Taking a grinder to this van was a mighty gamble but David Hughes showed what Vauxhall should have done…
Sometimes things just hit you. Thoughts appear in your head from nowhere and take you to places you had no intention of going. That’s exactly what happened to David Hughes when he first saw a mk5 Astra van many moons ago. His immediate thought was ‘that would make a bloody amazing pickup’.
At that point most would leave it be but for years it burned in David’s head, it became an itch he had to scratch. “I had to wait a while until it became an affordable risk,” he explains, “but it just had to be done!”
The moment finally arrived in 2015 although it nearly happened two years previous. “My mate bought one and we planned to give it the chop but he bottled out at the last minute.” David laughs, “There was no hesitation for me though. When I got mine it went straight from trailer to garage and I cut the roof off right away!” To be fair he had waited a long time to get to this stage.
Although David acted fast, the approach was well planned. The van had the perfect natural line for the chop along the side but he was quick to point out the back of the cab is where many go wrong with conversions. After the roof removal, he carefully fitted the 4-point cage, rear cab panels, custom window and welded a tailgate in place.
The next tricky bit was boxing it all up. David plumped for an industrial look here, creating an aluminium platform that even includes an electronic lid; clever touch! With the pick-up taking shape (literally), it was time to chuck some other parts into the mix.
Keeping close to an OEM style, a VXR front bumper, grill and side repeater surrounds were added along with XP sideskirts and an XP rear bumper skirt. This beefed up the body nicely and after a respray in a subtle Audi Daytona grey it was ready for some spectacular rims.
David may have been decisive with the styling but wheels are a different story. He changes his mind almost on a daily basis! “All the shows I’ve been to it’s had different wheels on,” he smirks, “I find it so hard to decide that I’m now running with different sets on each side. I still don’t know which I prefer”.
Glancing at the sparkling brown WCI CC10s and then the Stuttgart STX rims in silver, we know exactly what he means. Both look sensational with the body slammed on top; thanks to the Slam Series airbag setup and the custom work underneath to make them fit.
Inside the cabin, there’s an OEM flavour with Astra VXR seats and VXR steering wheel. A flocked dash, centre console and pillars add a touch of luxury while Easystreet gauges give a clue that there’s no longer a 1.3 lump living here. Indeed, David’s given the van some bite to match the bark with a Z19TDH 1.9 turbo diesel conversion. He’s a big fan of this power unit so treated it to an uprated hybrid turbo and added a VXR intercooler to reach a potent 210bhp.
It’s 12 years since Vauxhall launched the mk5 Astra van, but this Ute conversion still looks way cooler than anything that comes out the factory. David can be proud of his efforts as it’s all down to his skill and certainly not just a slice of luck.
TECH SPEC 2008 VAUXHALL 1300 ASTRA VAN
Custom Pickup conversion, VXR front bumper, VXR grill, VXR repeat surrounds, XP side skirts, XP rear bumper skirt, 4 point roll cage, Electric opening deck-lid, Devil eye projector headlights, Audi Daytona Grey respray.
1.9 Z19dth diesel engine conversion, VXR intercooler, Uprated hybrid turbo, Swirel flap delete A/C delete, Remapped to 210 BHP, Flocked engine cover.
V2 air-ride management, 444c compressor, Slam series bags, Rear spring platform modified. WatercooledIND CC10 18×9.5 wheels in BMW sparkling brown on drivers side, Stuttgart STX 18×9.5 wheels on passenger side.
Astra VXR half leather seats, VXR steering wheel, Flocked dash, Flocked centre console, Flocked A/B pillars, Carbon silver trim, Easystreet gauges.
Words & Photos Steve McCann