Short Truck
These skyrocketing gas prices stink, especially if you own a crew cab dualie with a gas-sucking big-block. I don't want to give up on my Silverado dualie, but I probably couldn't sell it for what it's worth now anyway. My dualie is shaved and slammed with killer graphics. I enjoy all the positive attention I get with it, so I'd like to find/build a much smaller truck that still strokes my ego.

I have an opportunity to pick up a two-wheel-drive '98 Chevy Tracker at a very attractive price. It will most certainly lower my gas bills, but I don't want to drive a plain Tracker.

I was thinking maybe I could turn it into an ultra mini pickup by turning the rear seat area into a pickup bed. I'd like your opinion on how difficult this might be and if it would be worth the effort and expense. I'd also like some more bed length so I can still carry a few things. I don't want to stretch the Tracker, but maybe there is some way to extend the tailgate?

Do you know of anyone who makes speed equipment for these trucklets? Thanks for your input.
Barry Scapiletti
via e-mail

We like the idea of a super-short pickup, but you need to examine your motives. If this is mostly an exercise in saving gas money-forget about it. You can buy a lot of gas for what it would cost to buy and modify the Tracker.

People too often panic over high gas prices (we admit that they churn our gut too), but you need to figure out what the total economic impact is over a longer time period. If you've become comfortable with $2.00 or $2.50 or $3.00 for a gallon of gas, then it's the number of gallons you buy in a year times the extra cost. That number could be less than you fear.

If you just want a cool little truck that no one else has, then build it. The body style of '90s two-door Trackers lends itself to half-cab styling. Most of these little SUVs had canvas tops over the back seat area. We don't recall if there was canvas over the front seats or if some versions had fixed roofs. Regardless, you'd probably want to make the roof fixed while fabricating a rear window and cab-to-bed bulkhead.

As far as a bed extender or tailgate extender, you'll need to ditch the outside-mounted spare tire and hinge the tailgate at the bottom. Currently they're hinged on the right side. With a traditionally opening tailgate, you could make a flip-out cargo gate like those used on modern shortbed crossover SUVs. Stretching the rear quarters would be more trouble and expense than it's worth.

For speed equipment, we'd check companies that make parts for the various Suzuki mini SUVs that are similar to Trackers. One site we found was John's Foreign Engines (www.22re.com). Lots of these older Suzuki Samaris are turned into radical rock climbers.

Smooth Moves
What's the easiest way to improve the fuel economy on my '03 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCab 2WD with the 5.4-liter V-8?
Lawrence Miller
via e-mail

Be smooth. Pay attention to how you drive so you can maintain your speed without sudden bursts of acceleration. Anticipate what's happening in front of you. Don't race up on the vehicle in front of you, slam on the brakes, and then mash the throttle to get going again. Make momentum your friend. You can also try one of the new computer programmers that tout increases in fuel economy and not just more power. Hypertech offers one for your SuperCab.

Yes, Sir
Hey, somebody tell Calin to answer his damn cell phone!
Shaughn Reid
via e-mail

We'd tell him, but he's not answering and he told us he doesn't want to talk to you anyway-at least not until you start spelling your name the good old-fashioned American way!

Gimme, Gimme
Guys, I love your mag. Been getting it for a couple of years now. I have one question: How can I get one of those sweet Sport Truck stickers? I would love to sport one on my truck. Thanks!
Ryan
via e-mail

Arrgh, I believe we be strikin' a bargain, says I. Send pictures of your vessel and I may acquiesce to your request. Avast!