New Dodge Ram first locally-converted pick-up to pass Australian Design Rule crash test.
Demand for utes is now so strong Australians are queuing to buy “Bigfoot”-style US pick-ups — one of which is so huge, buyers must upgrade to a truck licence.
Cashed-up “grey nomads”, rural property owners and people wanting to tow heavy boats or horse trailers are behind the sales surge that saw four utes among the Top 10 selling vehicles in January.
Now there is a three-month waiting list for the $140,000-plus Dodge Ram, one of the biggest and most expensive American pick-ups to hit Australian roads.
The first Australian owner to take delivery of the new model, Brent McDonald, says he became a fan of the monster trucks after driving them on regular visits to the US for work.
Last month he traded a luxury BMW for the American icon.
"I’d been looking to buy one of these for a few years but I wasn’t happy with the conversions I’d seen until this one," said Mr McDonald, who ordered the top-of-the-line Ram Laramie.
With the right equipment the Ram can haul almost 7 tonnes
"The quality of this one is just like it rolled off the production line, it doesn’t feel like a converted vehicle. It also gives me peace of mind to know this is the only locally-converted vehicle that’s been crash-tested."
Despite their high price, no locally-converted pick-ups from the US have ever been tested in Australia to see how they perform in a crash.
The Dodge Ram is the first vehicle of its type to pass an Australian Design Rule crash test.
However, it will not get a star rating by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) because the independent body does not assess these types of vehicles, and the test was done at 48km/h (as required by ADRs) rather than 64km/h (as required by ANCAP).
The overhaul was done by former Holden Special Vehicles engineers on a specialist production line in Melbourne, not far from where Holden’s supercharged performance cars are hand-finished.
The associated company, American Special Vehicles, says it will take up to three months to meet initial demand, but more pick-ups are on the way.
Part of the appeal is the vehicle’s incredible towing capacity: with the right equipment the Ram can haul almost 7 tonnes.
There is a regular model that can be driven on a car licence — and which can still tow more than 6 tonnes — but buyers need to upgrade to a truck licence to drive the heavy-duty version which can carry even more.
You call that a ute?
How a US monster truck compares to our two top-selling utes.
Engine: 2.8-litre turbo diesel
Fuel consumption: 7.6L/100km
Towing capacity: 3200kg
Engine: 3.2-litre turbo diesel
Fuel consumption: 9.0L/100km
Towing capacity: 3500kg
Ram Laramie 3500
Engine: 6.7-litre turbo diesel
Fuel consumption: 14.7L/100km
Towing capacity: 6170kg
Do you prefer an Australian style ute or the American truck? Let us know in the comments below.