When is a truck not a truck?
Before we answer that, let’s travel back in time and shake the hand of Lewis Brandt. Widely acknowledged in Australia as the father of the “coupe utility” or as it’s humbly known, the ute, Brandt gave us the design of engine/cabin/cargo tray.
In the United States, they have a similar claim to the design that allegedly predates Brandt’s. However, the basic design has been transferred to what the Americans call a pickup truck, and these have evolved into vehicles that are now known as trucks.
The Dodge RAM, the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford’s F-150, and entries from Japan in the form of the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, dominate sales in the U.S. In Europe, Ute and pickups make up less than one percent of sales...
So what are these machines, and where has their rise got them to?
The Dodge RAM, for example, is a four door and cargo tray body style, just like the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton. Et al. None of those others have a huge snout, massive flared fenders, and a bold & brash look that says “I am the King”.
They are also all a bit shorter, as the RAM can reach a length of 6.2 metres and have a wheelbase of just over 3.9m. Widthwise the RAM touches 2.3 metres with towing mirrors fitted. Height can reach over 1.9 metres thanks to a suspension that will give extra road clearance if ever taken off-road to get dirty.
Here in Australia the company offers, currently, two models, with a third on the way. There is the Express Crew Cab and the Laramie, distinguished by a different grille treatment. Each has two trim levels, with the well proven 5.7L Hemi V8 featuring in three of the vehicles, with the Laramie Ecodiesel packing 569Nm from a 3.0L V6 diesel. However, that’s only just ahead of the twist from the Hemi, with 556Nm available.
What these trucks do is offer up to 4.5 tonnes of towing capacity. This is generally around 1,000 kilos more than the slightly smaller four door utes.
Until recently, HSV, Holden Special vehicles, was the designated Australian company to convert the Silverado from its native left hand drive to right hand. The Silverado is a name plate that has come and gone here in Australia, and also comes in a pair of 1500 and 2500 nameplates.
In LTZ spec, there is a 6.2L V8 that bests the Hemi for torque. 624 of them, to be precise, and 313 kiloWatts of power to boot. It also will tow up to 4.5 tonnes, but it’s not all about brute strength. Heated front seats, a steering wheel with heating, Forward Collision Alert, Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, for safety bring passenger car features to the trucks. There is even a ten speed auto, something not found in most passenger cars.
Ford is perhaps best known for these kinds of vehicles. In the U.S, in 2019, the F-150 sold over 896,500 units. That on its own is virtually the number of new vehicles sold in total in Australia.
Currently, the F-150 isn’t available from the U.S. as a right hand drive factory option, instead it comes as a low volume import and converted. However, Ford Oz has put up their hand, with Ford U.S. expecting to release a new model F-150 in 2021. Rumours have it that a 4.8L engine with 315kW and 570Nm, plus a ten speed auto, would be inside the truck.
In the U.S. it follows a similar path to the Ranger sold here. There is the XL and XLT, with two and four door body shapes, the range topping 3.5L V6 turbo and ten speed auto. Again they’re a big unit with lengths varying from 5.3 metres to a whopping 6.3 metres. Height and width also approach 2.0 metres.
There may even be a hybrid.
For the Australian market, one company offers a range of imported trucks and converts them to right hand drive. Performax International swap over the steering wheel for trucks such as the Silverado 2500LTZ spec 6.6L V-8 Turbo-Diesel, making 332 kw and 1233 nm of torque, coupled with an all-new Allison 10 speed automatic transmission.
Ford gets a Guernsey, with the 150, 250, and F-350 also being converted. There is also the truly impressive F-450 with a 6.7L diesel offering 328kW and 1,254Nm at just 1,600rpm...
Nissan, GMC, and a Ford U.S. aftermarket company called Tuscany are amongst the list as well.
In Australia, our sales market is dominated by SUVs yet the family oriented tradie’s ute such as the HiLux or ranger figure heavily in the charts. Their bigger brethren are poised to make a bigger impact in our market and we will see a rise of the machines that are called trucks.