Not content with the capabilities and reliability of current UTVs, Dave Johnson of Shropshire Quads decided to offer something different.
James Rickard checks out a converted Suzuki Jimny pickup...
With a penchant for quirky vehicles, particularly those with a unique set of selling points, Shropshire Quads’ latest offering is no exception.
Run by Dave Johnson, the one-man-band’s latest venture sees it converting Suzuki Jimny 4x4s into pickups. Sitting somewhere between a full fat pickup and a UTV, Mr Johnson reckons the pint-sized product is ideal for a range of tasks in multiple industries.
He says: “We have had good interest from hill farmers, which are often out in all weathers covering large distances.
“Arable farmers could also benefit from the vehicle, especially when land is often separated by roads. They also tread lightly enough for jobs such a slug pellet application.
“As well as agriculture, I see a big demand from game keepers, and potentially safari parks.”
Converting a derelict farm, Mr Johnson set up Shropshire Quads about eight years ago. Nestled in the Shropshire countryside, the firm’s first ATV offering was from lesser-known brand Kymco.
“At first, I mainly supplied quads into activity centre-type places, before moving onto supplying farmers,” Mr Johnson adds.
Equally as alternative, he soon added diesel-powered Arctic Cat ATVs to the portfolio.
“I have always been interested in alternative style vehicles,” he says. “There is no point offering the same big brand stuff as everybody else.”
This philosophy has also led him to become a sub-dealer of Polaris equipment, selling its electric-powered UTVs.
“These are not quite ready for farm use yet, and are sold mainly outside agriculture,” he adds.
It was the escalating running costs of UTVs which led Mr Johnson to find something different.
“Once out of warranty, the running costs of a UTV can be astronomical,” he says. “I wanted something which could be fixed cheaply using second-hand parts.
“I also wanted a stronger vehicle, more ground clearance, more comfort, yet be fully road legal like a conventional pickup – essentially more vehicle for your money.”
Like a mini Land Rover Defender, the Jimny features a full ladder chassis, just one of several reasons making it suitable for conversion.
“There really is not any other small 4x4 on the market which is suitable as an alternative to a UTV,” says Mr Johnson.
“It is also the only small 4x4 which features switchable four wheel drive and high and low ranges.”
The basis of Mr Johnson’s conversions start with a second-hand Suzuki Jimny.
“I prefer to source this myself. That way I know what I am dealing with,” he says.
“Something newer than 2007, with about 60,000 miles on the clock is ideal, and you can find many tidy examples.
“The main things which need to be right are the panels and chassis.”
Structurally, the chassis is not altered in any way during the conversion process, which sees a steel panel fitted to the rear of the cab.
“This actually puts more strength back into the vehicle than there originally was,” says Mr Johnson.
“Ours is also the only conversion with tested seatbelt points. This, along with several other criteria, including load ratings, makes our conversions fully road legal and DVLA approved.
“And if road work was not an issue, it could also be registered just as a farm vehicle.”
Unlike other adapted Jimny pickups available, Mr Johnson says only his conversions use a specially designed conversion kit.
“This kit was originally designed and developed by Suzuki between 2009 and 2013,” he says. “During this time, many were sold into Austria, with an Austrian company carrying out the conversions.
“When Suzuki ceased making the conversion kits, the Austrian company continued the business, which are the kits we have exclusive use of in the UK.”
Finding the right tyres was one of the biggest challenges.
“They needed to be large enough to offer good grip and ground clearance, but small enough to maintain a decent turning circle and not impact too much on gear ratios,” he says.
“I eventually found a supply of 28/10 R15s, which have turned out to be a good compromise. Depending on application, road tyres could also be fitted.”
The pickups are available now to order, with approximately a two-week build time.
“If there was enough interest, I might consider converting a new vehicle,” he adds.
“However, we are already seeing interest for younger vehicle conversions.”
To extend the usefulness of the pickup, Mr Johnson is also working with ATV equipment specialist Chapman Machinery, to develop a range of attachments.
To see how the pickup performs, we tried out a 56-plate Jimny with 84,000 miles on the clock and five-speed manual gearbox.
Despite its age and mileage, its condition felt very fresh – a lot fresher than an equivalent-aged UTV would.
Especially compared to a UTV, it is very quiet in-cab, actually allowing for a conversation. Air conditioning and a decent heater system are also welcome comforts.
Internally and externally, the vehicle is finished to a very high standard, with a seamless integration between car and load-bed. We can see these vehicles lasting a long time.
Useful for off-road purposes, the characteristics of the machine means there is hardly any nose or tail overhang, giving it generous approach and departure angles.
At the rear, the load-bed is generous. It would be good if the tailgate could slam shut, rather than having to manually lock it, and drop down sides would also be a welcome addition.
We are sure these are things which could be adapted or added at a later date, depending on requirements. And for some, a tipping load bed might be a good option.
Although you can specify a rear grille to protect the rear window, maybe a more suitable material such as polycarbonate might be a good idea to protect against the odd stray fencing post.
Performance-wise, the pickup is very capable off road and on road, backed up by a long-standing pedigree of endurance competitions.
And although this might be a new concept of vehicle, everything on it is tried and tested.
The Jimny’s popularity over the years means parts are readily available and its simple build means you could tackle most issues yourself, without having to take it back to the dealership.
The only hindrance for farm use might be the use of petrol. However, the Jimny pickup should surprise a few people, and it is certainly a tempting alternative to a UTV. There is not much not to like.
Engine: 85hp, 1.3-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual or automatic with selectable high and low ranges and 4WD
Bare weight: 1,080kg
Braked towing capacity: 1,300kg
Load bed dimensions: 1,100mm (L) by 1,500mm (W) by 300mm (D)
Turning circle: 9.8m
Options: lower ratio gear, uprated differentials with locking ability, canopies, tyres, roll bars, grille for rear window
Price: About £9,500-14,000 depending on age of vehicle and specification
Warranty: 12 months on the conversion parts, six months on the vehicle