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The coupé utility automobile body style, also known colloquially as the ute in Australia and New Zealand, combines a two-door "coupé" cabin with an integral cargo bed behind the cabin—using a light-duty passenger vehicle-derived platform.

A coupé utility has a body style with coupé lines, but like a truck, it has an integral open cargo area at the rear. While most modern day coupé utilities are built using a monocoque constitution, historical models typically used a light-duty body-on-frame construction, like the heavy-duty body-on-frame construction used by pickup trucks. As light-duty body-on-frame coupé utilities are automobile-based, they can thus be differentiated from their heavy-duty (pickup truck) counterparts.


Ford Australia was the first to integrate a cargo area with the bodywork of a closed passenger car. This was the result of a request from a farmer's wife in Victoria in 1935. Ford Australia combined the cab of its newly released Ford coupé body with a well-type load area fully integrated into the coupé body, producing the first "coupé utilities". Holden built a Chevrolet ute in 1935, but utes were not sold in America until the 1957 Ford Ranchero. Both types of vehicles were called "utilities" or "utes" for short.

Both the coupé utility and the similar open topped roadster utility continued in production but the improving economy of the mid to late 1930s and the desire for improved comfort saw coupe utility sales climb at the expense of the roadster utility until, by 1939, the latter was all but a fading memory.

By the 1980s in North America, the coupé utility began to fall out of favor again with the demise of the Ranchero after 1979, the Volkswagen Caddy, Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp and of the Chevrolet El Camino by 1987.

Subaru offered the Brat in the early 1980s, and the Baja from 2003-2006. General Motors considered bringing a rebadged Holden Ute to the United States in the form of the Pontiac G8 ST in 2009, but the global recession (and GM's ultimate bankruptcy) caused them to cancel it.

The pickup truck, on the other hand, started its life a little earlier and is defined by its separate, removable, well-type 'pickup bed'. This pickup bed does not contact the cabin part of the vehicle, while the ute bed is an integral part of the whole body. Both the coupé utility and closed cab pickup designs migrated to light truck chassis & these are correctly known respectively as Utility trucks & Pickup trucks. Eventually the pickup design found a natural home on the smaller truck chassis while the ute became entrenched as a passenger car derivative, although exceptions do apply.

See also: Cultural significance of the Australian ute


Australians define a "ute" as any commercial vehicle that has an open cargo carrying space, but requires only a passenger car license to drive. This includes coupé utilities, pickup trucks and traybacks (flatbed pickup trucks). An example of the broadness of this definition is that anything from a Ford F250 XL to a Proton Jumbuck can be called a ute.

North America

1978 Chevrolet El Camino

The Ford Ranchero was produced between 1957 and 1979 based on full-size, compact and intermediate automobiles by the Ford Motor Company for the North American market. Variations based on the original 1960 US Falcon for home markets in Argentinamarker and South Africa were produced through the late 1980s.Though Ford car/truck combinations had been around since 1934 when Ford Australia's lone designer Lew Bandt penned the world's first coupe utility, thereby spawning the popularity of the so-called "ute" in that country, the Ranchero was the first postwar American vehicle of its type from the factory.

The Chevrolet El Camino was produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors from 1959 through 1960, with production resuming in 1964 and continuing through 1987. El Camino was produced in response to the success of its rival Ford Ranchero. El Camino was based on corresponding Chevrolet car lines, though in North America, the vehicle is classified as a truck and titled as such. It had a variant called the GMC Sprint and later named the GMC Caballero from 1978-1987. In Mexicomarker, it was also sold as the Chevrolet Conquistador.

Dodge produced the Rampage from 1982 to 1984, based on the front wheel drive L-body Dodge Charger. Plymouthmarker also had a variation called the Scamp.


1967 Ford Fairlane Ranchero

Since readers in many parts of the world may be unfamiliar with the formal term "Coupé Utility", here follows some examples of vehicles using this body style.

Famous coupé utilities of the past

VW Golf Pickup


Modern coupé utilities

Modern vehicles of the Coupe utility style include, among others:

See also




  • According to a Holden press release in 2001.[357431], the coupe utility "is based on a sedan equivalent and has a load bed integral with the cabin"
  • Car Exchange magazine article "Ford V8 Mainline Star", June 1981, pp 76–77.
  • ABCmarker interview with automotive historian Adrian Ryan[357432]
  • The Good Ole Aussie Ute, Larry O'Toole, ISBN 0-949398-26-8

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