Funny things happen when you try to get something done by a deadline. Of course, by funny, I really mean retarded. Take for instance SEMA projects, the trucks that are thrown together usually in less than three months but are supposed to carry the title of the baddest trucks on the planet. Every one of those trucks has their own story, but at least 99.9 percent of them include stress, headaches, and the words "I'll never do this again."
Nine days before SEMA, the wheels of the 747 that I was on touched down at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. I had dropped the Titan off at Musso Motorsports a few weeks earlier so the crew could get a jump on the bodywork.There were still a few loose ends that needed to be taken care of, mainly the sponsorship for paint, but the calls had been placed and all I was waiting for was the call back saying everything was a go and the paint could be picked up from the local dealer. All the other parts were either already at Musso Motorsports or on their way. Adam Madrigal picked me up, in the Titan no less, which had spots of primer where he had just finished the bodywork. On the inside, all the door panels had been removed and only latch cables dangled in their place. It was good to be back in it, though - rattles, wind noise, and all.
Our first few days were spent sanding the truck and tearing it down in preparation for paint. The paint source we'd intended to use was playing that great game called "let's not return any phone calls," which was starting to worry us, since two weeks had been invested in securing the paint and SEMA was literally a week away. As a backup, I put out a phone call to Jon Meyer, a buddy of mine at Clean Cut Creations. We had talked a few times about Sikkens paint, and he absolutely swore by it. He gave me the number to his contact at Sikkens, and within five minutes of speaking to them, they were completely on board with the project.
The next morning, the FedEx truck pulled up and dropped off a box from Katzkin filled with the seat covers for the truck. The master plan involved pulling out the bench seat in the rear and replacing it with another set of Nissan bucket seats. Unfortunately, when I called in the order, I neglected to let Katzkin know that the bucket seats we had scored for the rear didn't have SRS airbags like the front and they were a totally different pattern. Smart, right? Not so much. So a message was left for our friends at Katzkin.
After a few phone calls, Joe Musso and I jumped in the car and took a little road trip down to the local Sikkens dealer. When we walked in the door, it was literally like Christmas morning, minus the snowman paper, the red-ribbon bows, and the hangover from spiked eggnog. A roll-away cart was filled with exactly what we had asked for. After a few handshakes and a lot of thank-yous, we took our booty back to the shop and started masking the truck.
That evening, after finishing up at the shop, Adam and I cruised out to American Performance Cycle, where Ryan Evans was franticly working to finish Daddy's, from Severed Ties, Ford F-150. Ryan, known to most of the truck world by Kaotic, is the incredible artist who has laid out and airbrushed his talent on trucks such as Steve Platt's blue Hot Wheels S-10 covered with steel flames. We went over the digital rendering that RJ from Eye Candy Designs had come up with, and Ryan put it perfectly: He said, "Man, this is totally different. There will be a ton of trucks at SEMA with two-tone paintjobs, but none of them will look like this." The day ended with a few more handshakes and more importantly, building a little more excitement for the project.
Now, remember when I mentioned that deadlines make "funny" things happen? How's this for "funny?" As we began to get working on the truck, a small white car pulled up to the shop. Out popped a short, balding, but presentable man in uniform, sporting the two words that I wanted to see least on his upper-left chest: fire and marshall. Apparently, Fire Marshall Bill was there to inspect the whole complex that holds not only Musso Motorsports, but Counts Customs Choppers, as well as several other businesses. His surprise inspection lasted most of the day and concluded with a cute little jingle entitled "If any chemicals are sprayed here, you all get six months in jail and a $1,000 fine." Since none of us were fans of cold cellblocks or bald men singing jingles about $1,000 fines, we sprang Operation Find Another Paint Booth. Fortunately, Adam had a friend with a spray booth around the corner, but the downside was that the booth was scheduled to be full for the entire week. However, we were told that after-hours, the booth was all ours.
Rolling with the punches, we shifted our schedule on the Titan. Between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. the rest of the week, we were able to get some paint down on the truck, starting with primer and the silver basecoat. The following day, Ryan was able to pull away from his busy schedule to start laying out the graphics. Unfortunately, working nonstop for SEMA was taking its toll on him, and halfway through the night, he began feeling nauseous and had to call it quits. After some much-needed rest and relaxation, Ryan was able to come back and finish laying out the graphics. After some pinstriping and airbrushing, a few coats of clear were laid down on the Titan and it was on to our next project: the interior.
As I said before, the plan was to pull out the rear bench seat and replace it with the two bucket seats. However, since apparently I'm pretty rad at ordering seat covers, we didn't have the right materials to pull it off in time. The front Katzkin seat covers fit perfectly, complete with blue stitching to match the exterior, but we were left with Plan B, which was to use some Sikkens vinyl dye and just spray the inserts in the rear. After SEMA, I figured I could order the correct seat covers and we could continue with the master plan. Fortunately, the Sikkens dye was a perfect match to the factory Nissan color, so it ended up looking spot-on. Since no one really dug the yellow that the factory had used to accent the seats and door panels, we figured that we'd just get rid of it all. The seats were taken care of, so we disassembled the door panels and sprayed them with the matching Sikkens material.
Our roll-in time for SEMA was scheduled for 8:30 p.m., but looking between the clock, which I remember reading 6:30 p.m., and my buddy Clint, who was in the midst of wet-sanding and buffing the truck, I didn't know how the truck was going to make it. On one side of the shop, Clint was working his hardest with the buffer to bring out the paint, and on the other side of the shop, we were organizing the interior parts for a faster assembly. At the same time, Chris "Clowny," an old-school mini-trucker with an amazing talent for polishing billet, was busy bringing the 18-inch Boyd Coddingtons to a mirror finish.
If you could pause time at that instant, you would see half a dozen guys busting their butts to make that one deadline. The teamwork at Musso Motorsports was just one example of the many stories that created SEMA this year - trust me, I had constant phone updates from around the country with friends who were building their trucks up to the last possible minute.
All the trucks made it, though, including our project Titan, but not without the help of a ton of great people. This won't be the last time I personally thank them in print, it just happens to be the first time. A special thanks goes out to Adam Madrigal, Joe Musso, Clint Stevenson, and Danny Curalli of Musso Motorsports, as well as All Terrain, AMP Research, BFGoodrich, Boyd Coddington, CST, Eibach, Fox Racing Shoxx, Gibson Exhaust, Katzkin Leather, Ryan at Kaotic, Sikkens Paint, Stull Industries, and Richard Ross from Counts Customs for making our project a success. Can't wait until next year, right? I'm serious, we're going to ... never mind, I'll give you a little break before I drop the next one on you.
Until next month, stress on it, hate it, and claim that you'll "never do it again." We'll be doing the same.