Web Spin: Ford Outback Ute

Outback Up Front


Ford's New Longreach Ute Excels In Rally Support Role

Story by Rod Eime

 The recent explosion of car rallies - classic, bash and traditional - has meant that thousands more people are taking to the road in competition than ever before. Apart from the surge in ralliers, the number of officials, marshals, sweeps and support crews further swell the ranks. And these folk must be transported. The Ford Motor Company has long been a supporter of the Camp Quality Caper, and this year, along with new Falcon Sedans, Mondeos and a 4WD Courier, the official procession included the latest addition to the fair-dinkum Aussie ute line-up, the Longreach Outback. 

 Max Stahl, known to many for his considerable experience (not to mention years, sorry Max) on matters motoring, rang me with the latest news from some god-forsaken backwater during the last Caper. Instead of his usual lashings of Caper achievements and milestones, of which there are always many, Max was positively beside himself with the new ute. 

 "This thing's bloody amazing," ranted Max, "we fight over who'll drive it every day, wring it's neck on @%**ing roads from hell, and it's still going like new! You could drive this to London and back tomorrow!" 

 Max's wild enthusiasm was well supported by other crew members, many of them veterans of London-To-Sydneys and 'Round Australias. I was just going to have to try this jigger for myself on the Grand Prix Rally. A last minute call to Ford, and I managed to secure the Caper Ute for another 3500 km. 

 Throw in the kit bag and off we go! A couple of short-cuts from Seymour to Geelong and this peculiar vehicle was beginning to demonstrate its versatility. Loping along in fifth on the freeways and revelling in a variation of ratios on the loose metal. 

 Fortunately, the Outback is well equipped against the worst roads and drivers with an extra 30mm clearance, structural strengthening, lower ratio (3.45 v. 3.27) Hydratrak LSD, 13% stiffer and reinforced front coils with special dual-rate, semi-elliptic leafs taking up the load in the rear. 

 Monroe "Magnum" gas/oil shockers soak up the bumps as you cruise along with nearly 200 economical horses under your pedal. And you can go for quite a cruise with 126 litres of unleaded on board! That ute worked hard for Max and I. In one month we clocked about 10,000 km, with more than half of it on unsealed, sometimes horror, roads. At just over $27K (5 speed) it made us wonder why "cockies" (farmers) might want to spend some $15,000 more for a large Japanese 4WD trayback. Even a modest Hilux is plus $3,000. 

 Hell, an off-road ute with family sedan comfort and sportscar performance - now you tell me! 
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