Learn more...Car types

Select different type of car

All about pick-up & cab chassis (2WD)

What is a pick-up and cab chassis 4X2?

The Pick-Up and Cab Chassis 4X2 class is one of the most popular new-vehicle sales categories in Australia.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) refers to it as the Pick-Up and Cab Chassis 4X2 segment, but it is widely known (and loved) throughout the country simply as the Ute segment – or, in this case, the 4X2 ute segment.

Ute – as in utility, or coupe utility – is part of Australian folklore, since it was a Melbourne farmer’s desire for a new type of light truck ‘with a tray to transport the pigs to market during the week and a cabin to take the wife to church on Sundays’ that prompted Ford to invent the world’s first coupe utility in the early 1930s.

Pick-Up is an American term for a coupe utility or ute, but Cab Chassis is universally accepted as the word for the bare chassis in which a bespoke body can be added behind the cabin.

Ok what about the 4X2 bit of a pick-up and cab chassis 4X2?

The term 4X2 simply refers to two-wheel drive, as in ‘four wheels and two-wheel drive’.

Of course there is the Pick-Up and Cab Chassis 4X4 segment – and that obviously refers to four-wheel drive (4WD) – or all-wheel drive (AWD – it’s all the same thing really) vehicles.

Virtually every 4X2 (or four-by-two) ute is rear-wheel drive (RWD), but there are exceptions – namely the front-wheel drive (FWD) Proton Jumbuck – a two-door (2DR) coupe-utility version of the 1992-1996 Mitsubishi CC Lancer small car.

FWD, by the way, is thought not ideal for utes, as the weight of a big load in the back puts less weight over the front, driving wheels, thus compromising traction.

Tell me the about the cabin compartment of a pick-up and cab chassis then.

Traditionally, most Pick-Up and Cab Chassis models featured two bucket seats or a bench seat to seat three.

They were based on the existing large car of the day – like the Holden Special ute, Belmont ute and Kingswood ute, Ford Falcon ute, and Chrysler Valiant ute (also rebadged as a Dodge ute for a time). They were all monocoque bodied by design.

But the Toyota Hiace and Datsun utes came along during the 1970s. These were literally little trucks, or light trucks, with a separate chassis construction (also known as a ladder-frame chassis).

Over time, the Japanese one-tonne trucks, as they were also known, gained extended cabs with either a back row of seats, or four doors, or both. These are variously branded as Dual Cab, King Cab, Extra Cab, Twin cab, Super Cab, Club Cab, Space Cab etc., and are offered in both Pick-Up ute and CC Cab Chassis designs.

Holden followed suit with its VY and VZ Commodore Crewman models, while even HSV got into the act with the Avalanche XUV Crew Cab vehicles.

There are also larger, medium-sized light-truck based Pick-Up and Cab Chassis models, such as the Ssangyong Actyon Sports 4X2 and Musso 4X2, while the Ford F100-based F250 trucks came in 4X2 guises as well.

What engine and gearbox choices are there for pick-up and cab chassis 4X2 vehicles?

The one-tonne or one-tonner vehicles from Japan use four-cylinder petrol, four-cylinder diesel or V6 petrol engines ranging from about 2.0 litres to 3.5 litres.

The Australian-built Ford Falcon and Holden utes use six-cylinder engines or V8 engines, offered in petrol or LPG liquid petroleum gas formats, and in sizes ranging from 4.0 I6 in-line six-cylinder and 3.6 V6 to 5.4 V8 and 6.0 or 6.2 V8 respectively.

Ford also has a turbo-charged in-line I6 six-cylinder Ute model known as the XR6, XR6T, or XR6 Turbo.

Transmissions are usually four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, except for the performance locally-made utilities, which can offer a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox option.

What about a pick-up and cab chassis 4X2 suspension?

Almost all have struts up front and a leaf spring (or Hotchkiss) live-axle rear suspension system.

The Holden VE Ute has an independent rear end with multi-links, which compromises payload but offers the most car-like control, handling, roadholding, and ride comfort.

What are their payloads?

Payloads vary wildly, but the one-tonne utes or pick-ups are so-called because they usually can handle around one tonne of payload. The Ford and Holden vary between about 250kg for their showpony performance models, to well over 1000kg for the harder-working vehicles.

Are there any environmental or green pick-up and cab chassis 4X2 vehicles?

No hybrids as yet, but the diesels do offer improved fuel economy and thus lower emissions, especially CO2 carbon dioxide emissions, but their NOX Nitrogen Oxide pollution is greater.

What are the advantages of buying a pick-up and cab chassis 4X2?

Utes are trusty and hard wearing workhorses.

Most modern utes have car-like comfort cabs.

Most modern utes are much safer and secure to drive than older versions.

Most modern utes can be both weekday workhorses and weekend fun machines.

Most modern utes look much better than utes of yesteryear.

Well looked-after utes often command much more resale value-wise than their passenger car counterparts, if you’re talking about a Holden or Ford.

What are the disadvantages of buying a pick-up and cab chassis 4X2?

Utes are not as car-like to drive as cars.

Utes are often lacking in refinement compared to passenger cars.

Utes are often lacking the safety features we are increasingly taking for granted like stability control or curtain airbags.

© Copyright (1979-2015 John Mellor Pty Ltd)