"Ark it, Ark It as loud as u can - you'll never catch me - I'm a circlework man."
What's big, yellow, and frequents B & S balls all around Australia? – The Ford Falcon Mongrel Ute.
Back to Showcars Index.
Caught by our roving photographer at the 2001 Geelong All Ford Day, there was little doubt as to where the photos were to end up. With such strikingly good looks and a colour even a blind man couldn't miss, it is fitting that this Ute form the first B & S basher introduced to Falcon/Fairlane/LTD.
So how did this Ute get so wild, and who is this Uteman? Well, for that I better introduce you to Allan Nixon - famous as the "Ute man" and for his contributions to OUTBACK magazine and his fantastic series "Beaut Utes" - now up to it's 3rd edition with more in to come. "I spend most of the year 'on the road' writing books, articles for magazines, judging Ute Shows, etc. This Ute had to take place of my office at home." As you can imagine, any Ute owned by the Uteman had better not be ordinary - and we think this AU fits the bill.
Choosing the Falcon:
Says Allan "the Mongrel is based on the highly successful AUII Falcon Ute, which has already established itself as the market leader in sales (selling 2 to 1 against Holden's VS Commodore Ute), and leads in terms of ride, handling, power, refinement and comfort. This was something I could really get my teeth into." And although Allan didn't say it, we suspect the Falcon's superior suspension systems (tough as they come double drop forged double wish bones at the front with proven leaf springs at the back) may have had a big say in the decision to go with the Falcon.
Yet despite all of that, Allan really isn't a one eyed Ford fan. In fact, he has been heard to say (in response to a bagging by a Holden fan over his choice of the Falcon) "I own Holden utes also, (an FJ and an EH). In fact I think I may have just got another FJ Ute, AND an FX Ute! Will know for sure in a day or so." Ahhh - the days when Holden still made Australian cars... I kinda think it all adds to the legitimacy of his argument!
Still, in his favour I found the following comment on his site: "It has MONGREL stickers on both sides and rear. Being changed from silver to black & silver. May change it to read "Bloody MONGREL V8 Holden munchin machine!" (joking!)". I thought it was a good idea...
Not one to be backwards in coming forwards, Allan simply went to Ford and said - "I want to build a special Ute". To cut a long story short, he put in a written submission detailing what he envisaged (a long shot by any means). "I wanted a Ute that from a 100 yards away people would look and say "must have a closer look at that". I wanted to take a standard everyday production model Ford Falcon AUII and play with it." And Ford bit!!!
"Six weeks later we registered the Mongrel. Normally it would take 6 to 8 months to put a project like this together. I needed to do it in time to take it to Deniliquin Ute Muster, and then to Queensland to the Emerald Ute Muster. This was a great team effort and all contributors are to be congratulated!"
"I had to get stuck into getting some sponsor companies to get excited about the project. Everyone at Ford was already excited and working beyond the call of duty. I annoyed the hell out of them probably!"
Fittingly, Ford have chipped in much more than just supplying an ex-prototype Falcon Ute. Taking the total lift to 6", Allan had the first two done by a local suspension shop and the last 4" done at Ford's Product Development facility in Geelong. Unfortunately, as of yet the lift kit is not available as an over the counter item which suits Allan just fine for the moment - allowing him the individuality he desires. Funnily enough, his contacts with Ford also put him in the right place at the right time to supply the tyres for the R5 Falcon Ute! Still, most of the work for the Mongrel was actually done outside of Fords by a group of aftermarket suppliers, each eager to show their wares.
(still to be added - Satphone, Sat Navigation, DVD. fridge/freezer)
This picture used courtesy of www.uteman.com.au
According to those who have driven it, the traction control works well with it near impossible to get the vehicle sideways on gravel with the Traction switched on. But all was not that easy - with Ford not making a Traction Control module for use with a manual transmission, a special one-off unit had to be made - proving once and for all that it is possible! Unfortunately the bigger wheel/tyres raise the rear ratio considerably so much so that it takes the edge off the six cylinder acceleration (a V8 will soon fix that!). Due to the larger wheels a 'brown' speedo drive gear had to be inserted in the gearbox and now the speedo reads within 1km/h of actual.
As you can tell, the Uteman enjoys driving his yellow beast - which really shows in his comments: "26/02/01 20:10 I just got home tonight, went bush to give the Mongrel a bit of a 'test' in the dirt. Oooooeeee, she loves dirt-tracking! Ended up via Menindee, to Ivanhoe then bush to a mates station and some good off road tracks for me to 'play'. The Ute loved it and the hi-lift kit is just superb, traction control excellent. All I need is that big donk that is really to go in. Think I'll call her the Dirt Mongrel." All right Al - we hear ya! (Can ya see the green shade of envy most of us are turning right now?)
Like all of us, the Uteman has been known to be ultra-fussy about who gets to drive his pride & joy - although one suspects a huge dollop of typical Aussie humour thrown in there somewhere too...
"She is a real smooth cruiser that's all I can say. I love her."
Yep - there's no missing this Ute out on the road. Allan responds "OK, so she's yellow - I prefer to call her an Outback Gold! The garage had a tape on the keys to I.D. it. Some funny bugger wrote "Yellow Peril" (a Melbourne joke). It is been called the Taxi - but hey - they are jealous of my darlin' - she's a mongrel in the nicest meaning! She's the safest colour on the road, she's sassy, she wants to be seen and she loves 'cruisin' on & down the line."
Initially though, there were other ideas proposed by some - including a couple that brought an interesting reaction in our mild natured friend - "OK I spat the dummy when I was told purple. I didn't like the bronze and to tell you the truth - wasn't 100% sure of the yellow either." There were some tense moments while Al waited for the Ute to surface after a dip in the paint oven "I was keen to see it bright so I can only blame myself - I picked Uteman yellow in consultation with some others (un-named). It's supposed to represent the colours of Aussie desert and I didn't want gold/orange."
The finished product vindicates Allan's choice with the chrome & polished alloy high lights showing off against it so well - in some ways retrospective to those magnificent 50's & 60's Aussie utes.
So what's in a name?:
So why call his Ute the 'Mongrel'? - Over to the Uteman: "We threw a lot of names around and many suggestions to my site (www.uteman.com.au) were consider as part of the plan. Finally a couple of days before it was ready, I mentioned the name at Ford and that was it. The name meant a lot to me. Mongrel said what the look was that we were trying to achieve - something with muscle, rough but tough, individual, special. It had to look as if it could drive across the Gibson Desert as well as having that muscular look - like a MONGREL should. You always fall in love with mongrel dogs. Hopefully people would feel the same way about the Ute."
"For me though, I also have a lifelong mate called Mongrel. I wanted to name it in recognition of him and his 90 year old father. Between them they have owned just about every Ford Ute. As well a relation of theirs had worked at Ford for many years so I thought it was an appropriate recognition of their loyalty to Ford".
Fame and Other Things:
It seems there's no hiding when you drive a Ute this colour - a fact proven by how many media appearances it & it's owner have had. From TV (Adam Brand was sittin on it playin his new single - seen on Channel 7) to the front cover of "CAR NEWS" and "OUTBACK" magazines, the coverage just never stops. Even Autoweb.com has had a go along with the Melbourne Trading Post and the Herald Sun Cars Guide. Rumour has it that even Street Machine has been seen snooping around this yellow wonder taking shots for a future edition!
Even Lee Kernaghan was spotted getting out of his Landcruiser, shaking hands and saying "mate, I've seen a lot of utes - but THAT is a Ute". Nice comment - especially coming from 'the legend' eh? The odd yellow UFO sighting has been confirmed around Geelong (usually when Allan's Ute has been booked in to Ford Product Engineering for some more work) and it has made appearances at the All Ford Day in Geelong as well. Says Allan, "Even went out one morning and there's a schoolkid with his head over my fence looking at the rig. Not that I mind but bad luck if you like privacy with this Ute, because you cant have it!"
Even the Police can't help themselves - although fortunately the attention so far has been all good. Over to Allan - "Got pulled up by TOG copper up past Swan Hill. Out in the middle of nowhere, he checks my Ute as I pass, sure enough U-turned, so I just pulled up and waited for him. Not worried - on the right speed. He gets out asks about the Ute, we chat. Get an envelope out of the Ute while he checks my licence, wave the contents under his nose, he finds out its an 'evaluation' vehicle and he was really interested. Turned out he actually a decent bloke, he just wanted to have a look at the Ute as he was a bit of a petrol head. He even got a Beaut Utes book off me, so hopefully when he sees other utes now he'll be cool."
Where to from here?
"The good thing about it I get to build them and then get another one down the track to do something totally different, and it keeps the 'Ute thing' under peoples noses and we get a heap of publicity for charity causes."
"I love the Mongrel and would love to keep her but that isn't what its all about. I will move onto other projects and its keep an interest alive for others to enjoy." And it's no secret Al would dearly love to see Ford and Holden go into battle with each other in regard to locally designed & build 4wd utes - a fact he makes rather apparent each time he fills in an evaluation form for the Ford engineers (hear hear!). Al says he gets people asking if "it's got 4wd" all the time! Still - there's plenty of development left in the 'Mongrel' yet with a V8 conversion in the wings and Al hoping to make it 4wd some day.
As the Ute is still part owned by Ford, it will eventually go on display in the Ford Heritage Centre, but will swap over into The Uteman's National Ute Museum, and we want it in pristine condition - to which the Uteman has promised to look after it! "'The Mongrel' can never be sold and will go on permanent display, although I'll probably drive it for at least another twelve months. It'll always be available even after I've built others. I've a number of special trips to do in it yet, which is why I built it in the first place..." - which is good news for those of you wishing to get a good look at this Ute before it goes into hibernation.
Still, the Mongrel won't be the last we hear about the Uteman and Ford, with other projects in the pipeline already being discussed, with varying ratios of the projects being sourced outside of Ford (read - aftermarket) and internal (could be some interesting show vehicles here).
Never one to stay at home long, Allan specialises in making sure the odometer never seizes for lack of use. With 6500 km's in 11 days across three states, two Ute shows (the Deniliquin Ute Muster and the Queensland Emerald Ute Muster), two concerts, heaps of photos, pubs, people and fun you could never accuse Allan of building a trailer queen! Seems the song "I've been every where" might just have been written for Al sometimes!
Working For the Bush:
Constructed as a result of the collaboration between The Uteman (Allan Nixon), Ford Australia and a host of aftermarket suppliers, the Mongrel was designed to showcase their wares as well as being a draw card when ever Allan chooses to help out any of the charities he supports. The Mongrel will be used all over Australia - "For me it is an ideal vehicle for my work, but it gives me an added chance to promote for charity. Many of you know I work for REACHOUT - When Times are Tough. (A youth suicide prevention charity.) I also work for Royal Flying Doctors Service recognition. Now also, I have commenced work with the APEX Foundation, raising money for Kids With Cancer."
Allan's thoughts really hit a soft spot with Fords, who expressed a desire to do more in the bush - especially when it comes to supporting Australia's less fortunate. "That is what my 'Working for the Bush' campaign is all about. You can do a lot without actually pushing the cause down peoples throat all the time. There's many instances where the Mongrel and Uteman can help in small ways. That's my goal. My logo reads "Working for the Bush". - a subject we can see Al is really passionate about.
Fortunately, Allan's not alone in his endeavours - "Tania Kernaghan is Vice Patron for 'Riding for Disabled' - to top it off Adam Brand has done stuff for people in wheelchairs and the deaf that you never read about but that's the way its preferred sometimes." (Hey - ain't that the Aussie way?) "The utes I have built have given many young bush blokes something to aspire to themselves, and I often talk to kids who need projects and goals. One young bloke I dealt with went and l learnt how to weld so he could make a bulbar for his old bush Ute. It helped to take took his mind off the fact the his brother had just committed suicide. And he learnt a new skill."
You can read more about Mongrel in Allan's book "Beaut Utes" - available via his website at www.uteman.com.au.
Oh - and to all those involved 'THE UTEMAN' says a very special THANKS for your support.
Back to Showcars Index.