If you’ve ever come across an Australian tourist visiting America, chances are pretty good that you’ve noticed them eye-banging a few very average Ford 150s at one point or another – probably an unimpressive 2001, beige, dual-cab parked in front of community bank? Or maybe you’ve stumbled upon a selfie-sesh in front of a perfectly ordinary Dodge pickup in a mall parking lot? At the very least, you’ve caught your Aussie visitor snapping blurry photos out of the passenger window while driving through completely regular intersections or non-descript suburban neighborhoods. It’s the same way an American tourist behaves around kangaroos, except that we’re not talking about a continent-specific marsupial being observed in its natural habitat, we’re talking about a regular motor vehicle filling up at a gas station or sitting in a driveway.

So it’s within reason for an American to feel like this behavior is pretty strange, but I can explain it with four words: Mullet Mobiles and Utes.

Mullet mobiles and utes are the Australian substitutes for Real Trucks. These substitutes take on many of the characteristics of Real Trucks yet still manage to deprive drivers of their true grit. It’s much like substituting deli ham for streaky bacon.

Now the name ute is actually just a shortened form of the term utility vehicle. Utility vehicles are pretty much what you would expect – a work truck with a normal cab haphazardly attached to a diamond-plated metal tray lined with short, collapsible sides that are held together with sliding locks. They’re very much designed for hauling dirty machinery, loads of plywood and rusty pieces of metal, or in the very least, a pile of storm debris and the occasional mattress wrapped in plastic. Utes are not designed for tailgating or camping or anything leisurely. There’s nothing fun or sexy about them. They are strictly business.

A mullet mobile, on the other hand, which can also be referred to as a mullet truck, is business in the front with a trashy party in the back. I actually don’t know the proper name for a mullet mobile, and my preference is not to learn it because I’m quite happy with the name I’ve come up with, but essentially what you have is a low-riding sedan that has been fitted with a small truck bed and has no place in the automobile world. Kind of like a Cadillac sedan with a lift kit. Are you going luxury off-roading or are you taking grandma to bingo? Why do you exist, mutant car? The reason behind probably has bogan (redneck) roots, but who can really say?

I mean, I know that America is rife with ugly, impractical vehicles. There are plenty of life-sized cockroaches and candy colored nightmares getting around, but in the rugged outback of Australia, I guess I just had bigger dreams than mullet trucks and utility vehicles.

But alas, mullet mobiles and utes are your standard truck options in Australia. Of course you can get a specialty upgrade to something more American-esque, but if you want bigger and better, you’re gonna pay in gold and you’re still not gonna get true grit. That makes Real Trucks or any semblance of a Real Truck a rare gem in the outback.

To be fair though, Australians do get around in some pretty rough ‘n tough SUVs. A Troopy is the really rugged thing you’ve probably seen on an Outback Steakhouse commercial if not the menu cover, otherwise known as a Land Cruiser, and they are gnarly machines. There’s actually a good assortment of Jeeps, Prados, Pathfinders etc to choose from if you’re in the market for an SUV, and just like the best of the American rednecks, Australia’s bogans have lift kits, floodlights, snorkels, bull bars and roof racks all figured out. But make no mistake that when it comes to Real Trucks, there is still a serious deficiency.

So next time your Aussie visitor wants a selfie with your uncle’s 2006 Dodge Ram, don’t just offer to take the photo, let them pet the kangaroo.

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