The VW Jetta Smyth Ute Can Take a Hit

An unfortunate crash test shows that the Smyth Performance ute kit is at least as strong as the original car.

Chris Kingston

By far the most common question I've been asked about my VW Jetta Smyth Ute kit is how strong the final product is after cutting away a quarter of the car. The answer is that it feels to me at least as strong as the original car, if not stronger. However, my butt is not a particularly objective or reliable tool for measuring structural rigidity.

Chris Kingston was an early adopter and builder of the Smyth Performance Ute kit. His 2001 model has numerous customizations beyond the original kit and has won many awards. Unfortunately, earlier this week his beautiful creation was rear-ended at about 35 miles per hour, throwing the Ute forward to smash into the car in front of him.

Chris Kingston

Kingston wasn't seriously hurt in the crash. The front of the car seems to have fared even worse than the back, despite the extensive modifications to the rear half. The stock crumple zones seem to have done their job up front, and the back, while damaged, didn't seem to bend much at all aside from the tailgate.

The relative lack of rear-end damage is even more amazing when you consider that the roll pan, which sits underneath the tailgate, is nearly undamaged. The impact hit above the roll pan, bypassing the factory steel bumper hidden behind it. Aside from the tailgate, which is an off-the-shelf part for a Ford Ranger step-side, Smyth's components took the brunt of the rear impact. All of the engineering that went into spreading impact loads throughout the remaining structure of the original car seems to have worked as designed.

Chris Kingston

Kingston's Ute before the crash.

Like The Six Million Dollar Man, Kingston can rebuild it—he has the technology. 

"All I can say at this point is there may be a change in the front end and the taillights due to a few other builders have copied what I'm doing," Kingston told The Drive. "I have to replace all the front sheet metal and rebuild the tail lights anyways. So maybe it's time for a change. I want to make it a little more unique and less duplicated. More like it was when I first built it." 

We look forward to seeing what he comes up with for Das Ute Mk. II.