Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Utes alive!

Is it a car? Or is it a van?

The humble white van is something you hardly see on Australian roads - instead workmen drive around in things that look like they were constructed on Scrapheap Challenge. As black cabs are to the UK, and yellow school buses are to the US - Utes are to Australia. You can't flag them down and get a ride though, so come to think of it that analogy was rubbish. You see a lot of them on the roads, at any rate. The basic ones are just a cab bolted to a chassis - called a 'Cab-Chassis' they are popular with workmen and builders (I'm told you can sometime see them in - ahem - Neighbours).

At the other end of the scale are the sporty turbo Utes - massive V8-powered beasts that are only used for testing the 100k speed limit. I don't think there's an equivalent of 'white van man' over here, but all the anti-speeding ads on TV feature men driving Utes coming to grief. Learner drivers (P-platers) are soon to be banned from driving powerful cars like Utes after a number of well-publicised accidents. The newest models have two rows of seats and four-wheel drive - so the move away from a tool-carrier to a family 4x4/SUV isn't far away. Speaking of which, in this country of the Outback and thousands of square kilometres of desert - which part of the country has the highest 4x4 ownership? Cremorne - a leafy suburb of North Sydney.