Since the early twentieth century, ute’s have been a quintessential part of Australian Blokeyness. From the early day’s of automobiles Down Under – where farmers converted their Model A’s and Model T’s to have a tray to be able to move produce – we as a nation have embraced the Ute.
But it was during 1932, when a farmers wife wrote to Ford Motor Company asking for “a vehicle to go to church on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on a Monday”, that Ford designer Lew Bandt really struck gold. And two years later, the Ford Coupe Utility was born.
Since then, there have been many incarnations of the “Ute”. Today though, they have all moved more towards the economical, turbo-diesel pick-ups that roam the streets. But there was a time not so long ago where they were all about fast, and fun.
Enter, the 2006 Ford Falcon BF XR8 Utility. 260Kw of power and 500nm of tyre tearing fury.
At the beating heart of this beast is the monstrous 5.4 Litre “Boss” V8, derived from the Mustang and Ford GT in America. Whilst the engine isn’t exactly a “Product of Australia”, the engine bay it found itself in was very much so.
Coupled to the beautifully smooth Tremec T56 6-Speed Manual transmission (or the near perfect German ZF 6-Speed auto) the engine is given the time to shine. Even with 125,000km on it, it’s still as smooth as a new vehicle. The gear changes are quick and effortless.
As with all naturally aspirated V8’s, the lack of low down torque can be frustrating. If you don’t get your revs just right when pulling away from the lights, it can be a struggle. But, once the engine hits 2000rpm it is a rocket.
And that’s when the fun really begins.
Even though the XR8 weighs the better part of 1800kg, the absence of weight over those big rear wheels means it’s as tail happy as a Labrador that’s about to be fed. Wet or dry, blacktop or dirt those tyres will get spinning. And the best part? The power is so constant and smooth, it’s not hard to control.
The styling adds to the whole experience. It’s aggressive, angry face provides a menacing prescience in the rear view mirror of any vehicle you come up behind. And when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a shopfront, you will grin like a bad guy in a movie who just scored to Nuclear Launch codes of the Presidential Football.
Inside the story is much the same. The partial leather sport seats are comfortable even over a long distance. I drove the car from Melbourne to Central NSW only stopping once or twice and it never once felt uncomfortable. The dash cluster is styled nicely, with a large tacho and speedo, and adds to the overall sports car vibe you get with the XR8.
This particular vehicle was optioned with the premium sound system, and includes a 6” colour screen and 6 stacker CD player, dual-zone climate control and a variety of fuel economy readouts. But the cheap plastic trims and bubbling finishes detract from an otherwise excellent presentation.
When new, the XR8 ute started at around $41,595 plus on-road costs. A 4 star ANCAP safety rating made it one of the safety Utilities roaming the Australian blacktop. Nowadays, the car will fetch between $10,000-$15,000 on the used car market depending on the mileage.
Servicing costs are relatively cheap when you think about the fact that it’s a performance vehicle. Services vary from $280-$800 approximately depending on the interval and all fall under Ford’s new Service Price Promise model.
It has it’s flaws, the interior trim pieces and the big A and B pillars mean you’re constantly performing a yoga routine to see your blind spots. But if you can look past that, it’s massive bonnet bulge, awesome power, V8 roar and childish character will ensure you enjoy every moment of this car.
In a world of turbo-charged this and fuel economy that, the BF XR8 Ute last of the true Aussie muscle utes – no parking aids, no reverse sensors and no electronic steering. When it was all about noise and power and slamming you back in your seat as you smash the accelerator pedal to the floor.
It was far from a perfect car – but it certainly makes you smile. And that’s what a car should be about. Something you smile about.