A Winning Workhorse

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[prompt: 'travel' 4/1/2019]

"My husband and I can't afford a car AND a truck," she wrote, "but we need a car to go to church on Sunday and a truck to take the pigs to market on Monday. Can you help?"

Not quite the style of request Henry Ford was accustomed to, and at first, he simply pushed it to one side as just a fanciful woman kind of thinking. And yet, the concept stirred a beginning something in his imagination. Something... well, kind of...intriguing. Something his company - well, kind of needed. A new direction, a fresh approach, a possibility that could just be the next GREAT thing. A half car, half truck. The very thought of it gave him the heebie-jeebies. What on earth? With a company like his, filled to the rafters with elegant car bodies - near limousines. And his trucks - a completely different story. Strong sturdy, built to take the punishment of heavy loads and the mostly unfriendly roads that had never been created for such behemoths.

"What do you reckon, Lew? Is there any chance it's a goer?" Henry figured if anyone on Earth could pull something like this off, it would be young Lew Bandt, the most talented designer/engineer he'd ever employed.

"Hmm..." Lew squinted some, tightened and twisted his mouth down to one side and deepened the frown line crossing his forehead like an ugly forward slash. "A half-car, half-truck, you say? Tall order, boss. I dunno." But Henry could see the glint in Lew's eye. Never one to resist a challenge - loved them, in fact. Like a red rag to a bull, Henry thought, and had to work hard to suppress a smile. Lew's think-tank was already in overdrive, just as Henry had suspected.

"The problem... well, one of them," said Lew, " - is to get the correct weight ratio to carry the heaviest loads on only one end. Balance. That's what we need—"

"Balance!" Henry's voice betrayed his growing excitement. "Yes-s-s! Balance. Between strength and stability—"

"And safety." Lew couldn't help himself interrupting. He knew how Henry prized the safety features of his vehicles. His face became thoughtful again, brow furrowed again. "But style... we mustn't lose our trademark talent for great style. A kind of car front, but with a truck tray. Have to give it enough space to carry a fair whack of stuff. Phew! But it's a helluva ask, boss."

"And then a name? Uhrr, maybe the 'kangaroo chaser'? You know, capture the imagination of farmers - stash all the shooters on the back, with spotlights. Hey?"

"Hmmm... good thought - BUT - we'd want to appeal to the tradies in town as well, wouldn't we? Give them an answer to all manner of small, heavy or bulky transport problems. It's gotta be a utilitarian vehicle - a utility vehicle - a, a - Ford Utility. Howzat?"

Henry couldn't take the smile off his face or cease to hear the cash registers jingling. This just had to be a winner. And a wifey pleaser, too, he thought and his smile widened further.

And within the year, the first of these half-car-half-trucks rolled off the production line, and quicker than you could say 'Ned Kelly' the public branded it the 'Aussie Ute'. 75 years later, that's still its name.

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