Getting Back to Work On Our VW Jetta Smyth Ute

We took a month off after the initial build to enjoy it, but we're not done with it yet.

Justin Hughes

After a big push in July to install our Smyth Performance Ute Kit on our 2003 Volkswagen Jetta, I took most of August off to kick back and enjoy it—with only one brief brush with the law. I've hauled a number of small loads and even towed my local Society for Creative Anachronism group's equipment trailer to an event with it. The lower temperatures of September are not only more comfortable for working on the car, they are also a reminder that winter is coming, and that I should get my lazy butt back to work before it's too cold in Massachusetts to make any more progress for a while.

I picked up where I left off, on the seam between the original roof and the fiberglass rear surround for the passenger compartment. A few more rounds of Bondo and sanding resulted in a fairly smooth transition. I had to spray primer on the roof to protect the metal I'd sanded down. One thing led to another, and I ended up with this unique two-tone color scheme. It's temporary since I still intend to Plastidip the whole car, but it looks decent enough for now, and not like the half-finished job it actually is.

What's next? I may not have done much work during August, but I did a bit of planning.

  • Install the front side skirts below the doors. I was so happy to have a drivable Ute that I kind of skipped this part before.
  • Do general bodywork all around the car to make all seams and rivet holes smooth.
  • Spray bedliner on all of the exposed aluminum parts of the bed.
  • Replace the dented right front fender.
  • Replace the headlights. I've already found a pair of Euro-spec lights on Amazon that should allow me to actually see at night, unlike the US-spec glow worms.
  • Replace the stereo. Another ordinary stock head unit will work fine, but I want one with a working tape deck. (If you don't know what a cassette tape is, get off my lawn and go ask your parents.) Why do I want a piece of such antiquated technology? To use a Bluetooth cassette to turn the tape deck into a Bluetooth interface for my phone.
  • Add some kind of sound deadening to the inside of the fiberglass rear surround. Though it's weatherproof, it allows a great deal of wind noise into the truncated passenger compartment, especially on the highway. Since this isn't a race car, I don't mind adding some weight to quiet the car down a bit.
  • Carpet the rear of the interior. The Smyth Performance kit includes a roll of black carpet specifically for this purpose. I just haven't gotten around to doing it yet.
  • Plastidip the car. What color(s)? That'll be a surprise.

This list isn't necessarily in order. In fact, some steps may happen simultaneously. For example, I have to remove the front bumper to replace both the headlights and the fender, so I might as well do both at the same time. And the stereo may happen sooner rather than later because I'm going nuts without my tunes.

With any luck, I'll be able to get most, if not all, of this done before winter. Plus I still have a set of 15-inch alloy wheels to refinish and put tires on. The Jetta's transformation isn't complete yet.