Trucks & SUVs

You Can Make a DIY Gladiator From a Jeep Grand Cherokee

Although the Jeep Gladiator, whether Trail- or Desert-Rated, is an amazing off-roader, it’s also an expensive one. In top Rubicon trim, the Gladiator stickers at $45,370. And that’s before you add any accessories. Luckily, Smyth Performance, the company behind the DIY ute kits, has a solution. Initially, we only heard rumors that Smyth Performance was working on a Jeep-related project. But now, we can confirm that the company has made a pickup kit for the 1999-2004 (WJ) Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Smyth Performance Jeep Grand Cherokee ute

As with the company’s other kits, turning a WJ Jeep Grand Cherokee into a truck begins by removing the rear half of the SUV.

After that’s done, the next step is installing the B-pillar reinforcing plate, as well as subfloor bracing. This is to keep the Grand Cherokee’s frame stiff and strong. Next, the bed, which Autoblog reports comes from a Ford Ranger, is installed. The bed itself is made of aluminum, with fiberglass exterior panels. Although welding is not required, the panels themselves will have to be painted. The tailgate is actually the same as the one in Smyth’s Charger ute kit.

The kit also contains new taillights and the new rear window glass, which comes from the Chevy Colorado. Smyth’s Jeep Grand Cherokee kit is compatible with both RWD and 4WD SUVs, with either the 4.0-liter six-cylinder or 4.7-liter V8.

Jeep Grand Cherokee ute vs. Gladiator

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland towing a trailer
2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland towing a trailer | Jeep

In terms of ultimate capability, the much newer Jeep Gladiator has the advantage over the Grand Cherokee ute.

The base Gladiator Sport, with the Towing Package, can tow up to 7650 lbs. Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee can tow up to 5000 lbs with the six-cylinder, and 6500 lbs with the V8, according to Cherokee Forum. Although Smyth Performance hasn’t confirmed what the Grand Cherokee truck’s payload capacity will be, the company’s other ute kits are limited to 750 lbs. The Gladiator, on the other hand, has a payload of up to 1600 lbs.

Smyth Performance Jeep Grand Cherokee ute
Smyth Performance Jeep Grand Cherokee ute | Smyth Performance

However, the Grand Cherokee ute’s bed is slightly longer: 5.5’ vs. 5’ for the Gladiator, according to Motor1. It’s also about a foot wider. In addition, Smyth Performance specifically chose the 1999-2004 Grand Cherokee because it still has front and rear solid axles.

Finally, the Grand Cherokee ute is going to be significantly cheaper.

How to get one

At the moment, Smyth Performance is still finalizing some details on the Grand Cherokee kit. The company is taking early deposits of $500 for them, with the first 50 kits being priced at $2999. After those are sold, it’s likely the price will increase to $3500-$4000, in line with Smyth Performance’s other kits.

Getting the 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee will be fairly easy, though. Although Cherokee Forum reports cracked head gaskets and rust may have claimed a few, the WJ Grand Cherokee was an extremely popular SUV. The 2002 and later models even offered some fairly modern features, like Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth.

2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD Laredo
2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2WD Laredo | Autotrader

Unless it’s been outfitted with off-road accessories, even fairly low-mileage WJ Jeep Grand Cherokees are fairly affordable. At the time of writing, the most expensive non-modified Grand Cherokee is listed on Autotrader for $10,000.

Meaning you’ll be able to get a Jeep pickup truck for less than half the cost of a new Gladiator.

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