Today I sighted my first classic Holden ute. Then I got to ride in one.
The first time I ever heard of a ute (a utility coupé automobile) was in church. Delilah and I had gone to the Christmas tree festival at the Willunga Uniting Church—the same community that organized a Blue Christmas service for people not happy about the holidays.
The ukulele choir had led us on a rousing version of Aussie Jingle Bells. The chorus rang,
“Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way.
Christmas in Australia
On a scorching summers day.
Jingle bells, Jingle bells,
Christmas time is beaut.
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.”
“What’s a ‘Holden ute?'” I asked Delilah. The five-year-old looked at me as if I’d just asked what colour the sky is.
“It’s a kind of truck,” she responded.
What’s that? Why, it’s a beaut of a ute. I know because it says HOLDEN in block letters. The car, er, truck is elegant and streamlined and it reminds me of the 1970s-era Chevrolet El Caminos I’ve seen in North America.
Holden is an auto manufacturer that started as a saddlery in South Australia in 1856. It moved into the automotive field in 1908 and became a subsidiary of General Motors in 1931.
Later in the day, Ruth drops me off at Scott’s place in McLaren Flat for a visit and a tour of his studio. We have a beer next to his pool and he asks if I want to join him and some friends at The Willunga Hotel (“the middle pub”) for Happy Hour. Sure, I say.
We walk around the corner and there is pretty well a carbon copy of the ute I saw in Yankalilla.
“Climb in,” Scott beckons, “But the seat might be a bit wet.” I get in the ute and it feels like—a car. I look back. It’s the payload of a hard workin’ truck.
It’s the mullet of cars, I say to myself—It’s business out front and a party in the back.