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						Smyth Charger A3
The Transformer

Smyth Performance's Dodge Charger ute conversion

Story and Photos by Joe Greeves

What does the co-founder of Factory Five Racing now do with his time? After selling off his share of this successful replica firm to his brother Dave, Mark Smith found a way to put an innovative twist on production cars. Inspired by classic “coupe utility” vehicles, like the El Camino and Ranchero, he turns cars into “utes.” Mark’s new company, Smyth Performance, started out using import makes, such as Volkswagen, Subaru and Audi, but has now come up with a domestic version using a Dodge Charger as a donor. What follows is one man’s experience transforming a Dodge Charger into a “muscle pickup” with Smyth Performance’s conversion.

Richard “Rich” Williams from Port St. Lucie, Florida, has been an active enthusiast for the last 40 years. He’s restored several show-winning vehicles in the past, but his yacht brokerage business was demanding, leaving little time for anything but work. In retirement, finally with a little time on his hands, he was eager to revisit his automotive hobby and began looking for a project vehicle.

Although he wasn’t exactly in the market for a pickup, Smyth Performance’s Dodge Charger conversion struck a chord. Blending a four-door muscle car into a high-performance pickup sounded like a fascinating project, but it was the conversations with Smyth Performance owner Mark that really convinced him.

“Mark is very passionate and clearly loves the idea of saving these cars and giving them new life,” Rich notes.

Mark’s transformation technique uses an aluminum bed to replace the back seat and trunk of the original sedan. While the small import cars had their charm, it was the Charger rebody with its big American V8 that attracted Rich. The 2005 to 2010 Dodge Charger is unique, categorized as a four-door muscle car, and making it the ideal donor choice for a muscle car to truck conversion.

Once the idea took shape, Rich began searching the country for a donor car, happy to find the right candidate near his own hometown. It was a single-owner, low-mileage 2007 Hemi Charger R/T with a complete service record. As soon as the car was in his garage, he ordered the $3,600 kit, wanting to have it on hand before any cuts were made.

Rich began by familiarizing himself with the available internet videos and studying the areas where the cuts were needed at the trunk, C-pillars and back half of the roof. He decided the roof was the only genuinely critical cut, since it must accept a three-piece rear window surround. Two small fiberglass panels bridge the gap between the new back window and door, creating the look of an extended cab and adding room to the interior.

To accommodate the new bed, the primary cut lines occur just behind the B-pillar, essentially eliminating the rear half of the car. Easy-to-follow instructions made the cuts fairly routine. The full-length rear quarter panels and roll pan are fiberglass, while the bed is aluminum and comes pre-welded from the factory. Structural aluminum plates strengthen the chassis, and the rear quarter panels are bonded in place.

Components from a few different vehicles complete the conversion. A Ford Ranger tailgate with its decorative spoiler came with the kit, opening and closing in the traditional manner and making the bed genuinely useful. Taillights from a Dodge Caravan and a back window from a Chevrolet Colorado are also part of the package. Everything is riveted, bolted or bonded with two-part epoxy — there’s no welding required. Rich says he used his 4.5-inch cutting wheel for 90 percent of the cuts.

Rich chose to address sound deadening when the majority of the job was completed, but before he bonded the rear panels in place. The local Line-X dealer sprayed the inside of the bed as well as its outer surface, to be covered by the rear quarter panels.

With the final installation of the rear quarters, Rich found that the opening aligned perfectly with the factory gas filler neck, allowing the original gas filler door to be reused. He also wanted a tonneau cover for the bed and provided the folks from Craftec Covers with the dimensions. Less than a week later, it was on his doorstep.

While the front end is stock, Rich upgraded the 5.7-liter Hemi with a Diablo chip, K&N cold-air intake and a rumbling Borla dual exhaust. The smoked 20-by-9-inch wheels, wrapped in 45-series Goodyear rubber, give the truck an aggressive look. They’re a Dodge OEM set, repurposed from a 2018 Scat Pack Challenger. Rich added aftermarket Charger trim around the wheel openings, painting them black to match the rest of the factory trim. The steel Charger rear bumper is still in place behind the fiberglass roll pan for safety, and the twin pipes add an appropriately aggressive look.

As a whimsy addition, Rich found a few internet emblem additions like the “RedNeck Edition” to adorn the tailgate. The final step was painting the truck in the original Charger Inferno Red. Overall, he spent approximately nine weeks on the build, doing everything himself but the paint. He believes that Mark and his crew could probably do it in a fraction of that time.

Summing up the project, Rich explains: “Other than a few tools and consumables, the only thing you need to make this truck is the kit and the car. There’s no need to scrounge the junkyard for parts. Anyone with basic skills and standard tools can get the job done.”

If you’re in the market for a high-performance pickup, there is the added benefit that the donor vehicle retains its legal identity for registration purposes. Also, the wide selection of aftermarket upgrades for power, handling or comfort ensures that the personalization process could reach new heights.

What did the new muscle truck cost? Expenses began with the donor car at $7,500, the kit at $3,600, a (barely) used set of wheels and tires for $1,000, a tonneau cover at $350 and another $1,000 went to consumables. Rich spent an additional $5,000 on bodywork and paint, sprayed by Mark’s Classy Chassis in Stuart, Florida.

We photographed the car at the Daytona Turkey Run, where it was surrounded by crowds marveling at the unusual design throughout the weekend. How is his new truck to live with? Although a little hard to categorize, his “Chargerino” or “Ramchero” is clearly a crowd favorite, receiving six awards in local shows before it was even painted. Rich plans to keep his radical ride for a long time, joking that in the future, he plans to add handles for the pall bearers. “It’s going with me when I leave!”

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