Lewis Bandt

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Lewis Thornet Bandt (26 February 1910 – 18 March 1987)[1][2] was an Australian car designer, most famous for designing and building the first ute (coupé utility) cars in the 1930s.

Early life[edit]

Bandt was born the eldest of five children in the South Australian town of Moonta. The family moved to Adelaide after World War I, and in 1924 he began a fitting and turning apprenticeship with Duncan & Fraser Ltd who specialised in modifying Model T Fords.[2]

He moved to Victoria in 1927 and worked for the Melbourne Motor Body & Assembling Company. In 1929 he moved to the Ford factory in Geelong as the subsidiary's first designer.[2]

Ute design[edit]

The design of the ute was a result of a 1932 letter from an unnamed Victorian farmer's wife asking for "a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays".[1] In response, Bandt developed the ute and the model called a "coupe utility" at the time was released in 1934.[1] When the Australian version was displayed in the US, Henry Ford nicknamed it the "Kangaroo Chaser". A convertible version, known as the roadster utility was produced in limited numbers by Ford in the 1930s.[3][4]

Later career[edit]

During World War II, Bandt helped to design long-range fuel tanks for Spitfire and Thunderbolt fighter planes.[1] He also worked on design innovations for the UK-sourced Ford Zephyr, the 1967 Australian Ford Fairlane, and the never-approved Falcon convertible, of which six were built outside Ford in 1962.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Bandt married Nellie Rowe on 6 September 1941. He was a lifelong member of the Methodist (later Uniting) Church. He was known for his charity work. Lewis and Nellie had three daughters: Sylvia, Val and Ros. Later in life he also had four grandchildren: Brad, Tate, Eden and Joe. He was an accomplished artist, and painted Ford’s nativity scene at Christmas.[5] He retired in 1975.


Bandt was killed on 18 March 1987, while coming home from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television studios where he had been recording a documentary about the ute. He was driving a 1934 model home when he collided with a truck near Bannockburn. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.[5]

In 2008, the Lewis Bandt Bridge was opened and named in his honour.


  1. ^ a b c d e Warner, Gary (8 August 1999). "Who built the first utility - where - when". Archived from the original on 29 May 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Veltri, Damian (2007). "Bandt, Louis Thornett (Lewis) (1910–1987)". Volume 17, (MUP). Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  3. ^ http://www.roadsterute.com/index3.htm
  4. ^ http://www.pickuptrucks.com/html/history/history.html
  5. ^ a b "A Tribute to Influential Australian Christians". 2010. Retrieved 5 July 2015.