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White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 10:20 a.m.

This has been my project this year. It started life as a beat up 2003 VW Jetta Wolfsburg Edition. Over a month of working off and on (more off, really) I cut it up and converted it into a small pickup truck using a kit by Smyth Performance. It's still far from finished, but the kit is installed, it's drivable, and we've been using it for light truck stuff - probably as much as any "real" truck ever gets used for.

I've written about the build as it happened on another web site, but I'll post some pics and a summary here.

xflowgolf Dork
12/27/17 10:22 a.m.

These are neat.  

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 10:26 a.m.

Here's how it looked when we got it. Pretty ugly, and this is definitely its worst side. No problem, though - I knew that the fiberglass bed panels of the kit would cover all the dents in back, and a new front fender was only $50 - cheaper than used from a junkyard! It needed a bunch of simple repairs to put it back on the road safely and legally. Can't complain for $600!

When the time came, I stripped the entire back half of the car. Then came the fun part - cutting the top rear 1/4 of the car off!!!

It was good clean fun for the whole family. cool

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 10:31 a.m.

Test fitting parts. The bed structure is a thick aluminum box that ties into the B-pillars where the back doors used to be. Then fiberglass body panels attach to both sides of the bed, below the tailgate (a stock Ford Ranger part), and behind the seats on top of the bed to enclose the "cab."

Here's how the bed structure looks with the tailgate once installed.

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 10:35 a.m.

Body panels attached and drivable! I added the trailer hitch after cutting the car and before building the bed. What better time to have access to that area? The kit doesn't include a third brake light so I bought this DOT-approved one off Amazon for cheap. The VW badge came from a spare grill badge that came with the car for some reason.

I drove it around in two-tone mode for a while. Obviously, I haven't gotten around to replacing the dented fender yet - it's a work in progress.

I started using it for truck stuff immediately!

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/27/17 10:36 a.m.

I've been following the Smyth conversion since it was in the prototype stages.  It's pretty cool.  I saw one in person a couple of years ago in central PA.  If I wasn't already buried with projects, I'd love to try one.

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 10:44 a.m.

Eventually I primed the front of the car to match the rear, which still wore the fiberglass's original black gel coat. I left only the grill its original silver to give it a little bit of a chrome look.

I also installed Euro-spec headlights to replace the glowsticks that the stock USDM headlights were. The city lights (instead of amber parking lights) and built-in fog lights are fully operational.

Here it is bringing all of its old parts up to my friend's shop in NH. There it sits now, getting a new Borla exhaust after the current exhaust broke in half, and having a nasty misfire diagnosed.

Future plans include a lift, small all-terrain tires, even more lighting, and possibly a better paint or Plastidip job. Though personally, I rather like the badass Mad Max look it has now. As you can tell in the last picture, I still have a fair bit of bodywork left to do before anything else cosmetic happens. I need to get the panels lining up better. But it's winter in New England, so I'm not playing that game right now. It's cold!

Rufledt UberDork
12/27/17 12:03 p.m.

That’s awesome! I’ve seen those before, didn’t know it was a kit 

dculberson PowerDork
12/27/17 12:13 p.m.

Awesome! How difficult would you say it all was?

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 1:11 p.m.

In reply to dculberson :

The kit is specifically designed to be easy to build without welding. This is by far the most extensive car project I've ever done. I mean, I've never cut a car apart before. laugh I'd say that only moderate mechanical skill is required. It's obviously more extensive than an oil change or wheel swap, but we're not talking engine rebuild difficulty, either. The instructions are a little lacking in detail at times, but I was able to figure it out. I also know the guys at Smyth Performance pretty well now, and they're always willing to answer questions.

Smyth claims you can build this kit in 20-40 work hours, not including paint. I can confirm that estimate. I did it in a month of on-and-off weekends (it was July, I got hot and had to stop and cool off before continuing). 

The0retical SuperDork
12/27/17 1:24 p.m.

In reply to White_and_Nerdy :

This is awesome. I've had a thing for the Smyth kits for a while.

How much structure is ultimately retained in the rear? If you bought one that was rear ended on Copart would it be possible to build one as long as it didn't move the strut tower position?

Robbie PowerDork
12/27/17 1:33 p.m.

I LOOOOVE the smyth kits too. Unfortunately they didn't make one for the saab 9-3, so I had a bunch of GRMers over to help me make one. A stupid issue kept us from competing in the challenge this year, but the truck will be back.

Here is it doing truck stuff like bringing all the cutoff metal to the scrapper:

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/27/17 1:36 p.m.

Smyth used a rear-ended car for one of the earlier Beta kits.  From what I remember (this was a few years ago), as long as the pan is fairly straight, the kit will work.

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
12/27/17 1:56 p.m.
The0retical said:

How much structure is ultimately retained in the rear? If you bought one that was rear ended on Copart would it be possible to build one as long as it didn't move the strut tower position?

After trimming, not a ton. The original bumper is retained but is not mandatory. I kept it because I live in Massachusetts - 'nuff said. wink Many people who build these buy rear-ended cars for dirt cheap in much worse condition than mine. The spare tire well is retained but even it isn't structurally necessary. As long as there's still some floor near the strut towers to hold the supports for the bed floor.

Nitroracer UltraDork
12/27/17 7:22 p.m.

I love the idea of these kits, but I haven't been enough of a fan of the cars chosen yet to dive in.  I'm not a VW/Audi guy.  The other part that scares me off is the paint and finishing.  But the MK5 cars look good all finished up and you could have a truck with a wailing Inline-5.

02Pilot Dork
12/27/17 7:39 p.m.

I'd love to see a version for an E46 BMW. There's no shortage of them out there for cheap these days.

simon_C Reader
12/28/17 2:11 p.m.

I love these, I'd love to do one with an R32 4mo setup. 

Which shop does your friend have? I used to be in the VW scene in NH. 

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
12/28/17 3:47 p.m.

The Dodge Charger based one is enticing.  RWD or AWD... and actually big enough to haul a fair amount.  

NOHOME UltimaDork
12/28/17 3:58 p.m.

In reply to Ian F :

I like that a lot.

CLynn85 HalfDork
12/29/17 8:26 a.m.

Nice work! How's the fit/finish of all the pieces? Does it seal up the cab really well with no drafts?

I've been following the Smyth utes since he split off and started his own company. I want to build one, but I already have 2 trucks, so it'll have to wait until he comes up with something really cool.

Tk8398 Reader
12/29/17 2:27 p.m.

I know someone who sells lift kits for mk4s actually. 

gearheadE30 HalfDork
12/31/17 4:03 p.m.

Good to see you made it over here to GRM! I met you earlier at Midnight Mayhem near Louisville earlier this year - I was one of the stragglers packing my tent onto a motorcycle the next day.

Gearheadotaku UltimaDork
12/31/17 8:16 p.m.

I really like the idea, but too expensive for me. 

White_and_Nerdy HalfDork
1/2/18 8:38 a.m.

Nitroracer, Ian F beat me to the punch - the Charger kit might work for you. I'm honestly considering a 2005-2010 Charger for my next DD so I can eventually ute it.

02Pilot, they were working on an E39 ute, but discovered after chopping the back that the remaining structure is too weak and flexible, so that went on the back burner.

simon_C, the shop is Smyth Performance out of Wareham, MA. These kits are what they do!

CLynn85, fit and finish is entirely up to the skill of the builder. I'm still working on that part, myself. Attention to detail is not one of my strengths! But the kit sealed up nicely. I didn't have to patch any leaks for wind or water.

Tk8398, tell me about these lift kits. I have a cheapo solution in mind for the front, then air bags in the back springs. I'm limited by how much I can lift a 2WD vehicle thanks to Massachusetts laws.

GearheadE30, you mean me? I'm in Mass, never been to Louisville, so you may be thinking of someone else.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
1/2/18 10:39 a.m.

idparts.com sells lift spacers for the front struts.  It generally levels them out with the rear, depending on the car.   If budget allows, Ground Control can put together a coil-over kit that raises the car a bit for better geometry (it's not really on the site - you'll need to call them for it; it was developed by an autocrosser to custom specs a number of years ago).  Oddly enough, lowering the Mk IV tends to make the handling worse.

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