Car modifications, tuning, or even building a car from raw components are ways to personalize the characteristics of a vehicle to the owner's preference. Cars may be altered to provide better handling, produce more power, deliver better fuel economy, or just change their appearance.
While homemade car conversions include the entire spectrum of automobile types, one that has become more popular in recent years is the pickup truck. The movement reflects the trend toward pickups in the new vehicle sales market. Over the past 40 years, the pickup truck segment of new vehicles sales has outgrown the automobile segment.
According to the Automotive News Data Center, in 2018, US light-truck sales grew 7.7% to 11.98 million units, a level never reached by car sales. In fact, the car segment is shrinking. The 5.4 million cars sold in 2018 represented the fewest since 1958.
Newer pickup trucks sell well for several reasons, most notable because of improved fuel efficiency and cargo space. Gas prices are lower while truck MPGs are up. Improvements in engine technology along with lighter materials like aluminum bodies have increased fuel economy considerably. Pickup trucks don’t offer the same exceptional fuel-efficiency as small cars with turbocharged engines but they deliver acceptable economy with plenty of utility and cargo space. A truck can haul everything from a load of dirt to grocery bags for a large family.
A homemade pickup truck appeals to an amateur car builder for the same reasons. Some of these garage creations are better than others, though. Here are twenty homemade pickup trucks we wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
20 Red Oak Custom Wood Ford Truck
Al Schoffelman from Tea, South Dakota, used his experience as a cabinetmaker and knowledge of woodworking to create this one-of-a-kind custom wood Ford truck. The assembly started with a 1979 Ford Econoline van engine, frame, and three-speed automatic transmission.
He spent seven winters in his shop to complete the project that he designed and fabricated alone. His unorthodox method to build the 4,300-pound truck involved trial and error. He would imagine a section, then cut, sand, and nail the red oak together to reflect that image. If the result wasn’t satisfactory, he would remove it and design a new section.
19 1955 Chevrolet Truck Camper
The Chevrolet Task Force models that ran from late 1955 through 1959 were the successors to the Advance Design trucks and included everything from light delivery to over-the-road hauling. This abandoned 1955 Chevy truck, sighted along Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM, was outfitted by the owner with a makeshift camper which now shows the effect of years left out in bad weather or was built with scraps of lumber.
None of the wood pieces used to construct the shell of this camper match. They may be pieces of driftwood or perhaps just discarded timber the owner found on the side of the road. Based on the craftsmanship used to build the outside, one can only imagine what the camper is like on the inside.
18 Upside Down Ford Truck
Encountering an upside-down vehicle on the road is never a good sign. However, for car repairer Rick Sullivan of Clinton, Illinois, who helped with a flipped-over Ford Ranger rescue, it was an inspiration. His unique idea was to create an upside-down convertible truck that could be driven in its inverted position.
Built on a Ranger chassis and floor pan, Rick custom welded the chassis parts and the body of a Ford F-150. A 1991 Ford Ranger four-cylinder engine powers the vehicle. Four chrome-rimmed wheels on the top and hidden tires on the road help give it the appearance of an upside-down truck. Rick says the looks he and his dog get from observers are priceless.
17 1965 Pontiac “Chief Camino” Custom
The 1964 Pontiac GTO is considered by many automobile experts to be the first modern muscle car. The legendary vehicle kickstarted the wild 1960s muscle car market with its mass-produced, 300-hp powerplant. It accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds; mediocre by today’s standards but exceptional for cars built in 1964.
Ron Lindemann thought a GTO with pickup truck features would not only be useful but have a uniquely “cool” appearance. He worked for nearly ten years in his garage merging a 1964 Chevrolet El Camino with a 1965 Pontiac GTO, using mostly Pontiac body panels, to create his 1965 Pontiac “Chief Camino” prototype.
16 1959 “El Catalina” Pontiac
The 1959 Pontiac “El Catalina” prototype was not designed and built in the garage of a self-taught do-it-yourself automobile engineer. However, its uniqueness (it never reached production and only one prototype was ever made) places it in the same category as other homemade pickup trucks. The idea for a car-based pickup was fostered at Pontiac after the launch of Ford’s Ranchero in 1957 and the Chevrolet El Camino two years later.
Once completed, Pontiac’s general manager, Semon Knudsen, and John DeLorean evaluated the pickup’s construction and gave it high marks. However, marketing won out over engineering. In the first sales year, the Ranchero had disappointing sales of 14,169 units while Chevrolet sold only 22,246 El Caminos, making the entire 1960 sales market for "crucks" only 37,000 units in total.
15 Wild Cherry Wooden Pickup Truck
Very few people have access to the tools used for bending and shaping metal car bodies, so some DIY home garage car builders select wood as their material for creating the exterior. It is readily accessible, inexpensive, and simple tools (circular saw, sandpaper, and wood glue) make it easy to repair. This pickup truck custom made with wild cherry wood is an example of the result.
The vehicle required nearly two years to make and its styling seems to have been influenced by the Volkswagen Thing. However, the form may just be a consequence of building with wood. The truck is powered by a 1982 Nissan four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. However, it lacks power steering, power brakes, and air-conditioning.
14 Chopped and Channeled Flatbed
In its current state of construction, this homemade truck would be classified as a flatbed. The body has been chopped and channeled, which usually involves cutting loose the floor and reattaching it higher inside the body. When the body is lowered back over the frame, it rides closer to the ground without requiring any alterations to the suspension. The resultant effect is a vehicle with a more massive appearance.
This vehicle has only a primer coat of paint which indicates the owner has just finished some body work and will apply the color next—or it will be left with only the primer because the owner thinks matte grey looks cool.
13 2005 Chevrolet Silverado Truck Made of Ice
This truck was built to demonstrate the effectiveness of the MotoMaster Eliminator battery in severe weather and extreme cold and the 11,000-pound 2005 Chevrolet Silverado is definitely a unique vehicle. The body, grille, mirrors, and even the license plate were all made of ice. The battery was stored in a freezer at a temperature of -40 degrees Celsius before being installed in the vehicle.
The truck drove 1.6 kilometers at an average speed of 20 km/h in the city's streets. The news story didn't say whether the vehicle was kept in a freezer garage after the test run or left on the street to melt. The pickup truck goes into the Guinness Book of World Records as the ''first rolling ice structure.''
12 DIY Car-to-Truck Conversion Kit
A car-to-truck conversion kit offers a way for the DIY car creator to build a vehicle in the garage, confident of a decent, if not exceptional, result. Although several companies offer car conversion kits, Smyth Performance is one of the few that provides a kit to convert an Audi, Subaru, VW, or Dodge Charger to a light-duty hot-rod pickup truck. Smyth claims their kits consisting of aluminum plate panels bolted together, riveted subsections, and outer body parts coated with a fiberglass gel are stronger than the original car.
The conversion project takes just a few weeks, not years, to complete, and the original car's safety features, like airbags and other electronics, are retained. The kit may not provide the same satisfaction as building a homemade pickup from scratch but can be satisfying nonetheless.
11 1970 VW Bug Pickup Truck
The Volkswagen Beetle may be the most modified vehicle in the history of the automobile. Including everything from the “alligatormobile” to the flying-saucer car, the conversions are only limited by the owner’s imagination.
This VW conversion to a pickup truck uses a fiberglass El Camino-style truck bed installed in the rear over the engine. The bed extends nearly two feet beyond the back wheels, giving the bug ample hauling volume. However, the 1970 VW bug came from the factory with a 1600cc engine that produces only 57 horsepower. Unless the owner plans to haul foam-filled pillows, any load will exceed the limited VW power.
10 Mini Cooper Pickup Truck Conversion
Although this Mini Cooper truck conversion was not created in the garage of an amateur automobile designer, it is not available from the factory, either. Some years ago, A2ZFX, custom fabricators in Lancaster, CA, prepared several Mini Cooper pickups for the Red Bull promotional fleet.
The rear roof was cut off to accommodate a chilled cargo bay and a giant Red Bull can that was installed on the rear deck. Red Bull ambassadors attended sporting events everywhere dispensing ice-cold cans of the popular energy drink to appreciative fans. When the promotion ended, the giant Red Bull can was removed and a custom snap-on tonneau cover was put in place to protect the carpeted cargo bay.
9 Chevrolet Pickup Roadster Hot Rod
The creator of this Chevrolet Pickup Roadster may have been torn between creating a modified pickup truck and a hot rod. The result is a narrow body with a limited cargo area and a restricted cab. It may be suitable for only one person but anyone seated on the passenger side would be rubbing shoulders with the driver.
The narrow form also forced the placement of the headlights closer together. Most state laws require two headlights mounted on the front of the vehicle at a minimum height—but no minimum distance between them is specified. Drivers of oncoming cars must be confused. This homemade pickup, called a coffin on wheels or a mechanical pencil lead dispenser by some, would not be our first choice.
8 Ferrari Testarossa Toyota Pickup Truck
A man living in Florida with a supercar appetite and a Toyota budget restyled his late 1980s Toyota Hilux pickup truck after the iconic 1980s vehicle, the Ferrari Testarossa. He attracted the attention of observers that only a Ferrari gets, but retained the utility of his pickup.
He paid particular attention to the details, starting with the Ferrari red paint job and the placement of both the Prancing Horse and Pininfarina badges in the right places. The rear end of the truck looks remarkably similar to the classic Testarossa back end and the truck is fitted with Pirelli tires on Ferrari-style five-spoke modular alloy wheels.
7 1967 VW Beetle Pickup Truck Conversion
The VW Beetle is an ideal car for modifications because of its low price, ease of modification, reliability, and robust engineered. The VW pickup truck conversion is seldom selected but much more functional than many other choices. This conversion features a chopped rear end, fiberglass bed, a pickup truck rear window, and the original engine.
The floor bed mounted above the rear engine leaves very little room for cargo. Although this Beetle had to sacrifice the rear seat passenger space, it can haul dirt, small trees, or several medium sized packages. But access to the engine for maintenance may be limited on this pickup.
6 Red Porsche 914 Pickup Truck
The Porsche 914/6 built from 1969 to 1976 was designed with a mid-mounted, 2.0-liter flat-six to give it exceptional handling capabilities. Although it also boasted respectable performance, the 914 failed to be accepted by most of Porsche’s existing customers. Dick Troutman, known for his success (along with his partner is Tom Barnes) at building sports cars for amateur road racing in the 1950s, built this 914 truck for Dave Aase of the Aase Brother's shop in southern California.
The Aase Brother's used the 914 pickup as their shop truck to carry all kinds of parts for their dismantling business. Although the homemade pickup was professionally done and almost appears to be a factory option, it somehow just doesn’t seem right.
5 1945 Chevrolet Magic House
Perhaps it could be said that the transformation of this 1945 Chevrolet 1 1/2-ton truck was pure magic. While it is not really a pickup truck anymore, it is homemade and certainly one we wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Dirk Spence of Tinley, IL, is a professional magician and the owner of the customized truck.
He started with a run-down Chevy truck with a blown engine, broken glass, and six flat tires. Dan leveraged his passion for magic with the truck, envisioning a unique traveling magic show. The self-contained Chevrolet “Magic House” contains lights, sound, and a one-of-a-kind museum. The truck even spits flames when the engine is started.
4 Porsche 928 Pickup with Galvanized Metal Sheets
The Porsche 928 was the company's first production model powered by a V8 and debuted as their only coupé with an engine mounted in the front. It is a luxury grand tourer built from 1978 to 1995 and originally intended to replace the company's iconic 911. The elegant 928 combined the handling, poise, and power of a sports car with the comfort, refinement, and equipment of a luxury saloon.
The creator of this pickup conversion believed all those sportscar features would be better served in the form of a truck. However, the wood on the cargo area seems out of place. No other part of the car has wood trim. But worse, the cargo bed is made of slip-resistant, galvanized metal sheets.
3 Cadillac Eldorado Pickup
The Cadillac Eldorado has been the beneficiary of several professional pickup conversions. The Mirage, built by Traditional Coach Works of Chatsworth, CA, is one example. Although it was available from Cadillac dealers, it was not factory authorized. One of the most famous owners of the Mirage was the stunt performer and entertainer Evel Knievel.
From 1974 through 1978, both Caribou Motor Corporation of Rosemead, CA, and Traditional Coach Works offered a station wagon and pickup version of the Eldorado, sold as the Comstock Sport Wagon and Comstock Pickup. It is difficult to image the owner of a Cadillac, once considered the most luxurious car made in the US, pouring a load of gravel in the back.
2 Garage-Built Pulsar NX Pickup Truck
When Nissan produced the Pulsar NX from 1986 through 1990, the engineers were not content with a simple set of T-tops. They modified the convertible roof concept by creating a unique removable rear canopy that offered several options, including a shooting brake canopy, coupe-styled rear, or open-air driving.
The creator of this Pulsar NX pickup added a truck style rear window and removed the entire rear canopy section including quarter windows and the flying buttress. Although the cargo area of this pickup conversion is minuscule, it can probably haul a load as big as a fridge (no height limit), but the excess weight may be a concern for the compact car-truck blend.
1 1979 Corvette Hauler
Sports car enthusiasts buy sports cars because they love the high-powered performance and the elegant, aerodynamically-driven appearance—or they just like to imagine themselves on a Formula 1 racetrack. Pickup truck enthusiasts buy pickup trucks for many reasons but perhaps most significant is the cargo space and hauling capacity. These two vastly different motives for selecting a vehicle are in direct contradiction on this homemade Corvette hauler.
Although the cargo area was incorporated to blend well with the rest of the car’s body and the craftsmanship is excellent, the basic concept seems wrong. It is hard to imagine that the owner hauls anything but extra luggage in the utility area. Indeed, it has never been used to carry a load of dirt.
Sources: Abandoned Cars and Trucks, Classic Cars, Hemmings, and Motor1.