1961 In The Bush – The Holden EK

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Here’s one for the North American or South Canadian readers. You won’t see these on every street corner in your town – they are rare enough now in Perth.

1961 Holden EK ute – as seen at the 2015 Whiteman Park motor show. When you see the word “ute” do not think of Indians. It is an Australian abbreviation of the word “utility”. It has long been used to describe the sort of vehicle that you know as the Chevy El Camino or Ford Ranchero. Think of a basic passenger body that has been truncated aft of the front seat and a cargo well designed on.

I owned one. A Ford square-nose Longreach ute from the mid 1990’s and it was a marvellous long-cruising thing that could carry camping gear, furniture, studio props, or club equipment all day at high speed across Australia. The engine was big , the A/C was frigid, and the petrol consumption was horrible. I loved it. Eventually the engine and computer started to do Ford things and it was sold off. I still miss the aboility to carry big loads.

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The EK that you see in these pictures had nowhere near the engine capacity of the big Ford. It was a straight 6. A/C was provided on the EK by winding the windows down and driving to somewhere cooler. Demisting the windscreen was done by wiping at the inside of it with an old tea towel and swearing. The radio was AM and could pick up the ABC and a half a dozen other stations. On Saturday afternoon you had a choice of classical music – generally an opera – and either horse racing or football. And that was it.

The rear cargo well was not as long or as wide as some of the American designs but it was deeper – and frequently was used in the bush to do basic transport- where a North American farm might use a pickup truck, the Australian one used a ute. Lots of urban businesses used them as well for city cartage.

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Oddly enough, the tenor of the times did not lend itself to young men seeing this sort of vehicle as a chick magnet – nor was it the sort of thing that the urban trendy use to suggest a rural lifestyle – as they sometimes do with the 4WD or SUV these days. It would not have been seen as a status vehicle parked in your front drive in Subiaco in 1961. Then again , in 1961 Subiaco looked like a pit. Still does, but now it is an expensive pit…

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This is a very mild rod – the grille is a work of art rather than a stock item – and the wheels are fatter and more expensive than Holden ever issued…But the overall effect is very well-balanced and the paint job is factory-correct. The interior is pretty authentic except for the shift knob, and you probably can’t get John K Watts on the radio any more. The paper bag is  only there for a visit. The metal dash ( remember metal? ) and the floor-mounted dimmer switches are all our yesterdays…

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