Over the weekend, Mark Smith, founder of Smyth Performance, revealed the first finished Jeep Grand Cherokee pickup truck conversion kit from his company. It is a pickup for people who need a truck but do not want to pay the price of a new rig.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee conversion kit backstory
Smyth Performance is a company started by Mr. Smith with the purpose of creating motorcycles and a mid-engine roadster. Along the way, he pivoted the business model to making utes. He has not looked back since.
What is a ute?
The term, ute, has a regional definition. In Australia, a ute is typically a reference to any pickup truck. In the United States, however, it is a term attributed to car-based pickups, think Chevrolet El Camino, Ford Ranchero, or Subaru Baja. But, the niche has been largely unpopulated for many years. Yet, pickup truck prices have continued to rise. So, Mr. Smith decided to do something about it. He built several ute conversion kits.
The Jeep ute kit is the newest offering
Smyth Performance started offering Volkswagen Jetta ute conversions years ago. Then he moved on to an Audi ute kit, a Dodge Charger ute kit, and a Subaru Legacy ute kit. Those kits are still being sold to this day. However, when the company made available the Volkswagen New Beetle ute kit, lightning struck. Sales really took off. The VW fanbase came alive, and Mr. Smith has found himself having to ship the Beetle kits worldwide, sometimes to the company’s own detriment (shipping costs eat up more than profits).
Undaunted, on Saturday, Facebook and Instagram posts revealed a new kit that Smyth Performance has been working on since just before the global COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve covered its development on this site before. But, now a finished Jeep Grand Cherokee ute kit is ready for prime time.
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Lightning strikes again, looking like a Jeep
It seems that lightning is striking again. The Jeep community is standing in line for the Grand Cherokee ute conversion kits. According to Mr. Smith in a Facebook Live post (5:10 timestamp), pre-orders have already committed half of the company’s initial introductory special of 50 units. After that, pricing will be adjusted.
Expected costs for a completed Grand Cherokee kit
The Jeep Grand Cherokee ute kit is being offered initially at a price point of $2,490. The kit includes the parts for the pickup truck conversion, which also strengthens the chassis to receive extra loads. A donor Grand Cherokee is still necessary to complete the kit. The kit is for the WJ generation of the Grand Cherokee, which was available 1999 through 2004.
Donor Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles are available readily under $4,000. So, it is conceivable that with a kit purchase, a donor purchase, some primer, paint, and a three day weekend of elbow grease could land you a finished pickup for well under $10,000. That is a huge saving over the purchase price of most any new pickup truck.
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Repurposing a Jeep may be a good kit project to learn skills
Automotibles get old. Often, people will then get rid of them instead of repairing them or upgrade them. For people that like to upcycle and reuse, a ute kit might be a great way to repurpose an old Jeep Grand Cherokee. Let us not be naive, though. It does take time and effort. So, if a person is prone to easily getting frustrated and quitting, any kit from any manufacturer is not a good idea. However, if someone is looking for a project to complete that they can learn skills from, and want to repurpose something, then a ute kit may be a good place to start.