Ford F100 ute: High, wide and handsome
Search Driven for Ford for sale
Ross Norman’s Ford F100 ute is so immaculate that briefly you think you’ve flashed back 40-odd years in time.
No, it’s not restored and yes, he bought it in this condition, talk about lucky. He had been looking for a Chevrolet Bonus ute. Years ago he’d started rebuilding a 1956 Bonus, but eventually sold it unfinished.
As his earthmoving business is Bonus Contractors he again got on the hunt, and discovered an Aussie friend, Pat, had one. A sale was planned, Ross registered his business name to suit — then Pat sold it to someone else.
Ross kept hunting until he saw this Ford, and realised it was too good to turn down.
It was what you might call a lucky find, though the actual finding was done by someone else, and came about through a stroke of luck.
One day a US auctioneer mate of Pat’s got in touch after spotting a pair of classic utes at a deceased estate auction in Arizona. Seems he was standing around at the auction when a young guy started asking if he was buying, and repeating, “They don’t know the whole property.”
He kept at it even after the auction was over, so the mate said, ‘Show me.’ “And this fella jumps into his truck and off they go to the back of the property. It looked almost like a different place and there was a big barn there with three or four motorbikes and two trucks, this one and an earlier one.”
The auction buff immediately rang Pat in Australia, told him he’d found a couple of tidy trucks, and then managed to buy them, along with the bikes. Seemed the wife hadn’t wanted to know about her late husband’s vehicular purchases, so he’d bought them brand new, only used them occasionally, then parked them in the barn and there they’d sat, and might still have sat, given the auctioneer’s oversight.
“The earlier truck had done 70,000 miles, and the F100 25,000 miles [40,233km] from original.”
Pat bought both and had them shipped to Australia to get their VIN before he planned to sell the earlier one to Ross. “But he got the paperwork mixed up.”
Then Pat’s wife died and the F100 was sent straight to NZ, with just the new seatbelts fitted, to get its VIN here.
“It was so original,” said Ross. “I had to get the original asbestos brake linings changed — an all-new brake system. Other than that, it got the highest rating for a classic car, they couldn’t find an ounce of rust.” Even the wellside tray and the ashtray look as if they’ve always been empty.
The motor is a 302 (4.9-litre) Windsor V8 with a three-speed auto driving the rear wheels, and the ute is still left-hand drive, but now lacks the original canopy.
“I took it off to clean up the bolt holes, it was sitting in the yard, and one of the boys backed over it ... It was a Sunseeker brand, with louvred windows, and I haven’t seen one like it since.”
Other than that the only change is the radio — which looks just the same, but is a repro with Bluetooth.
He still has the original, as well as the original wheels and crossply tyres, “but they are hard riding, so I bought another set of rims and tyres for it.”
It even came with detailed starting instructions — like how much throttle to use and when, which he had laminated.
As we walk up to it, it looks bigger and bigger, and I start to understand why Ross’ wife doesn’t drive this ute. It’s 2020mm wide, 1820mm high and 5740mm long, 389mm longer than today’s Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4WD double cab, which makes it a liability when trying to park in town.
It feels even more spacious inside — there are two three-point belts and one lap on that long, long bench seat, but a lot more folk could fit up here with ease, and even NBA basketball players would have leg room.
It certainly seems easy to drive, power steering coralling the two-ton unladen weight, ride is comfy, and you sit so high you’re barely aware of the road beneath or even the burble of that engine.
No wonder the Normans were comfy when they drove it to Americarna, in New Plymouth.
Ross admits it never was used for his business — it’s often only out every six weeks or so, the lack of mileage a conversation starter whenever it goes for its CoF. He’d still like to buy a Bonus, but the F100 has grown on him.
“I thought I’d sell it soon, but to find something this year, in this condition, is really hard.”