Sky Pilot
My '02 Ford Ranger two-wheel-drive Super Cab was badly vandalized. The seats were ripped with some sharp object (possibly a large knife), the dashpad was shredded, the tires were slashed, and profanities were scratched into the paint.

My insurance company totaled the truck, but since it still ran and drove fine, I bought it back from them. So, now i have this nasty-looking truck and a sizeable settlement check. in my state, when the insurance company totals a vehicle, it ends up with a salvage title because a total usually implies extensive damage. A salvage title puts a giant stink on resale value.

So, my idea is to make the truck usable without spending too much money on it and then drive it until it drops. i couldn't drive the truck in public with all of the obscene stuff that's scratched in the paint, and I didn't want to waste all the money it would cost to repaint it. So, i took a grinder and ground off the offensive words.

That's when it came to me that it would be cool to have a bare metal truck. i know that's been done, and i know it would be a constant battle with rust, but i was still searching for something trick and easy to do. i was watching a show about World War II fighter planes on the History Channel, and i thought, why not make the Ranger look like a fighter plane?

I like the concept, but i'm short on ideas about how to make it work without spending a lot of money. i'm saving most of the settlement money toward a new truck purchase. i'm writing you guys in hopes that your creative minds can help me. John Mallon
via e-mail

What better place to take some creative risks than on a truck that's essentially a freebie and one without any high resale expectations? We enjoy challenges like this, because if it works, great, but if it doesn't, hey, it's not our truck.

You're right about the challenges of a bare metal body. That's a huge amount of work and maintenance problems, although you could let surface rust happen and then grind it off periodically. We understand that you're trying to achieve the look of an unpainted airplane, but those planes were aluminum. You could go with an Army Olive Drab color, but that would look just like the name, drab.

If it were our truck, we'd find the least expensive paintjob in town. Forget about body prep, let them paint over any trim items and accept that the jambs are a different color.

Get a silver color that most resembles aluminum. Study photos of old fighter planes. Get an airbrush and silver or gray paint that's darker than the body color. Make or buy a template that has approximately 1/4- to 3/8-inch circles. Make straight grid lines with a pencil or chalk. Then, uniformly space the "rivets" so that from a distance your truck's body looks like riveted panels of aluminum.

Go to a sign company that makes computergenerated vinyl signs and see if they could replicate some of the miscellaneous writing that you see on a warplane. A cruder, less expensive solution would be to use letter stencils and spray paint.

We like the iconic shark-teeth design that some fighter planes sported. That's a simple enough design, so you could probably do it yourself. Make the red and white design emanate from the front wheelwells. if you wanted to spend some real money, you could have an airbrush artist render one of those pinup girl nose-art graphics on your truck's hood. By doing it on the hood, you could keep the hood when you off the truck. The hood would be super-cool garage art. An Air Force or U.S. Army insignia on the tailgate would be a nice touch.

Spun aluminum wheel covers would look good on your "fighter." Since the seats and dash were ruined, you could really strip the interior down to bare bones to make it more of a Spartan cockpit. Spray the door panels with silver vinyl dye. You could add a lot of real or dummy gauges, because planes always have a mass of instruments. Black gauges with white numbers and dials would look aircraft-like. Get an old leather fighter cap and you're ready for takeoff.