UPDATE: Hi res images and press release added



Who knows why automakers seem attracted to the utilitarian nature and claustrophobic accomodations of panel vehicles lately, but we're not complaining. Dodge is the latest to join the fray by offering up renderings of the Nitro Panel Wagon concept that will be displayed at this year's SEMA show near the end of the month. As per the requirements for being labeled a panel van, the Nitro Panel Wagon features windowless side panels and a flat load floor. Mike Ellis of DCX tells us that designers are also going to pimp the Panel Wagon with some cool ground effects. Whether that means neon tubes lighting up the frame or just new front and rear bumpers plus side skirts remains to be seen, although we can clearly see some exterior mods on the rendered vehicle that leads us to believe the latter (please don't put neons on your concept, Chrysler).

Unlike the Chevy HHR Panel that was recently announced for production, Chrysler is not saying if there's a production line in this panel van's future. We're all about panel vans, so we say do it. Chevy cannot be allowed to be the only domestic automaker with a production panel van. A panel wagon war between the domestics is exactly what we need right now to take our minds off of quarterly earnings and monthly sales figures. You don't think it'd be an irresponsible use of precious resources, do you? Whatev, build 'em.

More renderings after the jump...

[Source: DCX]


EXCERPT FROM PRESS RELEASE

Dodge Nitro Panel Wagon

- Builders: DaimlerChrysler Vehicle Build Shops
- 3.7L, 12-valve, SOHC V-6
- 210 horsepower and 235 lbs.-ft. of torque

With hot rod flavor, this retro 2-door Dodge Nitro Panel Wagon also has modern flair. The Nitro Panel Wagon began as a statement about traditional hot rodding. It not only had to be a styling statement, it had to be functional, just as the speed shops did it the '50s and '60s. Modifying a standard Dodge Nitro by hand, the same way a custom car builder would. It's Mopar-themed throughout – accessory, performance, and replacement parts

The metal shop welded the rear doors shut and hand-formed the panel to fill in where the quarter and rear door glass once resided. The unique body kit accentuates its modern, masculine and athletic shape by lowering the sills and fascia. The beefy flares are one inch wider per side to cover the one-off Alcoa forged 20 x 9 wheels wrapped in sticky BF Goodrich g-Force 265/50VR20s. The suspension was lowered 2 inches to lower the center of gravity and improve the handling. Mopar's signature blue and white was laid on the classic panel wagon two-tone scheme. The big blue space on the panel where the glass once lived begged for the Mopar Authentic Performance logo.

Exterior attributes set the tone for the real story: inside. Panel vans carry cargo, and this one does it in style. Deleting the rear doors and seats creates an opportunity for unique storage systems. When the rear door is opened, the cargo floor appears to be a nice, flat area with a textured material. Upon closer inspection, a set of handles, borrowed from the production version of the Nitro, unlatch and release the 400-lb.-capacity load floor that extends a whopping 36 inches (which was created by our vehicle mock-up area). Cargo is kept from going into the front compartment by an aviation-inspired cargo net. Where the glass and quarter trim once lived, there are a set of custom panels designed to hold smaller stuff: tools, oil, filters, everything a hot rodder might need on the road. The front compartment remains in basically stock trim with the exception of the custom seats done by Katzkin, which include smooth polyurethane bolsters with a gray textured insert that mimics the cargo mat. The seats carry an embroidered Mopar logo with matching blue accent stitching.

The Dodge Nitro Panel Wagon combines the essence of a classic panel van with the modern, aggressive style of today's Dodge. With its appearance and speed shop utility, this vehicle will be greatly appreciated by any gearhead. No surfboards, flats of flowers or groceries in here.