We'd Trust the Ute Pros Instead

Posted April 10, 2019

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, and by Joe Greeves

We try not to make a habit out of bashing people’s builds here at RCN. It’s safe to say most people don’t create perfection on their first few shots, and in today’s world, we give props to anyone out there in the garage making shit happen. But when you start an ambitious project, it pays to do your research and “stand on the shoulders of giants,” so to speak.

When we came across this custom Dodge Charger ute conversion for sale on Hemmings, a couple thoughts came to mind. Thought one was “that’s interesting, we’re running a feature on the Smyth Charger ute today.” Thoughts two through four however, were all reasons why we’d take the Smyth kit over a custom conversion like this one.

We’re going to steer away from any conversations regarding looks, as both cars are dramatic departures from the stock Charger in a cool way. No doubt, some will even appreciate the Charger's preserved fenders and rear end on the black Dodge. That car started out as a box-stock 2012 Dodge Charger, and the seller proudly claims that the car was a custom conversion in steel, not a kit. And while props are due for getting the work done, there are a couple shortcomings in the completed product.

For one, there’s no bed. That’s right, no bed. Making extensive use of the original car, the builder preserved the trunk, rear end and the majority of the rear fenders. That simplified execution in a way, as the rear of the roof was removed and rebuilt, and the back door openings were filled. The downside to this is that you don’t get the cool, small pickup truck bed, which provides some real utility for what you give up removing the rear passenger compartment. This car has no back seat and a standard size trunk, making it more about the appearance than anything. The conversion is also a bit less than seamless, as there’s a pronounced line where the leading edge of the trunk would swoop up into the rear glass.

The other factor that’s difficult to ignore is rigidity and safety. The Smyth Performance website has a whole tab called “Safety/Engineering,” that has about 700 words, three photos and a video, all explaining how the Smyth kit replaces and improves chassis strength and rigidity. When you cut part of the roof out of a unibody car, you’ve lost chassis strength that the engineers designed into the car. Using an extensive assortment of aluminum reinforcement panels, the Smyth kit replaces the lost rigidity, and directs load forces through the chassis as intended.

To wrap this up, there are quite a few reasons why we’d favor the well-engineered and seamless Smyth ute conversion over a custom job. We have serious respect for this builder, as the metal work in this project is above our skill level. But even with our average skills, we could construct a Smyth ute for this price at home in our own garages, that’s safe and has a functional (900-pound rated) bed. And the bed is sorta essential to the El Camino image, isn’t it?

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Mopar Smyth Performance Ute