by Andy Bryenton
Ford’s record of success with the Ranger ute rolls on into 2017, with the big blue oval brand preparing themselves for another blockbuster visit to Mystery Creek in the mid-year. But there’s something else afoot before the Field Days fun, and it’s caused a literal blackout.
Ford has always been big sponsors and fans of the All Blacks, and ahead of the forthcoming British Lions tour it has released a special edition of both he Ranger and the Everest sports utility, all tricked out in a new, deeper shade of midnight black and all garnished with extra add-ons such as nudge bars, interior detailing, roll bars and massive mag wheels. The overall impression of the FX4 Ranger is of a machine as solidly planted as the All Black’s defensive line and as aggressive as their forwards. That’s entirely the idea, of course — and it feeds into an emerging trend for the new generation of ute owners to want something different.
When muscle cars were all the rage in the 1970s, nobody wanted a stock model off the yard. Everyone wanted the limited edition, tuned, pinstriped, candy-flake paint job hot-rod version. It’s becoming a similar world in the top end of the emerging Kiwi super-ute culture, one which mirrors the truck modding exploits of America’s F150 and Dodge Ram owners.
Not content with being one of a huge number of drivers who now take advantage of the comfort and space of the 21st century light commercial by making it their daily ride — and thus blending into the crowd — those with the need to be seen are embracing special editions like the FX4 with both hands. It’s not just this big black tribute to the ABs which is so coveted. Before Ford’s designers added the custom blackout to their top selling ute there have been others taking the initiative. Customised ‘stealth’ edition Ranger utes appeared on the North Shore, boosting the image above and beyond that of the factory-specced Wildtrak.
Then a series of West Coast Edition Rangers were created in Dargaville, in the West Kaipara, with a variety of combinations of LED lamps, bars, mags, tyres, detailing and interior finishes. So far, no two have been the same, and they have been sold as far away as the West Coast — of the South Island!
With other brands such as Nissan releasing special edition utes too — witness the tough-as-nails Barbarian custom Navara — New Zealand has a new status symbol.
The custom ute — and by extension, the custom Ford Ranger — is the new king of the highway.