Every year, we vow that things will be different - no more last-minute thrashing on project trucks to get them ready for the SEMA show in Las Vegas. But year after year, it's the same story all across the country: people thrashing to get their project vehicles done for the world's largest automotive aftermarket trade show. It never fails.
For us, this year was no exception. Sport Truck had two ongoing project trucks that needed to make the show. The first was relatively simple, since it was already in the final stages of completion. To our benefit, the Comp Cams Cruizer F-150 - this month's cover truck and last-minute addition to the show - was nearing completion. Tech Editor Calin Head had been spearheading the project from the onset and had things well in hand when he was told the truck needed to be at SEMA. With some help from Auto Air Colors and Paint-n-Place, who applied the cool water-based paint, the truck was essentially ready to roll with a few days to spare.
Our second project truck was the problem child and the one that gave Staff Editor Gary Blount a second full-time job. About a year ago, we ran the story on the Hot Rod magazine Hemi, an '02 Dodge Ram stuffed with an old-school 528-inch Hemi crate motor. While the folks at SoCal Speed did a great job of getting the truck ready for the 2002 SEMA Show and Hot Rod Power Tour, after the show, the truck saw some really hard miles. When we "inherited" it, the thing leaked fluids from every orifice and had gone through at least one transmission and one rearend.
As our resident hands-on old-school hot rodder, Gary volunteered for the rebuild project, which essentially began by mid-summer. A long-time Sport Truck loyalist, Jim Sleeper of Sleeper Suspension Development in La Verne, California, volunteered to design and build the truck's four-link rear suspension so that the Dodge could tuck pro-street-sized rubber. DynaTrac was the source for the Bulletproof narrowed Dana 60, Detroit Locker, and rear disc brake kit. Sleeper also reworked the front suspension for proper geometry and ride height. Connecting the Art Carr 727 automatic to the Dana 60 is a NASCAR-style aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline.
The MOPAR experts at Superior Automotive Engineering in Anaheim, California, signed up to rework the crate motor into a 700hp street monster, using Hilborn's trick new electronic fuel injection along with a huge laundry list of other performance upgrades and parts. The crew's expertise with these old-style Hemi engines was essential in making it produce more than 700 hp and 730+ lb-ft of torque on the dyno, running on pump gas, through mufflers no less. To give you an idea of how close we were on the SEMA timeline, the engine went into the truck just six days before showtime.
With less than a week to go, the truck was delivered to Wicked Truck and Rods in Garden Grove, California, for what should have been the simple addition of flames. Wrong. The original body was so dinged and scratched that it had to be fixed and reshot in basic black. Nick DiCredico and Gary spent day and night on our Hemi hauler to make it right, shooting the final flames roughly two days before SEMA roll-in. The truck was color-sanded and buffed the night before it was to be delivered for roll-in. Once cleaned up, we attempted to roll it up on the trailer around midnight, only to find out that the trailer we borrowed was too narrow. After some frantic searching, the folks at Billet Super Store in Anaheim, California, loaned us one of their trailers so that the truck could make it to the show for roll-in.
There are many more people who deserve credit for helping get these trucks ready for SEMA. Eventually, they all will get credit when the vehicles are featured in the magazine. The bottom line is that the only way these trucks were going to get done was through the passion and dedication of those involved. My hat's off to both Gary and Calin for following their projects through to completion and also to the many others who contributed their time and efforts to make these project trucks happen. Without these kind of people across the country, and their dedication and labor, there would be a lot less feature vehicles at the SEMA show.