Few things are more iconically Australian than a ute. By the arrival of the new Millenium, the ute had evolved from a tool for the farmer and the working man into a leisure and performance vehicle. The arrival of the UTEster in 2001 confirmed this growing sector of the local utility market.
Based around a VX Commodore SS ute, the UTEster concept that debuted in Melbourne was described as being loaded with "urban cool", an acknowledgement of the ute's expanded role as an inner city lifestyle vehicle. GM-H's Peter Hughes was the senior designer for the project, and also came up with the 'UTEster' name, but much of the work was done by Holden's young design team.
As the name suggests, the UTEster's most notable feature was its removable top and rear glass panels, which created the 'roadster' part of the UTEster name. The smoked glass top stowed in a special compartment in the hard tonneau cover's leading edge, while the rear windscreen slid down into the body. The tonneau itself featured twin 'aero humps' reminiscent of classic sportscars.
Tullamarine (VIC) company, Car Tech were commissioned by Holden to daub the UTEster in distinctive 'Marque Yellow' paint, accented by Jet Black grille inserts, rear valance panel, mirrors and surround for the windscreen. Car Tech also supplied the 19 inch ATP wheels, Pirelli P-Zero tyres and Harrop brakes with the 'UTEster' logo embossed onto the calipers. Geelong-based motor trimming specialists, Paratus, produced the bold yellow and anthracite leather seats to Holden's design with distinctive, 'baseball-style' thick stitching.
A full entertainment package graced the UTEster's interior, too. The Alpine DVD/VCD/CD and LCD monitors operated by remote control and were joined by 12 inch subwoofers and no fewer than eight other speakers! The same anthracite leather used for the seats wrapped the instrument panel and steering wheel, with the instruments themselves finished in the same 'Titan Silver' paint as the chunky 5-spoke ATP alloys. Pedals were machined aluminium.
Holden were excited enough about the concept to firmly believe it would become a production reality. Their enthusiasm was no doubt influenced by the positive reception to Chevrolet's retro-styled 'SSR' roadster pickup from 2000. While Chev's idea eventually reached production in 2003, the UTEster wasn't to go down the same path. The cost to manufacture in volume, while meeting the safety standards such a vehicle demands saw the idea of a production UTEster shelved in late 2002. Some of the ideas did live on though. The hard tonneau with its twin aero humps graced the 'SSZ' limited edition ute from 2005, and were also believed to have inspired the removable tonneau used on 2003's 'Cross8' AWD Crewman ute.
The UTEster is currently undergoing repairs before returning to the display fleet at Holden's Port Melbourne headquarters later this year.
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JUST Cars' Top Ten Australian Motor Show Concept Cars:
- Holden EFIJY: Australian Motorshow concept no. 1
- Ford R7: Australian Motorshow concept no. 2
- Holden 'Coupe Concept': Australian Motorshow concept no. 3
- Ford XA Falcon 'Superbird': Australian Motorshow concept no. 4
- HDT Monza coupe: Australian Motorshow concept no. 5
- Ford XT Falcon 'Super Roo' coupe: Australian Motorshow concept no. 6
- Holden UTEster: Australian Motorshow concept no. 7
- Ford 2 door concepts (AEC/AutoTek/Dreamtech): Australian Motorshow concept no. 8
- Holden Mambo/Sandman panel van: Australian Motorshow concept no. 9
- Toyota Sportivo coupe: Australian Motorshow concept no. 10