  With its unique body you might compare it to the Lincoln Blackwood rather than the F-150 Platinum, but either way it is worthy of a closer look.

It is exactly what it seems – the longer Mercury nose on Ford Australia’s own ute body, sitting on the Mercury chassis, and would have (originally at least) the 239 ci Mercury flathead V8.  Much of the history of this ute is known, from its original sale in Wodonga on the north-east border of Victoria to a buyer who apparently used it to haul fire wood from the forest until the ring gear started slipping, when it was sold and sat for years in a paddock (field) slowly deteriorating.

This is what it looked like in 1988 when it was rescued and restored over the next two years.  The running gear is described as “upgraded” which I am guessing is from a local Falcon, including an auto gearbox and the near-ubiquitous 12-slot chrome rims indicating the front end will have been changed too.  This was because the Mercury was put into daily use, which continued until it hit a kangaroo in 1997.  It then sat until being sold again a couple of years later and repaired to the condition you see it now.

In the photo above you can see the truck-style rear view mirrors and a ladder rack with additional lights and a bumper that wasn’t in the picture (literally) when new, as you can see for the ad.


There were only about 90 of these Mercury utes built before the Mercury make was dropped in the Australian market for 1949.

This 1955 Mainline ute saw not only a new generation car, but also the flathead V8 replaced by the Y-block (a year behind North America).  Like the Mercury, I suspect there has been some updating of things when this ute was restored in the late 1980s – note the wider wheel rims – back then few people were concerned about originality over improved driveability.  Later updates of this car, which ran through 1958 would feature some Mercury grille pieces.

To jump another decade forward, we have a 1965 XP model Ford Falcon; the last of the first generation that featured Mercury sheetmetal – is there a pattern here?  This ute has only had a retrimmed seat and is otherwise is unrestored.  The owners use it to transport model steam trains, which I think is pretty cool, and for camping trips plus other general ute-like activities.

Next was the impressive Austin 1800 ute, which has an 82″ long bed (at floor level at least) and 53″ between the wheel arches – much better than modern mid-size pickups.  The 22″ load floor height would take some beating too.

The rest of the vehicle was the usual English vehicle mixture of some fantastic features and some woeful executions, but once the bugs are sorted out (eg a full restoration!) they provide excellent service.  This one is a 1970 Mark II, with only an updated grille to signify all the improvements under the skin.

The interior wouldn’t have had the wood trim originally, but the car has had a bare metal restoration so like others has had the odd enhancement to suit the owner’s preferences.  The early-60s awkward steering wheel angle is slightly apparent here, as is the typical Issigonis simplicity.

This 1961 Holden EK model panel van is a rare survivor as panel vans typically composed a small proportion total production.  The panel van had a higher roof line than station wagons, which were 4-door only.  The registration plate indicates this one won’t be standard under the bonnet, and by 1961 the old grey motor that ran back to the first 1948 Holden needed all the help it could get!

The panel van could be had with or without side windows, and old versions have had a certain cool for a long time.

This is a Holden 1-tonner with a “2-tonner” conversion that added a lazy axle (non-driven).  The 1-tonner is an interesting variant as it was designed to fit in with Bedford trucks as part of GM’s commercial vehicle range – a TK model Bedford can be seen behind.  This saw the pickup have a plain stamped steel grille like the big trucks and normally a plain curved steel channel bumper – this one has a passenger car bumper, but still has the original round indicators beside the grille.  Those clearly show how functionality was the first and perhaps only priority!

There were a few sedans at the show too, so here is a 1946-48 Dodge – very similar to the resto-modded one seen at Motorclassica last year.  Is there a way to distinguish between the years for these?

Next to that was a pretty impressive unrestored Chrysler Imperial that had been imported from New York state.  It seems reasonable that the 32 on the plate represents 1932, is that right?  This car is represents a bit of a quandary, do you revel in the authentic-original condition?  Even polishing it at this point might be a risk, while a full restoration would only seem worthwhile if you wanted the car to be pristine.

Let’s have a closer look at the intricate radiator badge while we are here.

Next is a 1949 Ford ute, which represents the generation between the two we saw earlier.  Of course this body style is unique to Australia and one thing I am curious about is why they chose to add the rear wheel arch treatment seen here – so unlike the sedan.

This XL model Falcon is the first revision from 1961, which makes an interesting comparison from the EK Holden it sold against.  The registration number and blue sticker in the windscreen tells me this ute was put back on the road in 1995, and it took part in the Ford Australia 75th Anniversary celebrations.

Note also the back of the Inter Acco fire truck from the previous post; also the display sign at the right that will represent a Maple Leaf truck – a Canadian-sourced truck from the WW2-era.

I will include half-ton pickups here too, like this excellent 1947-49 International KB1.  I suppose it will seen strange to American eyes to see a flat tray here, but it looks original and would be more likely particularly for an International here.

There can’t be too many 1958 Nissan Patrols left (86.6” WB 4W61 model), and the Jeep origins are clear.  The Patrol would soon transition from a Jeep-type vehicle to a station wagon SUV although it kept a SWB variant until its nominal demise, or at least significant change in focus, in 2013.  There were a handful of 1945-47 Ford “jail bar” trucks here too.

In 1961 I-H Australia split from building versions of the US trucks, shifting to a more rationalised line up, and this I-H AB110 is an example of that.  I’d expect it to have a 240 ci version of the locally-built ABD (Australian Blue Diamond) engine.  Realistically I suppose the cab would have similar dimensions to the Big 3 pickups, but with things like the front wheel arch flares intended for its big brothers it seems larger.  Note the flat tray again.

Next is a truck I’ve featured on CC before, a Dodge Power Wagon, but here is closer shot of it where you can see the large PTO-driven winch and a 318 V8 badge.

This 1951 Ford “twin spinner” convertible wouldn’t have been sold in Australia new, but was more likely imported decades ago and converted to right-hand drive; a much easier process than more modern cars!  Note the Model A sedan next door.

This 1977 Ford F-100 XLT has an interesting story, bought for long-distance travel and towing with many carefully thought-out accessories.  Starting with all the air features: air conditioning, air bag helper springs front and rear, air horns, and an air compressor and plumbed lines to operate tools.  Gauges cover such details as exhaust temp, fuel pressure and water level in addition to the more common ones.  Just 2 years after purchase the original 302C engine was swapped for a Nissan SD33 turbo, which could achieve 30 mpg fuel consumption (US – 36 imperial mpg) but did not have enough power.

So in 1981 a GM 4-53T was fitted with Allison AT540 4-sp auto.  There is also an auxiliary overdrive gearbox (air operated) feeding power to a 2.7:1 diff – I did say it was intended for highway cruising!  There is space for a second battery, and a lot of custom touches under the bonnet, a credit to its sole owner.

This 1936 British Bedford is a great example of a roadster utility.  I don’t know much about it but I would assume it is based on Vauxhall components, so perhaps a 14hp (RAC) engine – about 2.2-2.4 litres.  There is another 1955-58 Ford Mainline ute next door that I didn’t photograph separately.

This 1976 F-100 with a tipping tray is an unusual setup; the bull bar and LPG dual fuel are much more common!

I don’t think 4×4 F-100’s sold in great numbers here but there are a few around and 2 at the show.  To tie into the last post, the Country Fire Authority in Victoria had some F-350 4×4’s as light tankers, often replacing the old Austins.

Getting back into the old British Fords, where I am slightly out of my element, here is one of the earlier model 1946-48 A54A Anglia utes.  These still had the side-valve 4-cylinder (933 or 1,172 cc) and traditional Ford transverse leaf suspension.

Here is the following A494A model Anglia from 1949-53; only cosmetic changes that were slightly-later 1930s in appearance!

This rear shot shows a similar A494A model to the one seen above, plus an earlier Model Y roadster ute that is actually from the 1930s.

This larger van looks like a 1938-57 Fordson E83W, which was apparently called the Ford Ten-Ten in Australia after 1952.  It has the 1,172 cc engine (RAC 10hp) and a lower-geared axle so it can still move when loaded up.  At least this one was used by a bakery so won’t have had too much weight on board.

In this photo, with a 1949-53 A493A model Prefect ute and a 1955-59 100E Ford Escort van.  Quite different from the Escort you are used to, no matter which version that is!

At the end of the Morris J-type vans was this great scale model Land Rover.

To finish with a ute from the car park, this is a 1981 Holden WB model ute.  The Statesman Caprice wheels indicate it probably has the grille and headlights from the same model.  Photobombing this shot is the nose of a mid-1990s F-150, the facelift that came in after the F-series ceased local production.  Am I correct in thinking the front sheetmetal swaps easily?

Actually for one last shot, a 1992 Subaru Fiori kei-car which I think was the only 4-cylinder kei car.  That covers the lighter vehicles, more to come next time!