What Couldn't It Do? The Lightburn Zeta Utility
The Zeta ‘Runabout’ Sedan, it is true, was spacious and convenient enough to carry most loads, at least in a recreational or small-job capacity. But it was not the most suitable vehicle for business- or fleet-owners. Lightburn & Co, however, would not let a large piece of the market slip away, and so they developed a version of the Zeta vest suited to common use in the manufacturing and working sector—the Zeta Utility.
The Utility was, plain and simple, a Zeta with a ute-tray and tail-gate. It is said to have been capable of carrying up to approximately 500 lbs (roughly 230kg), and with its tail-gate lowered it could transport items up to 6 ft (1.8m) long. Marketing focused primarily on its swiftness and maneuverability, its small size ideal for dealing with congestion on the road or around the factory. As advertised on its brochure:
‘Zeta is the ideal means of quickly moving men, tools, and material to the most inaccessible or furthermost corners of the planet!’
Hyperbolic? Evidently. Its Villiers two-stroke twin-cylinder engine was not powerful at all, and on a flat road—unloaded, too—it could reach up to a measly 60 km p/h. Going downhill it could reach 75 km p/h, at least, but this would be dangerous with a load on board. Its engine, too, would need to be turned off in order to go in reverse, a massive inconvenience when being used in a fast-paced manufacturing environment.
The problem, clearly, was that the Utility differed from the Runabout only inasmuch as the addition of the ute-tray; its engine, particularly, was not improved to suit the uses of the target market. The result was a spectacular failure. Only eight were ever sold, and Sydney City bought most of these to take into their fleet at Hyde Park. But, though Lightburn & Co did not achieve their dream of penetrating the business and manufacturing sector, they gifted us this little rarity which will forever be one of Australia’s overlooked treasures.
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