El Camino Dreaming: Turning a Dodge Magnum Into a Modern Car-Based Pickup Truck

Photo Illustration by J&Z Priddy

I was driving into Los Angeles recently and within a half- mile stretch of Interstate 10 I passed an aged but nicely preserved Chevrolet El Camino and then a Dodge Magnum, the Hemi-powered wagon of much more recent vintage.

For some reason, the vehicles' images merged within my mind's eye and I thought it'd be cool to turn a Magnum into a modern-day El Camino.

Yes, I know I'm mixing manufacturer metaphors. We can't turn a Chrysler into a Chevrolet; though the Magnum's Hemi V-8 would give Chevy's small block a run for its money.

Speaking of modernizing the El Camino, I'd argue that such a vehicle would need four doors, not just two. After all, roughly 60 percent of all full-size pickup trucks sold in the U.S. have crew-cab passenger compartments. Why should people who want a car-based pickup be restricted to just two doors or to only two occupants? Why not a four-door vehicle with a bed in the back for those times when you need to cart a dirt bike or to bring home a big, new flat screen?

I know I cannot be the only one who thinks a car-based pickup remains a good and even marketable idea. After all, Aussies buy thousands of such "utes" each model year, and it's not unusual to see nicely preserved El Caminos on American highways because they are so cherished by their owners (and coveted by the rest of us).

Instead of building a modern El Camino from a coupe, why not a station wagon, which presumably already has more stout structure and suspension at its rear?

So, we start with a Magnum and:

  • Fabricate a bulkhead behind the second row.
  • Modify the backlight section of the rear lift gate to enclose the refined passenger compartment.
  • Remove the rear roof section and D-pillars.
  • Create inner linings and a floor for the pickup bed.
  • Modify the bottom section of the lift gate so it becomes a pickup-style tailgate.

(If you're really talented or can afford it, you can create a long-bed version by extending the wagon's rear quarter panels.)

Voila! A four-door El Camino. Or in the case of the Dodge Magnum, let's call it a Dodge Maximum.

Of course, the Magnum isn't the only modern wagon we could consider ripe for such modification (and you can speculate on others in the comments below), though at the moment it seems the most logical since it was built with performance in mind, including an SRT8 version with 425 horsepower that could get you to 60 mph in just a tick more than five seconds and to more than 100 mph by the time you lit the lights at the end of a drag strip.

Another plus for the Magnum is that it no longer is in production, thus you don't have to pay new-car prices for something you're going to chop apart anyway.

Of course, if you want to buy something even hotter and are willing to fork over whatever figure your local dealership demands, there's always the square-back version of the 556-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V.


More BS from Dodge and Ram.

More Capable
2014 Silverado

Remove the trunk lid from a Charger or any other rear wheel dr passenger car and have the same thing a lot cheaper.

Would look better if they made it a 2 door...

Still a brick
still ugly
not much upgraded on the powetrain
needed to be more capable because the current 2013 isn't very capable
not alot of guts when it comes to trying new things like turbo or air ride
still using a 6 speed
finally has a crew cab that isn't the smallest of the bunch
does it even have a heat exchanger like Ram and Tundra?
coppied Fords gauge cluster
can you even know exact water temp/engine oil temp/trans fluid temp in a GM?
finally coppied Ford and Ram with a display between the speedo and tach
big deal direct injection, the current 5.3 can't run without pinging
still using the trailer brake on the left hand side, and further away from the driver
FINALLY went back to 4 wheel disc brakes, now lets see if it can stop!
A follower, not a leader
2014 GM 1500s!

Need to ditch the back seat. I hate the way quad cab trucks look much less a new age four door El Camino.

If you want to haul people, buy a minivan.

If you want to haul stuff, by a reg cab truck.

The "I want a small truck types" seem to be very fussy. They say 1/2 tons are too big, Utes are too car like, utes only have 2 seats, or the box is too small, or they are too close in size to full sized, or the are too expensive, or mpg isn't good enough.
There is no pleasing some people.
Unlike the full sized market where there is a configuration for virtually every person, that does not exist in the small truck/ute market.
You can always buy a Transit Connect or hatchback (according to Ford).

How about a Prius ute?
but where would you put those batteries?

Maybe this Suzuki single cab pickup will suit your full size fanboi. This actually has a cult following in Australia.


I think it takes away from the sporty looks that your typical el camino type car based truck has. Perhaps the design can be finessed some, because a Magnum with its 4 doors remaining from this angle looks like a very boxy sedan, like a Ford LTD or something, haha. Maybe a rear 3/4 angle would do it more justice.

I really like this sporty looking design. Based on the Camaro.

Come to think of it, that Subaru Baja, wasn't that a 4 door with a truck bed?

Kind of looks like the old cars from years ago,if you just add a little to the c pillar and add 3 inches to the front nose.Years ago we had big cars and people didnt need minivans or suvs or trucks to drive around daily..

I remember I had a 1968 Dodge Monaco 2 door hardtop and we put a washer and dryer in the trunk ! The trunk lid was open,but the car was better than any minivan or small suv 5500 lb tow rating,huge trunk comfortable inside,123 feet from 60 mph when stopping had power brakes and front disks,car ran smooth and could haul around corners,better than new pickups.And the beast ran low 13's in the 1/4 without any headers or tuning running a stock 440 Magnum,2.94 rear axle,3890 lbs of muscle and tire spinning launch..actually those cars spun through 1st gear and you had to go on/off throttle to get to run low 13's in the 1/4 ,special trick to get them to get some first gear action,tire spin had to be done but only 1/4 of the pedal floored until 2nd gear at 60 mph,then you could floor it otherwise no traction.To bad the old magazines just floored them and smoked the tires and got bad performance times,we all know those were all 12-13 sec 1/4 cars 4 sec 0-60's.I had a true 1 owner 105,000 mile documented original car,never touched and ran great..It was so nice you could say it had 5,000 miles as they tell you today because it had a 5 digit odometer after 99,999 they roll over to 0.FYI most old cars for sale by auctions or private ect..lie about the mileage as they turn to 0 after 99,999 thats why all the old cars have low mileage,funny in the 70's you couldnt get alow mile car,all rolled around at least twice.It wasnt until the late 80's-90's and especially the 2000's people started to say it only has 12,000 original miles and the car was totally redone or looks like hell..

This is the reason people need suv's /trucks and minivans as daily drivers because new cars are too small and have no trunk.Even the new Charger/300 has no trunk room,no import no Ford or GM model has trunk room.This is the reason I now own 3 trucks,a 2011 Cadillac Escalade for the wife,a 2007 Lincoln Mark LT (aka top model F-150)and pretty soon a 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 with the hemi and 8spd for my daily ride and my 1999 Dodge Ram 2500 will go to my son.

There was the Holden Crewman with 4 doors and about 1600lbs payload.


Used to be the Falcon RTV Still used a lot, but the Global Ranger is a lot CHEAPER problem with both Ford Falcon and Holden Utes.

Utes tend to be personal vehicles rather than default SUV's

Larry Edsall, I like your thinking. I think it would be a great idea. I have seen, a Ford Taurus truckette, (ugly), a Ford Escort truckette, (ugly) A BMW 328i truckette (decent), Jeep Cherokee Pick-up (nice).
Now get some of your sponsors to chip in and build your one-off Dodge Magnum truckette. Some of us would love to see your vision.

Looks like a lower quality, less popular version of the Subaru Baja. Great work! LOL

Something a bit different :a Holden 1 Tonner Ute chassis with a Chevrolet Truck body.

@Truck guy - you make some valid points. Many of the 60's and 70's cars had trunks the size of a tonneau covered short box. Where does the modern mafia hide those bodies? Jimmy Hoffa would of been found easily with the current crop of cars. LOL
People went from buying land yachts to buying pickups and SUV's especially when they added 4 doors to 1/2 ton trucks.
1/2 tons for the most part are the new land yachts.
Even in the part of the world I live in, I see 1/2 ton trucks without bed liners that have boxes that look brand new.

TRX4 Tom is only pissed off cause he trade in a 2006 chevy and bought a pos 2010 ram junker. he is so up set and jealous and feels so stupid that he trade a good truck in for a pos ram that will never hold a candle to a 2006 chevy. he will make up excuses about gears eniges air bags junk coil cars springs and links that only favor his point of veiw. TOM WE GET IT YOUR PISS YOU TRADED IN A AWESOME CHEVY AND GOT A POS RAM AND NOW YOUR PISSED OFF AT CHEVY CAUSE YOU BOUGHT A POS RAM go cry in s corner already no one wants to listen to you and yah panties wadding up!

First off, if you look at the historical versions, that's exactly what they did. Of course, to have a long enough be for truly functional carrying capability, they had to drop the back seats; a 4-foot bed section wouldn't even let you carry a stack of planks from the lumberyard. That is also why the much more recent Subaru Baja was such an abject failure--they kept the 4 doors which left only a 3-foot bed section which was far too small for any kind of realistic functionality. In other words, the only way to make YOUR idea work would require stretching the whole vehicle by the length of that back seat area--or abandoning the 4-door concept.

Personally, I'd prefer a 2-door 'extended cab' concept myself.

I really appreciate this article.. because something is WAY overdue on this. But in my opinion it's not about 500HP or 10,000 towing... but rather ENOUGH payload and hauling capabilities in a much shorter and efficient platform.

Image a short and wide 2 door RWD muscle car with a bench front seat seat for 3. The back looks like a hatchback, but instead it has a truck style tailgate and the big rear window rolls up into the root exposing a high 4 foot wide flat bed with the tailgate down down. The goal should be 26mpg city and 200hp with about 4000lb towing and the ablility to haul full 4x8 sheets of plywood.

Google search : Open Cargo Coupe
Google Search : Veloster C3

I think you got something here. If it can haul a 4 X 8 sheet even if you'd have to lower a mid-gate and the tail gate, has RWD or AWD, gets good crash test ratings and good MPG at a reasonable price, this thing could sell.

Some years ago, a guy around here took a '75 or '76 Plymouth Duster and converted it into a truck. It was ... um ... er ... uh ... interesting. Barely big enough to get a lawnmower in, but whatever works ...

Lou, you are exactly right; there is no pleasing some people.

Not much head room in the back seat.

@Truck Guy: I bet it was a royal pain getting that washer and dryer into a truck? And your mileage would go to crap with the trunk lide straight up. Big boxs will not fit too well in the trunk of most anything. The trunks on the old Chryslers were long and not quite so tall. Pretty sure my 96 LHS has more trunk space!

But I gotta doubt it when you say that 1968 car could corner with a new truck? Or stop from 60 in 123 feet?! Yes, the Kelsey Hayes brakes were good, but the lock up was such an issue. And a low 13? If that were true, they woulda all been lining up at the dealership to get 2.94 geared cars. Obviously a 400 2 barrel and a 440 4 barrel are two differant things, but my friend had one in a 73 Sattelite Sebring with 3.23 gears. It was lucky to get a really low 15 second at about....20 feet above sea level, Hawaii Raceway Park, O'ahu.

@(oh god): that's funny and stupid at the same time! My 2006 Chevy was such a high quality truck! Right! With the headliner that you could see the edge of! The plastic interior made alot of noise on the slightest imperfect road, the ext cab doors made some noise, I could hear more wind noise in that truck then my 2010 Ram. The tach made a gringing noise. The transmission made a clunk when shifting into 2nd at light throttle. One side of the two tone paint was jacked up in one spot. The top of the bed had a sharp spot under it that cut me. I took it on a 2000 mile road trip mostly interstate and when I made it home it had a popping noise when turning right. It was a mount bushing between cab and frame. I don't even go playing offroad. The dealer even replaced the headliner, but it made no differance. I showed the issue to my friend who had a 2003 ext cab 4x4 and his was the same low quality. Put 480 pounds of engine stuff in it and it sat unlevel .That was one year of ownership and 25,000 highway miles.

My 2010 Ram as I have said before needed a battery replacement after 32 months ownership. It might be the same battery that comes in a Toyota, a GM, a Ford. Some last 7 years, some don't. I griped about my key fobs and maybe the contacts just needed cleaned, but it works good now that they did clean them. I griped that the tow haul keeps it in the 1 to 1 gear too long, but I guess that's tow haul for you. I would think it would upshift as soon as I top the hill, but it waits awhile to see if there is more hill. Heck, I am happier just putting it in drive at highway speeds, or 5th gear when non highway, while towing.

That's in 34 months of ownership, 39,000 miles. The Chevy was 25,000 in one year, lots of highway. Very little towing with the Chevy.

Performance wise? Ba hah hah hah! It is not recommended to use cruise in the hills, but between that suckers lack of torque (310 HP aluminum 5.3) and it's ill 4 speed, I could hit one hill at 68 and the thing needed to go from 1800 rpm to 4300. The Ram? With a torquier engine, 6 forward speeds, in a truck that is almost 400 pounds heavier, it goes from around 1800 to 3200 rpm.

Even without the cruise on, way smoother. The Chevy was constantly shifting up.

I cant give you an apples to Apples comparison on my mileage, as the 2000 mile trip I took to Colorado I did with my Chevy. I went to Colorado, then on to Washington, with my car trailer, so that's no even comparison. But the Chevy got 19.6 MPG or so between 74-79 mph with about 3 or 4 more pounds of air in the front tires, the tires that were those street friendly Good Years that you can get stuck with off road.

I can say my Ram gets as good a mileage around the hills of Springfield Missouri. More torque, and more gears beats the little Chevy.

Glad the Chevy was not in a wreck, if you look at the IIHS testing info, you would see that the 2006 Chevy is a real weak structure, in all areas. The only structure that needs improvement on my 2010 is the roof strength.

Interior? Bah hah hah hah! The Chevy had nothing, oops, wait, dual climate control! That's all it had on my Ram! No self dimming mirrors, pretty plain. Complete with the suck ass ext cab doors.

I was just giving All American some grief, since he go on here and started talking smack. It will be great to see Ram outsell those GMs, but if it doesn't happen, I will be ok with it. As I know from buying that 2006 Chevy, no body gives a truck away like GM! The most money off of their very high MSRPs!It's a wonder they make any money! Since I want a better truck, I will just pay more. You get what you pay for.

So you call a 2006 an awesome Chevy? Jokes on you! Oh, I did post the reliability for ol Greg to see on another thread. The 2006 Chevy had some big issues!

Another thing, I traded the Chevy in for a 2007 Dakota, if you are not able to do the ownership time math. If I wanted to go back to a Chevy, I could have. But as you could see, the 2006 was a total pile.

It had issues of the a/c leaking into the passenger floorboard, front shocks were bouncy, instrument panel lights went out, and a bad cam. From what I could tell, the cam issue is a rareity, but the a/c, and shocks regularly p.o'd people. That and I need a bigger bed. The 4.7, even though a high output, wasn't great for towing.

So yeah, air bags will not have any squat at all, makes for more confidence when towing, and the 8 speed will be be worlds smoother then a GM/Ford 6 speed. I already drove the Pentastar V-6 8 speed Charger, quite nice! The 8 speed will also have a much better crawl ratio and starting ratio, and more spread, so it can get all that, and a lower rpm for interstate cruising.

Funny how you say junk coil car springs, but in the 30K shootout on this site, that suspension with a 1,000 in the bed beat the competion in the autocross. The Ford did poorly cause it had little tires in which to get mileage from. The Chevy, the Tundra, neither did great. The Ram I believe ran quicker with a load. Oh, wait, you bought your brand x for no load at all? All these trucks have more payload, but couldn't get r done with the lesser amount.

I do agree the Ram payload numbers need to go up. It's not due to the coil springs being put in 2009, the payload numbers were the same in 2008 with leaf springs.

I once again gotta laugh at you, you think I miss my pos 2006 Chevy?! Bah hah hah!

I've done a couple of these.

I chopped the rear off a Ford Fiesta, modest capability to say the least, but fun.

I also did the opposite, grafted an '89 mustang body to a Ranger 4x4 frame. Trar (truck/car), Muck(Mustang/truck), Mudstang was my fav name for it.

EN...OH !!!

Add a mid-gate, folding seats, and folding rear roof section and it would work fine, hauling loads when you want to haul loads and people when you want to haul people. This has a long rear section and would have a big advantage over removign the trunk lid from some other rear wheel drive car.

I couldn't see them making a truck with just a two seater, well, I could but the money you put into it just to seat two? What I can see is a FWD cause it can have no hump in the middle, or not much of one for the exhaust, and then a 40/60 seat.

If they made it like the picture above it would be hardly any space, like those new Ford Exploders, or maybe they quit making those?

My girlfriends son has a 82 Dodge D-150, with a slant six, they already spent $350 to get the carb redone and the guy worked on it once before, it still sucks gas. So bad you can smell it. I tell him he is better off with a small four barrel on a Clifford or Offenhauser intake. But he would be just as well off buying the 83 Rampage 2 seater with a 2.2 liter four banger that's down the road.

It's just him and his girlfriend most the time anyway. Then he can still through a deer in the back come next hunting season, or haul off the scrap metal.

4 doors? Why not start with a Subaru Outback, chop of the rear portion and call it a Baja? It did not sell well and this won't either.

Except for styling that appeals to nuts like me, I cannot see how a new-gen El Camino would sell.

FWIW, I love my 1970 El Camino, which can do burn-outs and still carry stuff (though it's a toy today, not a working truck).

In place of a new El Camino, I'd rather have a small diesel pickup and enjoy my classic '70 like a car.

I would imagine there is no rear window in this thing, as it would bisect the head rests on the rear seats. Not to mention there would be little to no cargo carrying space in the "bed". Motorcycle in the bed??? Not a chance...

Why would I ever want to turn a mopar into a no nuts POS Chevy?

Look at the Holden Avalanche XUV if you want to see a corvette engined all wheel drive twin cab ute with enough power to boot. Made in Australia, it's based on the Holden Crewman

you gonna lift it

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