Cheap Tunes and a Bed Liner for the VW Jetta Smyth Ute Project

Check two more tasks off the to-do list for this project.

Justin Hughes

I need to have either music or an audio book playing while I drive unless I have passengers, which is rare. After years of driving cars with Bluetooth capability, I normally channel my auditory entertainment through my phone. But the Jetta basis of the Smyth Ute project car, being a 2003 model, has no such capability, and the cassette deck seemed to be broken. So when I found an exact replacement for sale on eBay for $25, I jumped on it. A working factory tape deck and an adapter would be much less expensive than any aftermarket stereo, plus I wouldn't have to worry about the special wiring for the original Monsoon amplifier.

I only needed a flathead screwdriver to pop the original head unit out. Despite the ad saying otherwise, the replacement head unit required me to enter a security code when I installed it. A quick call to the local VW dealer got me the code in exchange for the device ID and my car's VIN. It didn't even matter that it wasn't the same as the car the replacement head unit came from. So much for security, but these head units are probably not in high demand on the black market these days. (Do not use one of the many web sites that will charge you for the security code. If the dealer tries to charge you, call a different one.)

Both head units were missing knobs, but I was able to swap some from the old one to make the new one complete. My Bluetooth adapter still didn't work, nor did my auxiliary adapter at first, but after some finagling, I figured out that if I inserted it upside down it would work. Disaster averted—I had my driving music.

Justin Hughes

Another cheap task I accomplished was spraying bed liner on all of the bare aluminum surfaces in the back. Aluminum doesn't rust, but it is smooth, causing items in the bed to slide around a bit. General use had already scratched the bare aluminum, so I figured this would both look and work better. I masked off the areas I didn't want to spray, both on the bed and on the tailgate, then laid it on. This is an in-progress picture, which is why the application looks somewhat uneven. All in all, it took five cans to get the level of coverage I wanted, which cost less than $50.

I got to put it to the test soon after I sprayed. On my way to the parts store, I spotted a set of free bookshelves on the side of the road. They wouldn't fit on my motorcycle (they wouldn't even have fit in a Jetta wagon), so I went home, switched to the Ute, and snagged them. I did scrape some of the liner off while loading the shelves, but I hadn't given it enough time to dry completely, rushing to grab the shelves before someone else did. A quick respray took care of it.

Having replenished my rivet supply, the next step will be to finish the bodywork and install the side skirts that blend the rocker panels into the lines of new rear quarter panels. It seems to never end, but we're still making progress.