U.S. enthusiasts have long yearned after the forbidden fruit of international utes, now suffering a drought of local comparable cars pairing the utility of a pickup bed with the footprint of a sedan left by the collapse of the El Camino and Subaru Baja markets long ago. Now, a kit attempts to keep the dream alive, this time with the Dodge Charger.
Australia long kept the dream of the ute alive, with the Ford Falcon model only going out of production for good a few years ago, followed by the slow death of the aptly-named Holden Ute model from General Motors. Down Under, modern utes were commonly available with powerful V8 engines, only proving that the Mad Max franchise really is more documentary than you may think.
While the U.S. had the Chevrolet El Camino and Dodge Rampage decades ago, the automaker and most of American society seemingly decided cars and pickups were better off separated nearly for good ever since. Save for the experiment that was the Subaru Baja ute. (Correction: This article originally misstated that there was open seating available for the Baja. Credit to the comments for spotting the error. - JW)
And that’s where this Dodge Charger conversion kit spotted over on Autoblog comes in to save the dream of big power, open-top hauling practicality.
This particular example in the photos is listed over at our friend Doug DeMuro’s auction site, Cars & Bids. The project began life as a 2006 Dodge Charger RT and it appears to still be mostly stock underneath the custom bodywork, keeping the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 linked to a 5-speed automatic powering the rear wheels. It has a clean title and reportedly just under 69,000 miles on the clock. The owner bought the car in 2018 and the conversion was completed in 2020.
According to the listing, the pickup conversion kit for the Dodge Charger is available from Smyth Kit Cars and includes rear quarter windows, fiberglass quarter panels, a steel tailgate (likely sourced from an existing vehicle), rear glass from a Chevrolet Colorado and Dodge Caravan taillights.
We’ve also featured Smyth’s VW Jetta ute kit on Nice Price before, which doesn’t look as good, but that just may be down to the car it’s built on.
There’s also an aluminum panel cargo box to fully truckify the ride, and the listing mentions additional “structural reinforcements” as part of the kit which hopefully work. It’s also been resprayed in the original factory black paint color when the job was done.
The listing claims the current owner also removed the resonators, tinted the windows, installed stainless-steel exhaust tips, Eibach lowering springs and Koni shocks, and threw in orange brake calipers tucked under 20-inch wheels. From what I can tell, the Smyth Kit costs around $3,000, and various truck conversions are available for cars including Subarus, Volkwagens and Jeeps.
The interior looks clean, the roof looks nice, and I genuinely think this is a cool ride, at least from the listing alone, and I’m thrilled to see it done. My only real concern, beyond the car itself being a 15-year-old Dodge before you start messing with it, is that the owner only put about 300 miles on the car since buying and completing it.
It makes me wonder why go through the trouble for the last two years only to want to sell without having driven it all that much. But then again, the used car market is wild right now and we are amidst a pandemic, so there could be a lot to factor into the decision to sell, and bidding has gone up from $5,000 to over $12,000 just today.
It seems all of the labor involved with the Smyth Kit is on the owner to sort out, but these images appear to show they did a good job on this old Charger for what it is. How much are people willing to pay for someone else’s possibly-rejected project truck? Apparently plenty!