Smyth's Jeep Grand Cherokee DIY pickup truck kit is a ute done right

Ronan Glon

Smyth Performance, the purveyor of kits that allow DIYers to build their own custom pickups, is turning its attention to the second-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Rhode Island-based company is putting the final touches on a conversion kit that promises to put a Jeep pickup within the reach of those who can't afford a Gladiator.

Jeep's flagship model from 1999 to 2004 lends itself well to the conversion because it's comfortable, capable, plentiful, and cheap. Smyth's kit turns the SUV into a two-seater pickup with a cargo box that's five and a half feet long and about five feet wide. Using off-the-shelf parts, like a tailgate from a Ford Ranger and a rear window from a Chevrolet Colorado, keeps costs in check while ensuring replacement parts remain affordable and available.

The image above shows what the Grand Cherokee will look like when it's done; design work is still ongoing. The kit will include modified rear lights, B-pillar reinforcements, fiberglass quarter panels, an aluminum insert for the cargo box, and a sub-floor brace that ensures the cut-up SUV doesn't end up with the structural rigidity of a wet, used sponge. Welding isn't required, though you'll need to plan on getting the new panels painted.

There are no major mechanical modifications required to turn a Grand Cherokee into a pickup. The kit is compatible with the bullet-proof 4.0-liter straight-six, the powerful 4.7-liter V8, plus the VM Motori- and Mercedes-Benz-sourced five-cylinder turbodiesel engines offered in Austrian-built cars sold on the European market.

The end result is a rugged Jeep truck that's far cheaper than a Gladiator, and much more comfortable than the Cherokee-based Comanche available between the 1986 and 1992 model years. The upmarket Limited variants of the second-generation Grand Cherokee (called WJ internally) offered a high level of equipment including leather upholstery, heated front seats, and power everything. Clean examples are readily available for under $5,000, while beaters in need of mechanical work or rust-related repairs are a dime a dozen in the $500 range.

Smyth is taking $500 deposits for the first 50 kits it priced at $2,990. Deliveries will begin in May of 2020, meaning you could see a Grand Cherokee pickup off-roading its axles off in Moab this summer. "The aftermarket is simply huge, and I am excited to see what die-hard Jeep people do with the project," the company summed up.

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