I'm Going to Turn This Volkswagen Jetta Into a Truck
Remember the Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup? Smyth Performance lets you turn a growing number of sedans into sporty little utes.
From 1980 to 1983, Volkswagen built the Rabbit Pickup, also called the Caddy. It was technically a ute, since it had a unibody rather than a separate bed-on-frame—but who cares? It was cool, and even somewhat useful for carrying items too large to fit in the back of a Rabbit. The ute as we know it has died, even in its final stronghold of Australia. But Smyth Performance sees this gap in the market, and has answered it with a kit that will let you convert another dying breed, the four-door sedan, into a unique modern ute of your own.
The founder of Smyth Performance, Mark Smith, is no stranger to kit cars. He is the co-founder of Factory Five Racing, and sold out his share of that company to focus on bringing ute kits to the world. Starting with the Mk4 VW Jetta/Golf, Mark and engineer Michael Gallant designed a kit that replaces the back half of the car with an aluminum bed and structure, with fiberglass body panels to blend in with the original lines of the car. Unlike most kit cars, absolutely no welding or fabrication is required, enabling the average mechanically-inclined hobbyist to assemble this kit themselves. But don't worry: the structure of the bed adds the strength lost by cutting a quarter of the car away. I drove Michael Gallant's own Jetta ute at an SCCA rallycross, the ultimate torture test, and the
car ute held up perfectly. Not only is it as strong as the original car, it also weighs 200 pounds less. Since the original Mk4 kit, Smyth Performance has introduced a kit for the Mk5 Jetta/Golf, as well as the first-generation Dodge Charger. They're putting the final touches on an Audi B6 chassis ute kit now; future plans include kits for the E39 BMW 5 Series and a Subaru of some kind.
I've been interested in the Smyth ute for years. This past winter, I picked up a 2003 Jetta Wolfsburg Edition, with rear-end damage and enough miles to go to the moon, for $600. Soon I will be receiving my Mk4 Jetta ute kit, and will begin the process of converting it into a Smyth ute for myself. I'll show you the whole process, start to finish, so you can see what goes into doing a project like this. All of Smyth's ute kits work pretty much the same way, though each model has its own quirks unique to the car it goes on. Watch this space for updates as I receive the kit, take the back half of the car apart, cut a bunch of it off, and install the pieces to make a fun little ute out of it.