Panel shop chops BMW X5 SUV into a ute

22:47, Jun 19 2013
A combination of photographs showing the BMW X5 SUV that has been altered into a utility vehicle.
CHOP SHOP: A combination of photographs showing the BMW X5 SUV that has been altered into a utility vehicle.

An Australian BMW dealership has highlighted the Utility of the X5 SUV by turning it into a one-off ute.

Queensland-based Motorline BMW's panel shop transformed the first-generation X5 into a high-riding, style-focused single-cab pickup, with the car having been re-shaped over about 700 hours.

The X5 ute rides on the same wheelbase as the regular X5, and despite missing the rear doors, it has a small space-cab section behind the front seats.

The project was completed in-house by the panel shop team. It was the brainchild of Craig Rose, BMW Motorline dealer principal, who says the allure of building something that gave the dealership's on-site panel shop some added character was the main driver for building the X5 ute.

"I walked out one day and was just sort of looking at this X5 we'd traded," Rose says. "It was a 2002 model, and I looked at the lines of the car, and you can see the belt-line underneath the glasshouse ... it extends really well around the whole of the car."

Rose says he immediately put thoughts to action, getting his body-shop manager Gerry Raverty and lead panel beater Stephen George to tape up the car. After just minutes the team had worked out a shape they thought would work – and from there, they cut it up.

"We had this car without a roof just sitting there, and then we came across all these things, like: where are the electrics located; where's this and where's that; and how do we waterproof it. But the concept itself was pretty pure."

Rose says that he's not the first person to think an X5 ute would be an interesting thing.

"People have often asked us the question:  ‘if I could buy an X5 ute, I'd buy one' – because they've looked at crazy things out of the US and those big GMC trucks, and by the time you bring them over [to Australia] and convert them [to right-hand-drive], it's an expensive exercise," he says.

"Particularly in Australia with the massive four-wheel-drive utility market dominated obviously by Toyota and now with the Ford Ranger, we thought that this is a US-built vehicle and it seems odd [not to have a ute version].

"There's definitely a market for it because there are plenty of well-heeled people that are paying $160-170,000 to bring in these big monster trucks out of the US," Rose says.

"So if they can do something that's local, it's got German build quality, it's been built by passionate people and better still they've been involved in the process – so they've got to dream it, and see it, and do it – they're all-in. They just love it."

Rose says the cost of converting an X5 as this one has been done would be between $35,000 and $40,000 on top of the purchase of the donor car.        

"We've already got someone who has asked us to make them one based on the current X5, so we're about to slice and dice that. He wants to do a twin-cab version, with a shorter tray on the back. We'll keep both sets of seats and sets of doors," Rose says.

"We'll do all sorts of things. We love the challenge," he says, stating that projects like this give his staff a chance to show – and show off – their skills.

This particular X5 came powered by a 4.4-litre V8 petrol engine, which has been left untouched apart from a new exhaust system.

"It needed to sound tough, so we've done just a very small modification on the exhaust – nothing dramatic, but it sounds like a V8 Supercar. It turns heads everywhere it goes," Rose says.

The ute features sturdy looking side steps and a large chrome sports bar in the rear tray, which Rose says was instrumental in the styling of the ute because it added better visual balance to it – as well as some street cred.

The X5 ute is used for promotional purposes for the panel shop, and also as a tow vehicle for the company's motorcycle arm which sells BMW Motorrad bikes.

The car has been certified and engineered as a road-legal vehicle, and even boasts personalised BMWTE (BMW ute) numberplates.

Surprisingly, it's not the first BMW ute in the world. The German car maker transformed an M3 into a cargo-carrier that lugs spare parts between its factories in Munich.

-Fairfax Media Australia