Home » This $5,500 Saturn Vue Ute Looks Like A Proper(ish) Cheap Alternative To A Ford Maverick

This $5,500 Saturn Vue Ute Looks Like A Proper(ish) Cheap Alternative To A Ford Maverick

Saturn Vue Ute Topshot
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Custom coachwork can be an incredible gamble. What’s perfect in the eyes of one can be an abomination in the eyes of another, or simply age like milk. However, sometimes it’s all win. Dubbed the “Elvew,” this one-off Saturn Vue pickup truck feels like a long-lost grandfather to the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick. However, it might actually be easier to buy than a Maverick — instead of an allocation, all you need is $5,500 and access to Facebook Marketplace.

Saturn Vue Ute 1

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

In Saturn tradition, all exterior panels on the Vue save for the hood, roof, and tailgate are molded out of durable thermoplastic then bolted to a steel body-in-white. It’s a novel construction that largely eliminates the risk of door dings, but does result in some relatively large panel gaps. However, plastic panels do have benefits when it comes to customization. Instead of cutting, welding and grinding, it’s safe to cut, fiberglass, and sand without affecting structural integrity. Mind you, I’m not sure if cutting off the roof behind the B-pillars is doing the space frame any favors, but that’s the price to pay for a custom ute.

Saturn Vue Ute Bed

Speaking of custom touches, the rear window of the cab opens up like a massive liftgate. While this may seem excessive, it’s actually a great way to still use the Vue’s fold-flat front passenger seat to carry really long items that you just wouldn’t get in the beds of most small pickups. Sure, you’ll want to pick a dry day if you’re doing a Home Depot run in this thing, but it beats hanging lumber past the end of the tailgate.

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Saturn Vue Ute 2

This strange Saturn Vue started life as a 2003 V6 model, which means it’s rocking Opel’s unusual 54-degree three-liter V6. While output of 181 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque isn’t huge by today’s standards, that still represents a jump of 38 horsepower and 43 lb.-ft. over the base 2.2-liter Ecotec four-cylinder. Mercifully, the V6 avoids the dreaded VTi VT25-E continuously variable transmission in favor of an Aisin five-speed automatic [Editor’s Note: It’s worth mentioning that Vues could be had with a five-speed Getrag manual transmission bolted to that 2.2 EcoTec. Honestly it was a decent little stick. -DT], and gains a towing capacity of 2,500 pounds in the process. Sure, the 3.5-liter Honda V6 in 2004 and newer models is gutsier, but the powertrain in this ute seems fine on paper.

Saturn Vue Ute Interior

As the years have passed, history has judged the original Saturn Vue to be a mixed bag. A Consumer Reports road test claims “It has plenty of power and a spacious interior, but we found the seats uncomfortable and the interior materials flimsy.” Indeed, the cabin is quite basic, with little adornment on the early 2002 and 2003 models, but there is something vaguely endearing about the rounded air vents and two-spoke steering wheel.

Saturn Vue Ute Bed 2

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I’m impressed with how this conversion doesn’t seem egregiously janky. Sure, the bed side to taillamp transition could be slightly better resolved and the paint seems flat, but the side panels look pretty decent, the factory cargo tie-downs are intact, and even the rear speakers are still in their factory locations. What’s more, the seller claims that everything on this Saturn Vue works. Air-conditioning, heating, all power functions, the lot. Aside from the coachwork, it seems like a perfectly normal 115,000-mile crossover. If you’ve always wanted a reasonably-sized unibody truck but can’t stretch to one of the latest and greatest, this might be the ride for you.

(Photo credits: Facebook Marketplace seller)

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Scott
Scott
10 months ago

I like it. Maybe I’d like it less if it were actually ever possible to buy a Maverick for $21K, but this is the world we live in, so a 20-year-old Saturn that someone has taken a Sawzall to for five and a half grand is actually sort of appealing.

I’ve spent most of the second half of my life ignoring Faceborg, so I can’t get in touch with this seller myself, short of asking someone to do so for me. I also don’t know where in the country this particular project car lives… the article might specify, but I can’t grok that tidbit in my current, sleep-deprived state.

With my luck lately, this truck is in LA and still available to those who’ve helped make Mark Zuckerberg a zillionaire. The pix look midwest tho, so probably not. If it had the manual, I’d probably ask a neighbor to ping/poke/whatever the seller on my behalf, but even for a stick, I’m not about to go to Wisconsin for it.

It would be nice just buy it and take a break from car shopping for a change.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
10 months ago

I think I would almost buy this. For a home job (assuming), it looks damn good. Plus, you get a cheap to buy, cheap to operate/maintain little pickup for cruising. What’s not to love? This, on the new market is essentially extinct.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
11 months ago

I know I’m late here, but, man, that was an unpleasant engine. If you closed your eyes maybe you could convince yourself it was a 120hp diesel with a rough shifting 12 speed transmission? What I mean is, it would surge off the line with enthusiasm (not uncommon for underpowered cars), but then power would drop off so fast you’d lurch forwards around 2500rpm. Things were flat again until maybe 3500, then, hold on, here we go! Just kidding, that wave died out even faster, at maybe about 4000rpm. Then one final lump of power just before redline, and it would shift.

I’d say it was some kind of problem with fuel delivery or something, but it was exactly the same way every time you stepped on it, at exactly the same rpms. My friend at the time quipped that it was tuned for a turbo that had fallen off.

Chi_spotting
Chi_spotting
11 months ago

I hope the seller’s got a career as a body man because this is too good for a cheap craigslist-esque car.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
11 months ago

This looks awesome, taking the already awesome Vue nose and giving it the equally awesome body it always deserved. I wish Saturn actually made those, I’d be looking for one. This is one of the few Ute conversions I’d think about replicating.

Personally I’d build mine with teal paint, a manual transmission, 90s graphics on the sides and seats, and either some three-spoke wheels, slotted mags, or white steelies on beefy all-terrain white-letter tires. Also some sort of rollbar and a bangin’ stereo system since it somehow feels appropriate for this.

Oh, and part of me thinks it ought to have T-tops as well, though I imagine that’s harder to accomplish. Still cool either way.

Last edited 11 months ago by Austin Vail
Uninformed Fucknugget
Uninformed Fucknugget
11 months ago

I am hoping that we get to see a David Tracy article in the next couple weeks:

“The Bonkers Custom Ute I Had To Buy and Everything That is Awesome About It”

JDE
JDE
11 months ago

Way too nice, or in his new Cali world, not quite electric enough.

V270
V270
11 months ago

The successor that the Suzuki x90 deserved.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

oh no no nooooooooooooo that 54-dergee V6 is one of the worst engines ever made

Also, that ute looks like something that Saturn could’ve actually made, and should’ve made

JDE
JDE
11 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

back then they could barely sell S-10’s a FWD mullet mobile would have never worked in the US.

Slack00
Slack00
11 months ago

It worries that there is only one pneumatic strut holding up the hatch–surely there should be two, right?

MkeZ
MkeZ
11 months ago
Reply to  Slack00

Since two would have lifted twice as much… maybe it’s enough? A bit awkward tho.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
11 months ago

Vute-iful Joe.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
11 months ago

It looks good as a cheap fun car for hauling garden stuff or mountain bikes. The only cooler option would be if it was a Red Line with the high performance Honda engine.

Dolsh
Dolsh
11 months ago

I have no use for this, but I’d definitely high-five the original creator. That’s a pretty cool bit of work right there.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
11 months ago

1.) No ADM
2.) It’s available

Win.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago

Classic sleight of hand misdirection going on in these pictures. I wonder how this Vute looks with that (cool but useless) hatch closed.
I’m guessing by the fact that they don’t show us, not great. Doesn’t look like it will fit up very well on the sides (huge gaps).
I don’t have access to Facebook so I can’t be sure. Are there pictures of it closed? I doubt it.

Last edited 11 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
11 months ago

Didn’t the builder just move the rear body panel (with the lower section chopped off) of the SUV forward to the B-pillar position? So the fit with the tailgate would be similar to the original.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago
Reply to  Speedway Sammy

Not exactly, from the looks of it. Like I said it’s hard to tell with no pictures of it closed. Looks like they made the C-pillar the B-pillar but added to it ( it’s thicker than any Vue pillars)?
I dunno. It just looks like it’s not gonna close properly and look complete to me judging by the rubber seal placement. Like the hatch struts would still be exposed from the side when closed. It’s difficult to tell from these pictures (none with it closed) which is exactly why I question it.

Last edited 11 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
11 months ago

That’s kind of how it looks to me too, as it has the angle of the original C-pillar, and originally behind the C-pillar the VUE was all windows and blackout trim. But I think they did move the D-pillar pieces forward and what we see is the new covering and trim they made.

The listing is removed now but I had seen prior and you can still kind of see in the 3rd and 4th pics here, there’s a recessed triangular area behind the front seatbelts that I presume was part of the cargo area side windows (between C/D pillars) in the original but now with a filler piece. The recessed area where the struts fold into when closed seems intact as well.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
11 months ago

Hmm (scratches chin)
It’s definitely confusing.

Last edited 11 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
11 months ago

My guess from studying the pictures is that the tailgate closes and locks at the bottom, like the factory tailgate did.

There are no latches on the side of the tailgate, so it’s not going to latch like that. But the cubby where the original tailgate would have latched is still there.

And are those seatbelts holding it open?

V10omous
V10omous
11 months ago

I can still see the ad and there are pictures of it closed. Let’s just say I would not count on it staying dry in there.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
11 months ago

Somewhere along the way it acquired 7th gen Grand Prix wheels too. Not sure why they kept the parts of the rear door panels with the door handle & power window switches (did they have visions of doing an extended cab?) but it’s overall impressively done. I do appreciate that they seem to have kept the built-in pop-up cargo organizer (flimsy but it worked!). Behind the rear wheel wells were bins that could hold a gallon jug of milk, they’re covered here but I’m sure they can be popped off.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

What a great conversion! That lift gate rear window combo is inspired. Love to snap this up, but I don’t think I have 550,000 pennies in my penny jar.

Look, a Volvo!
Look, a Volvo!
11 months ago

The fit and finish surprises me. Reminds me of a Caravan truck conversion on craigslist for sale near me a few months ago.
Here’s a basic idea:
https://i.pinimg.com/736x/a5/6a/2a/a56a2ad4d76538592c5475bbdbda6e84.jpg

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
11 months ago

One of the less terrible SUV-to-Truck conversions out there.

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