Flashback: Mario Colalillo’s 1940 Ford Ute

We take a look back at Mario Colalillo's killer 1940 Ford Ute

Photographers: Tony Rabbitte

This article was originally published in the November 2001 issue of Street Machine.

THE ’40 Ford pickup is simply incredible considering it is a bastard child. Australia is full of hybrid cars – half American and half Australian. Take the Holden VU ute as an example, and then go back past the Chrysler Valiant, keep going past the Crown Victorias and Dodge/DeSoto sedans back to the 40s. In Australia, a pickup like Mario’s ’40 Ford didn’t exist. As history will tell you, only six years earlier in 1934, the ‘utility’ was invented in Australia by Ford.

The utility was basically a coupe body with a cargo bed, whereas in America the body shell was divided into a cab and a bed. The stepside tray tells you this is the American model; at least it is now.

This pickup was recreated, literally, in the 90s in Orange, NSW. Mario quite graciously points to John and Ron Zetukovic as the builders of the pickup. They fabricated almost every panel from scratch.

Mario calls it a ’40 Ford, but the actual year is a bit fuzzy. The cab is a ’39 Aussie body built In Geelong, but almost every other panel was fabricated by Ron from a drawing of an American ’40 Ford Deluxe.

The cab copped a three-inch chop to start. The doors, tray and tailgate are all hand-formed steel. Mario himself fabricated the vertical grille. The tailgate is something special. Double-skinned with the original raised ‘Ford’ scroll hand-tapped into the steel by Ron.

“The pickup is all steel but for the rear guards,” said Mario. The dash is original with the actual 60-year-old big-face gauges accompanied by a trilogy of Stewart-Warner gauges.

The flames are full-on in your face, and like a good chop top they must be proportional. Mario points out that the actual flames are very thin. They’re flowing and give the illusion of speed. For those who know fire, you’ll know of Big Dee Baugaus. The American sketched out the flames on a trip Down Under.

The pretty panel work and bomb-fire flames hide a truckload of trickery. The original chassis was pinched two inches and the suspension dropped another two inches to achieve a total drop of four inches. “I didn’t use drop spindles because they’re too expensive,” said Mario.

The front suspension and rack and pinion steering is all LH Holden Torana, and Mario claims it slipped right in. Under the pickup bed is an early Mustang live rear axle with drum brakes and 3.0:1 gears that are coupled with the three-speed automatic on the tree and 302ci Windsor V8. It is a righteous recipe for cool cruising.

And with no shortage of friends to bum petrol and lend a helping hand, Mario thanks everyone who has helped: son Andy, Mike, Joe, Mal, Chris and Gina. “Can you please thank all my mates because without help from mates no one could build a car.” That’s right!


Colour: Dulux silver with Big Dee & Chris Palazzo graphics


Engine: 302 Windsor
Exhaust: Dual two-inch system w/Lukey mufflers

Gearbox: C4 three-speed auto
Diff: Mustang

Seats: Original bench
Trim: Red vinyl

Brakes: LH Torana discs/Ford drums
Rubber: Michelin 145×15/Kumho 255/75/R15
Rims: 15×5 & 15×8