It’s beginning to look like we should prepare for a flood of new small pickups to hit the market. Ford car-based truck test mules have been spotted running around Australia. Kia is allegedly planning a similar-sized pickup for release there, too. While no pickup version of Ford’s baby Bronco exists officially, there’s a good business case for Ford to make one. And Hyundai’s green-lit their Santa Cruz pickup for production. But sometimes, the pickup you want doesn’t exist. That didn’t stop Simone Giertz from making “Truckla”, her own Tesla pickup, from a Model 3. And there’s a whole host of cars that can be turned into trucks with Smyth Performance’s kits.
Smyth Performance Background
Smyth Performance is the brainchild of auto industry vet Mark Smith. And that “vet” isn’t just marketing-speak. Mark also founded Factory Five Racing, renowned for their Cobra and Daytona replicas. He then went on to co-found Local Motors, the company behind the world’s first 3D-printed car, the Rally Fighter. After selling Factory Five Racing, he partnered with fellow kit builder Michael Gallant to form Smyth Performance.
Smyth Kit Highlights
The kits are DIY, although some shops can be commissioned to put your truck together for you. Since converting a car into a pickup does require sawing off body panels, there might be some DIY hesitance. But the kit comes with a full build manual, which shows you exactly where to cut. There’s also no welding involved, which drastically simplifies things.
Although each kit differs slightly depending on the car, the basic components are essentially the same. Bolt-on aluminum reinforcement side panels, an aluminum bed, a steel OEM tailgate, rear window glass, and fiberglass panels to smooth out the body shape. Smyth Performance even provides tail lights and interior carpet.
As they are a kit car maker, Smyth Performance does not crash-test their builds. However, previous customers have allegedly walked away from fender-benders with minimal bruising. The company claims that their kits provide similar support as the factory would in making convertible versions of their cars. The fact that the conversions retain the front safety features, and turn the entire rear into a crumble zone, is also reassuring.
The last Volkswagen pickup sold in the US was the 1984 Rabbit Pickup. Called the Caddy elsewhere, it was based on the Golf/Rabbit platform of the day. Smyth’s VW Golf and Jetta kits, then, just continue in that tradition.
This kit is designed for the Mk4 4-door Golf and Jetta sedan and wagon (1999-2004) and the Mk 5 Jetta sedan (2005-2010). The kit comes in at $3490, minus the cost of a donor car. It’s also Smyth Performance’s best-selling kit; Top Gear USA’s Rutledge Wood even bought one.
Volkswagen New Beetle
Volkswagen never made a pickup version of any Beetle. Smyth Performance’s New Beetle truck conversion not only correct this, but turns the car into a stepside pickup. Any New Beetle model year 1998-2010 can be fitted with the kit.
This is also one of Smyth Performance’s newest kits. 75 have been sold to date, but if you can snag any of the first 100, the cost drops from $3490 to $2990.
Although all of Smyth Performance’s conversion kits come with panels to cover and disguise parts of the truck modification, their Audi A4/S4 kit goes a little further. For one, the tailgate is tilted slightly. The taillights are also not Audi OEM, but rather LED ones from the Acura MDX.
The kit is designed to fit both the B6 and B7 generation of the Audi A4 and S4. Specifically, the 2003-2008 model years. It is slightly more expensive, at $3590 plus shipping, but the company does mention that donor cars are relatively inexpensive. To buy, at least: the maintenance costs may shock you. They certainly shocked Smyth Performance.
But the Audi S4 truck conversion is arguably the cheapest way to buy a German pickup truck with AWD, a V8, and a manual.
Growing up in the Midwest, Subaru’s Impreza WRX was a common sight, especially in the winter. As an AWD sedan and wagon, it appealed to both enthusiasts and every-day consumers alike. And now, you can convert it into a pickup: the “Subarute”.
The $3490 kit fits any 2002-2007 Impreza or Impreza WRX sedan—what fans commonly call the bug eye, blob eye, and hawk eye generations. With consideration for the WRX’s origins, Smyth also add in additional struts, a larger outer brace, and a strut tower brace on top of the standard components. Michael Gallant even fitted the kit to his rallycross WRX.
Australia may have gotten utes from Ford and GM, but never Dodge. With the Dodge Charger truck conversion kit, there’s finally an American-style ute available.
Sadly, this kit only works with 2005-2010 Dodge Chargers. So sadly, we can’t have a Hellcat ute. Yet. But, if the standard $3690 kit isn’t enough, Mike Smith is developing a Dodge Charger truck conversion based on police-spec Chargers. In fact, you can even buy his own daily-driver development truck for $13,900.