If you're a Jeep fan but wish Jeep would once again offer a pickup, as it did with its Scrambler model until 1986, you're in luck.
American Expedition Vehicles (AEV-conversions.com) offers a conversion kit that will help you or your mechanic turn your own Wrangler into a Brute: a classy, compact pickup with all of the Jeep go-anywhere features intact. The kits are designed specifically for Wrangler TJ models built from 1997 through 2006.
A complete Brute kit package, which includes frame extensions, enclosed hard-top cab, 14-gauge steel pickup box, and other necessary conversion parts, costs $9,000, plus $500 shipping from the company plant in Detroit. Options such as cab skylights, a bed liner, and accessories are available. Turnkey conversions at the factory are also available for Jeep Wrangler, Cherokee, and Commander models. The complete Wrangler workup, including custom paint job and bed liner, comes in at around $19,000.
According to AEV co-founder Dave Harriton, Jeep's parent, Chrysler Corp., approved the conversion kits; originally developed for the SEMA show in 2002, they were so popular that Jeep considered adopting it as a production model.
Dodge has announced an upfit allowance program for all Sprinter chassis cab models to include 2007 through 2009 vehicles. Available through dealers nationwide, the program offers buyers a $1,000 allowance toward the purchase of upfit bodies valued at more than $1,500 and supplied by participating National Truck Equipment Association members. This program runs through the end of this year.
Ford Motor Co. has completed more than 1 million miles of durability testing on its soon-to-be-introduced EcoBoost engines, which will deliver "reliable V8 power with V6 fuel economy," according to the manufacturer. EcoBoost, a re-engineered engine system that combines high-pressure direct fuel injection with twin turbochargers, will debut first in select 2009 models, then in F-150 pickups in 2010. Ford opted to pursue this technology rather than hybrid combustion/electric systems to reduce fuel consumption in high-demand vehicles.
Buyers who can't wait for General Motors to roll out its much-anticipated two-mode hybrid pickups later in 2009 can get improved fuel efficiency right now in new XFE-model Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. According to the manufacturer, the vehicles use "a combination of mechanical, aerodynamic and mass-reducing enhancements to deliver a 5% increase in EPA-estimated highway fuel economy and more than 7% improved mileage in city driving."