Looking for a way to cut through the proverbial white noise of the same old classic trucks seen at local car shows, Joe Winter of Batavia, Ohio, had a crazy idea. What would happen if he took a ’46 Chevy Pickup and combined it with an ’02 Toyota Prius? Turns out they would go together better than anyone could have imagined.
In December 2016, Winter acquired the Prius through a series of vehicle trades among friends. Already in possession of the ’46 Chevy, which came from Kansas through another trade, Winter hatched his plan. A lifelong gearhead with a growing interest in electric vehicles, the idea was born to build the “Chevyota Priuck.”
His goal with the truck was simple: do something different. This truck would be just that. Rolling into a show, it would look just like any other classic pickup, yet underneath its skin would lay another story.
“There is a lot of stuff out there that is similar to the next,” Winter said. “I wanted to see if I could get good fuel economy, and I’ve always been interested in electric vehicles. When I learned a little bit more about the way hybrid technology works, I wanted to give it a shot.”
Incredibly, the build took Winter just a few months, and by March 2017, he was driving it around the yard.
It was a relatively simple build, really. Winter pulled the body off of both the pickup and the Prius. Then, he added a 3.5-inch subframe on the Prius’s unibody floorpan to meet the frame of the pickup. Incredibly, he was able to simply slide the truck’s front clip right onto the Prius nose. Under the skin, the vehicle is half pickup (rear) and half Prius (front), in turn also creating what might be the first ever front-wheel-drive ’46 Chevy.
“Matching the frames together was surprisingly easy,” Winter said. “When I put the two frames together, the steering column ran directly into the Prius and the brake pedal was a simple lengthening of pedal to bring it up through the floor of the ’46. It was just a perfect match.”
Inside, he slid the Prius dash behind the truck’s original dash, wired the front lights and taillamps, and adjusted the brake-pedal placement. Since it is an electric powertrain, the brake and accelerator are drive-by-wire, making it much easier to integrate.
While there are still miles of wiring left to decipher and the heater and air conditioner to sort out, the truck is driveable.
“There are miles and miles of wire in a Prius,” Winter said. “You have multiple different computers performing unique functions (with few actually needed after the swap), so the wiring harness is definitely the biggest setback.”
During our time riding around in the pickup, we couldn’t get over how smooth and comfortable it was. Basically, the truck retains the smooth ride qualities of the Prius, with a lot of classic-pickup patina. It turned heads everywhere we drove it.
It is also power-on-demand, thanks to the hybrid powertrain. The engine stops running at low speeds and stop signs like a typical hybrid. Sitting at a stop sign with a silent classic pickup tricks you into thinking something is wrong when, in fact, you are merely running on battery power.
“I estimate I have more power with the Prius powertrain than with the original 216-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine,” Winter said. “The power-to-weight ratio is also likely better.”
On the road, the hybrid powertrain provides more than enough for the 3,200 pounds of classic pickup. The engine noise is louder than a factory Prius, but quieter than a typical Chevy truck from that era; Winter says the sound is mostly due to the exhaust not having a muffler. Running the truck quieter results in new sounds filling the cabin with creaks and rattles from the old truck. Winter is considering adding sound deadening throughout the cabin to make it whisper-quiet inside.
Even weighing 500 pounds more than the donor Prius and still with the 1-ton leaf springs in the rear, the pickup corners and handles nearly as well as the car would. Winter plans to remove those springs and drop additional weight to make it mirror the original Prius weight to improve the ride quality.
One of Winter’s big unknowns is the current fuel economy. He still has some work to do on integrating the Prius’ dash as well as adjusting the computer for the different-size tires for it to return accurate speed and fuel-economy numbers. With the difference in aerodynamics of the pickup cabin, he is hoping for 35 to 40 mpg and will be able to calculate that when the speedometer and odometer get hooked up and calibrated.
Winter says the response at car shows has been mostly positive. “I wasn’t sure what I would run into, whether it be haters or guys who get the joke, but everybody has appreciated,” Winter said. “I’ve never had anybody come up to me with a negative comment yet. For the most part, the person-to-person interaction has been nothing but positive.
“I just wanted to see if I could build something economical and driveable,” Winter said, “but also look very cool.”