Inexpensive, small pickup trucks used to be everywhere in the US, whether they were from Japanese brands like Datsun or Toyota, the truly weird Subaru Brat or even from Europe with the Volkswagen Caddy based on the Golf. These days that market has completely disappeared, but if you're willing to pick up some tools to build your own, there's a company out there bringing the Caddy back as a kit for the Jetta.
Mark Smith knows a thing about building a vehicle at home. He has over two decades in the DIY-car business as a co-founder of Local Motors and the company that became Factory Five Racing. His latest venture is Smyth Performance and already offers a mid-engine, VW-based kit called the G3F. His new product, though, started as a fluke. "I just wanted a shop truck," said Smith to Autoblog. He already had a Ford F-450 but found that he was driving around with the bed empty most of the time. The result was a pickup truck based on the fourth-generation Jetta that he dubbed the Ute.
The kit retails for $3,500 and ships in three, big boxes, and it's designed to be built and painted in a weekend. Buyers get fiberglass exterior panels, a fiberglass rear window surround, sliding rear window, an aluminum reinforced bed with a tubular steel subframe, taillights, a fully functional steel tailgate, and other parts. In the end, you get a vehicle with a six-foot bed and a payload of around 700-750 pounds. The Ute maintains all of the factory suspension, fuel tank and emissions equipment and requires just a few cuts in the body to complete. "We did a modern Caddy," admits Smith.
Sales are already progressing well for the Ute with "hundreds, not thousands" moved so far, Smith said. You can learn more about this reborn compact pickup at the Smyth Performance website.