Joe Greeves
February 4, 2014

Do you know the difference between a pickup truck and an Ute? Most enthusiasts think that Ute is just an Australian term for a pickup truck, but it's more than that. Henry Ford debuted the first factory-produced pickup truck in 1925, a Model T Runabout, but it wasn't until 1934 when the term Ute was coined in Australia.

It began in 1932 when a housewife contacted Ford Australia and asked them to design a vehicle that could haul pigs to the market during the week, and be an appropriate vehicle for church on Sunday. Since bank managers would lend money to farmers to buy a truck, but not to buy a car, it addressed a real need. Ford designers were initially concerned that simply adding a bed to the back of a passenger car would cause the vehicle to break in half when a load was added. As a result, an entirely new frame was constructed and when it was complete, 22-year-old Lewis Bandt, the head (and only) member of Ford Australia's design team, confidently told his boss, "Those pigs are going to have a luxury ride!" Offering a comfortable cabin along with a functional bed in the back, the first ‘Coupe/Utilities' rolled off the Ford Australia assembly line in 1934, making them the forerunners of the El Camino and Ranchero ‘Gentleman Farmer' trucks introduced here in the late 1950s.

Probably because of his Australian heritage, Matt Clarke has a warm spot for Utes, and has always loved Mustangs, too. He's owned and restored more than a dozen high-performance Ford-powered cars in the past. Originally from Adelaide, South Australia, Matt has made Oldsmar, Florida, his home since 2006. He and his wife, Sheri, run Florida Street Machine, building and exporting prestige cars around the world. It was one of those business contacts in Los Angeles that led Matt to this '65 A-code Mustang. Although it was just a shell, about half of the bodywork to create the pickup bed had already been accomplished.

Since Matt had already built a Mustang Ute a while back, his first reaction was, "I can finish that car easily." A '67 Ranchero rear panel was already in place and the rear window opening had been cut and recessed backward, probably the most difficult part of the conversion. Matt solved the window issues with tinted Plexiglas, trimming the rear window to a narrow 8 inches, then heating and contouring the side windows to fit. The bed received a wood floor along with a 1971 Mach 1 gas cap above the fuel cell.

Once the remaining body work on the cab was complete, Matt needed a platform to put it on, and solved that issue with a T-Code six-cylinder Mustang purchased for $800. Matt transferred the fenders and doors along with a custom fiberglass hood and dozens of other parts to the reconfigured shell.

Motivational power was next, sourced from a Shelby Hertz clone. Originally a Windsor 302, the V-8 was stroked to 347 cubic inches, and then mated to a Tremec TKO five-speed transmission. There's no lack of hauling thrust given the 4.11 gears in the 9-inch Ford rear, Edelbrock's Pro-Flo2 electronic fuel injection and aluminum heads offer increased power and driveability. The combination produces an estimated 420 hp and that's without the nitrous bottle! Matt was always used to carburetors in the past and was particularly impressed by the responsiveness of the fuel injection setup.

Once the power train and bodywork were complete, paint was next on the list and Sheri chose the distinctive House of Kolor Tri-Stage Candy Apple Red with gold base. Matt teamed up with his good friend, Hugh Wilson, to complete the transformation, spraying the car on site at Florida Street Machine in Tampa, Florida.

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All that was left was the interior, also entrusted to the talented team at Florida Street Machine. A pair of supportive leather Recaro seats filled the space in the new two-seater, ensuring that Matt and Sheri would enjoy every ride. Seat supports were cut down 2 inches for additional leg room. Tan and black door panels, a black dash cover over the tan dashboard, and a black carpet established the two-tone interior. White-face gauges, augmented by an Auto Meter Monster Tach and Shift Light, monitor under hood activity. The calibration module for the Edelbrock Pro-Flo2 sequential EFI system rests on the center console, giving Matt a choice of tuning strategies. When the big V-8 isn't singing its tune, the Mustang stereo head unit creates music of a different sort, thanks to a pair of Pioneer amplifiers, JBL 6.5 inch component sets in the kick panels, and rear-mounted 10-inch subs.

The completed Ute is a joy to drive and turns heads everywhere it goes. Although he owned the car for nine months, the conversion was done in just two months of concentrated effort. Matt (nicknamed Matt the Machine!) builds at least one car every year and typically it's sold within a week of completion. He has had his very special Kangarute for several months now, easily establishing a new ownership record! Great cars always benefit from a talented team. Special thanks to Barry T. at Florida Street Machine, Sherman Bliss at Sun State Mustang, Jeremy Frencham (fabrication), Hugh Wilson (paint), Casey Young (wiring) and especially Matt's wife, Sheri, involved from beginning to end, twisting ‘spanners,' doing upholstery, and rubbing down clearcoat.

The Details

Sheri and Matt Clarke's '65 Mustang "Kangarute"

Windsor 302 V-8 stroked to 347ci
Edelbrock Pro-Flo2 EFI
Edelbrock aluminum cylinder heads
Comp Cam and roller rockers
"Ozzie-Injected" valve covers
Tremec TKO five-speed
Modern Driveline conversion kit
Ford 9-Inch
31-spline Strange axles
4.11 gears
Hooker headers
2.75-inch exhaust
MagnaFlow mufflers
Front: Stock Mustang upper/lower control arms with KYB shocks and heavy-duty springs
Rear: Stock Mustang leaf with KYB shocks, traction bars, and five-leaf springs
Front: Kelsey Hayes twin-piston calipers, cross-drilled and vented 11-inch rotors
Rear: '73 Ford Bronco drum brakes
Front: Boss Motorsport 338, 18x9, chrome-plated
Rear: Boss Motorsport 338,18x10, chrome-plated
Front: Dunlop SP Sport, P245/40R18
Rear: Dunlop SP Sport, P275/35R18
Recaro seats in tan and black; Pony interior; center console; white-face Auto Meter gauges; GT wheel; Pioneer/JBL stereo
Ranchero conversion with oak bed; fiberglass hood; House of Kolor Candy Apple Red paint with gold base (sprayed by Hugh Wilson, Florida)