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Ford is ending Australian production after 90 years in 2016, and with it may go perhaps the most iconic vehicles in its auto market - the ute. Car-based pickup trucks like the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino were always more of a curiosity than a true market force here, but in Australia, they have long proven hugely popular.
As the legend goes, Ford invented the niche after a farmer's wife had asked Ford Australia's managing director for a more utilitarian car. Her request was simple: "My husband and I can't afford a car and a truck 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?"
Ford's design team came up with a two-passenger, enclosed, steel coupe body with glass windows and a steel-paneled, wooden-frame load area in the rear. The sides of the bed were blended into the body to make it look more unified, and to keep costs down, the front end and interior were based on the Ford Model 40 five-window coupe. Power came from a V8 with shifting chores handled by a three-speed manual. Within a year, the new vehicle was ready, and production began in 1934. Lead designer Lewis Bandt christened it the coupe-utility.
Just ahead of January's Detroit Auto Show, surprising rumors pegged Ford as revealing some sort of F-150 concept, perhaps as a hurried effort to deflate some of the buzz building around General Motors' new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra twins, which were also making their auto show debut. Those rumblings turned out to be true, as Ford rolled into the Motor City with its Atlas concept (inset, right), touting the truck's bold styling as a precursor to the next-generation F-Series.
The show truck featured all kinds of clever details, including active wheel shutters and a front air dam that raised and lowered to improve aerodynamics while preserving off-road ability. It also had a genuinely snarly face. And it's that pugnacious snout that may well be on its way to production. The good folks at TopSpeed have worked up the plausible-looking artist's rendering above by cross-referencing the Atlas concept with what little has been revealed from recent spy shots. The look is toned-down pretty dramatically from the concept truck, but its Atlas roots are clear, with a massive three-bar grille and bracket-shaped headlamps hiding a next-generation EcoBoost engine. In the rendering, the show truck's deeply contoured hood and roofline have been ditched and larger, more traditional side mirrors have been fitted - all likely concessions in the move to production sheetmetal.
While Ford has yet to officially announce when it will unveil the 2015 F-150, all signs point to next year's Detroit Auto Show - one year after the Atlas shrugged off GM's new pickups.
Ford has announced through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it is recalling nearly 3,000 examples of its Five Hundred and Mercury Montego (pictured) sedans from the 2007 model year.
The action, which affects 2,945 vehicles, is due to potentially defective welds between the filler neck and the fuel tank, a condition that could result in a fuel leak or the smell of gasoline reaching the occupants. In the worst-case scenario, a leak could cause a fire. Cars with the affected fuel tank problem could see an illuminated dashboard warning light as a result of the evaporative emissions leak being detected.
Ford will inspect and replace the fuel tank at no cost to owners (those who have already had the procedure done at-cost can apply for reimbursement), and the Dearborn automaker will begin notifying Five Hundred and Montego owners beginning August 15. Check out the official NHTSA press release after the jump for further details.