Home » My Adventure With F1 Star Valtteri Bottas’ Ute And The Weird Features I Can’t Explain

My Adventure With F1 Star Valtteri Bottas’ Ute And The Weird Features I Can’t Explain

Bottas Ute Adventure Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

If you’re gonna be a good automotive journalist, you have to get out there and drive the cars. I was recently charged with a sage and important task along these very lines. My mission, if I chose to accept it, was to travel to Melbourne to drive a very ridiculous ute. A solemn duty, and one I undertook with pride.

It had all come about thanks to advertising. Down in Oz, Uber put Valtteri Bottas’s “second car” up for rent, chock full of weird features. They were lending out a nonsense machine, and you could borrow it for free! Obviously, that was right up our alley.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Matt saw the ad, presumably laughed his ass off, and got straight on the blower to me. “Can we book this thing!?” he asked. I scrambled to hook up a booking and some flights, and set a plan in motion. If you’re ready, let’s dive in to the chintzy world of film cars!

Dsc06537
Beast.

Joy Ride

As seen in the ad, the ute was like something straight out of Pimp My Ride. It was my sacred duty to pick this thing up, have some fun, and give you some laughs along the way. I made plans to capture all the weird features and broken stuff on this unique ride, because film cars are never what they seem. Along the way, I’d have a little adventure of my very own.

Australian airlines cancel 10% of flights for fun these days and delay the rest, so I flew in the night before our booking for safety. After two hours sitting on the tarmac, my plane finally took off, and I barely made it to the hotel before midnight. The important thing is, I had made it to Melbourne. I slept soundly with dreams of driving one of Australia’s finest creations—the ute.

ADVERTISEMENT

I picked up the ute on Wednesday morning. I got a walk-through of all the special features from the guy charged with doing the handover. He chucked me a bunch of merch for our readers, and walked me through all the bits and pieces from the video. Most of the props were simply chucked in the tray, as they weren’t suitable for use while driving.

Based on the included guidebook, it was pretty clear to me that Uber was hoping that influencers would rent the ute and blast it all over social media. Or, you know. The old-world equivalent—journalists. Obviously, we were feeding right into this gambit, but hey. Free ute!Dsc06571

20240410 151222
It even came with a manual.

20240410 151152

20240410 151145

ADVERTISEMENT

The vehicle in question was a 2012 Holden Commodore Ute. Uber had selected a base Omega trim for the build, which makes sense. The ute was intended to look good and promote a service, not lay down blazing quarter-mile times. The 2012 model got the 3.0-liter LFW V6, good for 254 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. The cool thing about the LFW was that it was flex-fuel compatible, and could run on any ethanol blend up to E85.

Once granted the keys, I decided to simply point the ute in a given direction and see where the roads of Melbourne took me. This was an excellent idea. Why? Because miraculously, I ended up on the Albert Park street circuit. I was driving Bottas’s ute on the track from the Melbourne Grand Prix!

20240410 101656
Doesn’t matter if you’re doing 20 mph or 200 mph. Something about the visual of the track gives your brain an endorphin rush. It dares you to push hard for the apex, but you have to behave yourself!

20240410 101638

20240410 102929 (1)
My parents never bought me a go-kart, so this is as good as it gets for me. 

With the Grand Prix several weeks in the past, the street circuit was in the process of being disassembled. However, much of the fencing and grandstands still remained while I was there, so I had a good time driving through the chicanes and snapping pics with the Pirelli banners.

There’s something about the walls and the fences and the advertising that riles you up. You’re not in a video game—you’re on the track in real life. Your foot twitches. Everything in your mind says you should be attacking the next corner, going deep under brakes to snatch a spot off Ricciardo through the next chicane.

ADVERTISEMENT

In case you can’t tell, I badly wanted to fang the ute on track for real. The VE Commodore has excellent handling for a mass-market car, and that V6 wasn’t bad, either. But alas—public roads meant I had to kept my throttle lust (German: Drosselklappebegierde) in check.

Dsc06527

Dsc06550

20240410 102337 2

I cooled the octane coursing through my veins, and considered my first jaunt a wild success. Next up, I headed out to Elwood Beach to snap some pictures. The ute was well-equipped for sandy shenanigans, after all. There was ample sunscreen on board, along with fishing rods, a surfboard, and a decent-looking fixed-gear bike to boot.

ADVERTISEMENT

Surfing would have been great, but I lacked the skills. I’m more of a bodyboarder, myself. As for the fishing rods, there were no hooks nor tackle to put them to good use; they were really just props to add to the look. And the bike, while attractive, was a no-go, With bearings falling out of the headstem, it seems unwise to try and pilot this thing down the boulevard.

20240410 141642

The tray was full of junk left over from the shoot. Along with multiple pairs of canvas shoes, which I had no explanation for.20240410 140845

20240410 141151
Gotta love those wheels. The brakes kinda need to be bigger to match, though.
20240411 141814
I’d contemplated cycling the Albert Park circuit, but the bike was a no-go from the get go.

20240410 144532

Instead, I busied myself with some of the ute’s more functional accessories. I erected the washing line on the front bumper, which was perfect for drying the Bottas-themed budgie smugglers if you were bold enough to wear them in the first place.

ADVERTISEMENT

This was probably the coolest and most unique feature on the ute. It was simple, functional, and hilarious. Honestly, if it didn’t block your vision so much, you could totally leave it up while driving. With that said, it would probably maim pedestrians quite severely in a crash.

While mocking this up for the camera, I had a moment of realization.

How our lives change! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also tried out the “Bug Reduction System.” These units were Pestrol automatic bug sprayers repainted to match the ute. Attached to the body via Velcro, I was under strict instructions not to mount these while driving. That seemed like sage advice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Between shooting content and writing up my experiences on the fly, I was famished. I smashed a burger, and then headed for our micro meetup in Port Melbourne. It was a great time meeting some down-to-earth car fans.

You can get the full low-down from my meet report—featuring Australia’s most famous engine and some kei car royalty.

The one thing I wanted to do at the meet was show the readers some of the ute’s nifty features. We threw up the washing line, and I gave the gang some budgie smugglers and air freshers as swag. But most of all, I wanted to demo the shower.

ADVERTISEMENT

There was just one problem—the ute’s water tank was empty.

20240410 141343

This was the ute’s most mind-boggling feature. The shower was simple. The shower head was simply mounted on a long length of copper pipe that was strapped to the bed topper. Raise the bed topper, and you can extend the shower out quite easily to a good height. It’d be perfect for washing off at the beach after a long session out in the waves.

The shower was fed from a jerry can full of water and a 12-volt pump, all stuffed in a black box in the bed of the ute. The box held the jerry can in place, but made it incredibly difficult to remove. Eventually,we managed to tug it out, and our reader Jackson then jetted off to the Bunnings toilet block to fill it up. Surely we could get this thing going, right?

Well, kinda! Getting the jerry can back into the ute proved even harder, especially with the added challenge of not spilling all the water. The hook up to the pump was just a short length of garden hose that was nearly impossible to insert back into the jerry can, to boot.

ADVERTISEMENT

Eventually, we got a limp, unimpressive stream going. The kind that if you suffered it at the urinal, you’d be well advised to check in with your doctor.

This genuinely should have been the ute’s star feature. Unfortunately, the sheer lack of water pressure meant it was underwhelming to the point of hilarity.

The real flaw was that the hose wasn’t long enough to reach the bottom of the jerry can. Plus, stuffing everything in a box just made the whole thing unserviceable. Why you would make something this fussy for an ad shoot, I don’t know. It could only have complicated things on set. I suspect they just hooked the shower head up to a hose for filming, to make things easier.

20240410 192114

ADVERTISEMENT

Anyway, shower gripes aside, the meet was a great time. We all shared a good laugh at the prop car’s foibles and discussed how the base trim ute came to have a vented bonnet more commonly seen on the V8 models.

Oh, and don’t I just look killer in those shades? Made for me.

Day Deux

For day two, I had all the freedom in the world, at least until the ute was due back at 4 PM. I fancied myself a little road trip, so I headed out on the highway. Really, I just wanted to find some bare patch of Austraila where I could shoot some video on the ute’s features.

I grew short on fuel as the miles racked up, and the ute started vibrating now and then with some odd issue, possibly electrical. I suspected a misfire, or something caused by all the random 12-volt accessory wires scattered about the cabin and engine bay. Nevertheless, the ute rolled on, and somewhere past Melton, I found a barren lot that would do nicely.

ADVERTISEMENT

I did a cataloging of the ute’s full feature set. I’d been told the Kookaburra horn was no longer operational; in any case, someone had lost the remote control used to activate it. The Bug Reduction System was still working fine, though. As were the seat-mounted neck coolers, which were entirely redundant given that the ute’s air conditioning was perfectly functional. Really, the ad agency had just gone on eBay and thrown a bunch of chintzy car accessories on this thing for the visual. It even had a pair of car seat back supports that I wanted to toss the minute I got in the car.

Nevertheless, I set up the ute with its washing line, fishing rods and surfboard, and it really did look the part. If you only have one mate, a ute like this would be a pretty sweet beach bus. Even more so once you fixed the shower!

Friendouters 73
This thing is sick, but I’d replace the fishing rods with CB antennas.

I also got the chance to show off the 12-volt hairdryer (weak), the fluffy steering wheel cover, and the pie warmer. The latter felt particularly dangerous. It was a heavy, sharp steel object that would cause immense damage if it was sent flying through the cabin. You’d think it’d do significant heat damage, too, but it wasn’t hooked up. That was probably for the best.

In any case, Uber realized the risk and stated the pie warmer was decorative only. I threw it in the cabin to take some pics, but it was really just an inactive prop.

ADVERTISEMENT

20240411 142121 2

20240411 142040 2
Whoever built this car for Uber gave it every cheap car accessory in the book. And a pie warmer. They did a good job color-matching them, too.
20240411 142205
This thing wasn’t bolted down. I was clearly advised not to drive with it in place. It was heavy and pointy after all.
20240411 141656 2
The color is courtesy of a vinyl wrap; the quality was excellent. The trim job on the interior was similarly well done.

A fridge would have been a cooler accessory, though there was precious little room in the ute’s cabin for anything like that. Uber did throw one in the tray, but didn’t provision a power hook-up. It was simply there to act as an unpowered cooler instead.

In reality, the ute wasn’t supposed to work the way it did on screen. Uber could have engineered in a working pie warmer, fridge, and shower, of course. Some of that would have been easy, some of it hard. But really, it was counter to the ute’s actual purpose.

20240411 144053
I suspected the wiring for various chintzy accessories might have been behind the weird misfire issue but couldn’t confirm this during my time with the ute.

The ute’s real job was to look fun enough to get people to install the Uber CarShare app. To that end, I’d say it’s done its job. The ad has over 5 million views on Twitter. We’re talking about it, and so are a bunch of other people across social media.

Matt joked with me that we should buy the car from Uber once the promotion is done. I can definitely see the appeal, in one respect—because a 2012 Holden ute is an absolute ripper. It gets good fuel economy, it’s got a large bed for hauling stuff, and it drives better than most ’90s sports cars.

ADVERTISEMENT
Friendouters 74
Hard tonneau covers are heavy, hard to open, and hard to close. But damn that spoiler looks good.

At the same time, I’m not sure I could recommend this one. That misfire had me shook, and it didn’t go away. Plus, there’s a bunch of chintzy accessories and wiring on this one that get in the way of properly enjoying it. I enjoyed mucking around with the silly accessories, but I’ll level with you. I’d have traded all that to fang this thing around a track or a burnout pad for a couple of hours. The Commodores were just that good.

Anyone from Hollywood will tell you—what you see on screen has nothing to do with reality. Driving this prop car out in the real world proved that to me. The trinkets on this ute were built to work for about 30 seconds—just long enough to get the shots for the ad, nothing more. There’s no incentive to make things work properly—the ad world is about doing things as quickly and cheaply as possible. Movie cars are just the same.  They’re built fast and cheap to look good on camera. They don’t need to work well out on the road.

20240410 141822 (1) 2
Most everything about it was jank as hell. And yet, the whole time, I was thinking… “I CAN FIX HER!”

As someone who makes stuff, it got me thinking about building an Aussie beach car that you could use in the real world. It wouldn’t take much to replicate this concept in a working fashion. Fix up the shower, hook up the fridge, and maybe even install a barbecue on the tailgate. You’d be the most popular guy at the beach, and not just because your ute’s got a super-rad spoiler on the back.

My trip was a whirlwind, but a fun one. I’ll never turn down a chance to drive a good ute, after all. Driving this one just makes me even more serious about driving Project Cactus if I’m lucky enough to get the opportunity one day.

20240410 144525 (1) 2
One must imagine Bottas happy.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this look behind the curtain at a fake car from a real commercial. I certainly enjoyed getting out in the field to bring it to you. We’re dedicated to excellence here at The Autopian, so keep coming back and we’ll keep delivering. The more you lift us up, the more nonsense we’ll bring down—budgie smugglers and all. Keep motoring!

ADVERTISEMENT

Image credits: Lewin Day

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
14 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew M
Andrew M
27 days ago

I’m here for the use of “get on the blower”! Just upgraded from cloth to vinyl to support this, and the madness of David living in an Aztec for a week.

Ben
Ben
1 month ago

If you do buy this after Uber is done with it, you could probably get a good couple of articles at least about fixing all the accessories so they actually work as intended.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

It’s like a Pimp My Ride car. A Sandman does seem more apropos for a beach car maybe add a chassis wash system to stave off rust

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

I’ve sworn off getting a 70s panelvan as they all have hidden (or not-so-hidden) rust everywhere, regardless of brand or whether they were coastal or rural.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

Neil Young was right, fortunately I live in Oregon where rust is rare, except on the Coast where they rust from the rain gutters on down.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Matt joked with me that we should buy the car from Uber once the promotion is done.

Nah, The Autopian already has an Aussie ute with Cactus. You need to get a Holden Sandman to compliment Cactus.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
1 month ago

I know where there is the perfect Holden panelvan complement to Cactus, one more windstorm and that roof cap is headed for the next county!

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago

Sounds perfect! Do we need to send David back down for another marathon wrenching?

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
1 month ago

To quote another Aussie, “The biggest companies make the worst stuff”

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

Gotta watch that introspection, man; it’ll get ya!
anyway, looks like you had some good fun, and I enjoyed being along for the ride 🙂

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Thank ute.

14
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x