My opportunities to do high dollar builds are minimal to none. It might be my aversion to money/lack of self worth. It could also be my impatience in holding a moment, lacking sticktoitiveness as my mind excitedly moves to the next abstract concept. Adding in poor health and limited resources, I can only really get my kicks from conceptualizing things.
This feels good and bad; good to be far down the path of a mental journey that increasingly becomes more obscure, specific and diversified. Bad, as I have no receipts of ideas, no evidence of improvement or quality of idea, no proofs of concept.
a while back I wrote, haphazardly as always, a rough guide to ‘utes’ Called “The Art of the Ute”. More specifically, how to cut a car into a truck shape. I’m fascinated culturally by this idea, a walk between worlds that many people struggle to enjoy directly. By that I mean, people enjoy looking in from afar, but would never commit themselves to it. Some countries around the world have embraced the ‘ute’ more than others. Overall though, the population seems to pass-off what is ultimately an extremely useful, therefore beautiful, vehicle type.
I’ve dabbled in the past. Cutting utes being a rare topic where I do have receipts of progress and understanding. I can share my progression with visible evidence. Although, concepting these ideas began in a virtual space:
In the Early days of Speedhero, I developed a crush on an abstract drift car. The K-style 180sx. Originally a blue 180sx, it eventually progressed into a Sil80 (silvia nosed 180sx, a common nose swap in Japan) Eventually it was cut into a pickup truck!
I spent some time, translating this idea into a Virtual form for others to enjoy in video games.
Other digital Ute concepts emerged from my brain through my hands and onto my screen.
Like this R30 Skyline, Group 5 Silhouette inspired, ute conversion.
Other concepts poked up, from either a reworked Sil80 Ute, to a C3380 Ute
to terrible things, like an Isuzu Piazza (Geo Storm) ute with a Lancer nose.
All just exercises of ideas. Similar to concept cars, putting together ideas to remove them from the unknown and questionable landscape of the brain, into more tangible constraints of space and reality.
This continued beyond these terrible shapes, in hopes to find consistently pleasing results. In science being able to replicate something, is proof it works. so try, and try again until success.
Then along came than SA/FB RX7, a definitive example of a vehicle supportive of the conversion.
What I mean by this, is that it’s shape didn’t require extensive resources, tooling or fabrication to look decent as a vehicle converted to a truck.
It followed the simple rules of THE ART OF UTE concept:
B pillar Rules:
-A forward lean or curve is paramount. There are no good examples of reward leaning B pillars I’ve seen.
-The B pillar should visually be the main pillar of the roof, and provide a feeling of strength.
-The cab window looks best vertical and sunken slightly into the cab.
This RX7 meant it was possible for little ole me to experiment within the skill and resource limitations I’m challenged with everyday. Conveniently at the time James and I owned an FB RX7 we had gotten for free.
This provided an awesome opportunity to make the leaps from, thoughts, to concepts to proofs of concepts. Jumping into the physical world. The original post found here: Charles Manson of Cars
The first proof of concept. It followed the rules I had laid out as best as it could. This desire to create receipts of progress continued. I was itchy for any chance I could get. Charles Manson Returns.
Although, clearly a failure, I was happy with the exercise. Much like physical exercise, creative exercise helps you get stronger, even if only slowly. SpeedHero AE95 Obsession.
The AE95 Corolla pictured above, followed the UTE design rules, but the original vehicle was in rough shape, and my skills and resources were not up to the task of translating my idea properly. A check of reality.
Never give up though! Faced with limited resources and opportunities again. It’s back to the conceptualization phase as continued exercise. This time, challenging the AE86 shape, which has a very complimentary forwards facing B pillar. A forwards tilting B-pillar is helpful in making a truck conversion successful.
A simple 2D render always helps in grasping the logic of your idea. But even more it helps form the 3D render of your idea. NEEEEERD
Taking from the 2D I expanded this practice exercise to 3D using existing models modified for my conceptualization.
A result I like, the proportions seemingly useful and stylish as well. What was next though? What would be the next experiment, and outlet?
This BMW would suffice as to the next opportunity. A collaboration of people and resources. Each person was trying to solve a problem. One, trying to make a boring car interesting, the next, learning to practice their welding skills, and myself, hoping to influence, form and see the result of an idea. Umgebauten Lastwagen was a chance to lightly adjust the desired proportions, and improve B-pillar shape. We used the existing forwards trunk edge to influence the B-pillar shape, so it looked factory-natural curvature.
Then at about this point, my opportunities dried up. Not my desire, just the opportunities. Life changed, and my resources dwindled the most. The focus shifted to driving cars more than building them so these types of projects fell behind. Until recently….
This gem popped up on the local classified ads. A 1992 Previa $600. The best part? It was 2WD manual.
Immediately I bugged a friend. Only a few weeks earlier we had been talking about the Previa and how it’d convert into a truck well. I sent him the ad, and before I could even check in, he’d bought it. Time to start.
Like always I did some sort of concept for the idea. This time in a quick 2D render. The emphasis was on a unique cut variation to already existing Previa conversions. However, a concept is just a concept until a proof of concept is created!
Up First though, was a weigh-in at the local truck scale. A rough estimate of the balance the vehicle, and it’s overall weight. With intentions to trim some of the heft from the vehicle, we needed to know what we were working with before hand.
The initial weigh in:
870kg/1910lb Front. 55%
710kg/1565lb Rear. 45%
The left and right was an even 50/50 split surprisingly!
Next was to strip the parts we didn’t need and prepare the vehicle for cutting. This meant things like welding sliding door in place, removing the interior, pulling glass and relocating wiring harnesses to safe places avoiding cutting them.
Follwing the body prep was the initial Rough cut. Although it’d be awesome to do a final cut the first go, we played it safe by doing a rough cut initially to ensure we weren’t cutting away stuff we might want to work with later.
Next up came my job. As the one passionate about truck conversions and being a self proclaimed asshole critic, it was my duty to get the most important cuts to be aesthetically pleasing. Truly this was my only purpose for the build, and really only skill. With some careful measurement, eyeballing, and entertaining measurement techniques, the roof was cut into it’s final cut.
Although we were not nearly the originators of the Previa truck, my goal was to really get the proportions correct. Many other conversions were quick, or simply just lobbed the back of the van off. The concept was to leave an overhang off the back of the cab, for beauty and function. This added in deflecting wind over the bed area, as well as keeping direct rain off the back panel area, which, may not seal as well as a factory built vehicle. The roof was cut with a gentle radius traveling across the roof of the truck. This was later rolled lightly to create a slight flicked up wing-profile. The Nige and Liam then stepped in for much more of the build than I. Completing tasks like welding in the back panel, side door, bed rail edges, and tailgate. Lengthening the wiring harness and general construction. The Nige did all the welding. Rob came by and helped with some Sanding as well!
After a few weekends of building the changes in the rear panel, tailgate and bed area the Truck conversion was ready for driving and suspension work!
Liam and I brought it down to his shop where we installed some overnight parts from Japan. Almost literally. Coilovers for the TCR10 were only about $200 landed in Canada from Japan. So many of these vans have coilovers installed that Japanese exporters have them in droves, waiting for a buyer. We also upgraded to everyones favorite wheels.
After this, there was some Differential Welding….YES.
The Nige planned on drifting his new Van. It was actually the intention from the beginning of the build.
This is why the coilovers were purchased in the first place, not for the idea of going lower, rather an opportunity of balance. With so much weight removed from the rear, and the original balance of the vehicle being 55% nose heavy before cutting, we needed a way to ensure the wheels were delivering the same force to the road front and rear. The imbalance was impractical for drifting. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but our actions making the rear lighter, would make it worse for drifting, not better.
With the front coilovers installed we achieved stiffening front suspension, while retaining the stock rear springs. This was to counter the imbalance of the weight. A stiff front, and soft rear promoted weight transfer to the rear of the truck, allowing proper ‘push’ during drifting. With so little rear weight, the rear suspension needed to be quite soft compared to front, to allow weight transfer onto the rear tires.
A short clip of the van doing donuts is located at 2:06 mark of this video.
Once the suspension, rims and tires were installed, the van was ready to roll!
I’d like to thank Rob, and Liam, but most of all The Nige! For helping me realize another proof of Concept, a receipt of progress!
I had quite a bit of fun contributing to such an abstract Toyota.
For those of you wondering what the final weigh in was:
1420kg/3130lb Total. -160kg/353lb 10% overall weight loss.
850kg/1873lb Front. -20kg/44lb 2% front weight loss.
560kg/1234lb Rear. -150kg/330lb 21% rear wight loss.
730kg Left 690kg Right. 52.5% left weight bias.