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!

Chainsaw Graphics
I loved everything about your December '07 cover truck. That green is absolutely crazy. I like the two-tone black over the green, and I especially like the beltline graphics. They kind of look like the two colors were cut apart with a chainsaw or an out-of-control Sawzall.

I thought the hot-rod rake was excellent. The truck is still very low, but it's mean and low, not lowrider low. Those rear wheels are something else. That's about how much wheel you need to fill those huge wheelwells.

I have an '85 Chevy shortbed Fleetside on which I'd like to incorporate some of the mods found on Mike Cotten's truck. One item that I'd appreciate some information on is how the beltline graphics were done. They look both random and uniform at the same time. Can you tell me how they were done? Thanks.
Sumner Reva
via e-mail

Bring back that old-fashioned hot-rod stance. We were obviously taken by Mike's truck too, which is why it made the cover.

The beltline graphic is actually quite simple to do. Most painters will do the two-tone paint scheme first. Be sure that the two colors extend to approximately the middle of the graphic. Doing the graphic after the main paint allows more wiggle room for any possible mistakes.

If you look closely at the graphics, you'll notice that the main orange color has sharp edges. The peaks and angles are somewhat random, but they're done with straight pieces of masking tape. It's the yellow slashes/cuts/barbs that give the ragged, random look to the graphic.

The yellow lines were painted with pinstriping enamel. Even if you don't think you can pinstripe, you should be able to pull a 2-inch straight line. If you don't like a line, simply wipe it off. That's one of the great things about striping enamel: It's slow to dry.

If you don't think your hand is steady enough for even short lines, you can use two parallel pieces of masking tape as a guide. If you do it this way it will take much longer because you have to let intersecting lines dry before taping over them. If you still don't feel confident, hire a pinstriper. A simple job such as this shouldn't cost too much.

Mike used an airbrush to add little bursts of white pearl paint as highlights on some of the line intersections. These little "hot spots" need to be applied sparingly so as not to overpower the main design.

Jiminy Crickets
I recently replaced the alternator on my '91 Chevy S-10 equipped with the 4.3-liter V-6. My charging problems ceased with the new alternator, but now I hear a chirping noise coming from the front of the engine. The chirping gets louder when I rev the engine.

I didn't look real closely at the serpentine belt (I just loosened it enough to install the new alternator), but I'm pretty sure it was OK. Should I have installed a new belt? Did I do something wrong when I installed the alternator?

About six months before the alternator went bad I had to replace the water pump. I didn't have any chirping then or at least not any that was noticeable. This isn't a big deal, but it's one of those annoying problems that once you hear it you get more and more focused on it. Thanks for your help.
Shawn Watson
via e-mail

Check the alignment of all the drive pulleys contacted by the serpentine belt. One or more of them is most likely out of alignment. Maybe it's not totally flush against its mounting surface. When there is pulley misalignment, belt vibration or chirping can result. The misaligned V-belt makes initial contact with only one side of the pulley's V-groove. The greater the misalignment (or if several pulleys are out of whack), the more sliding that's experienced by the belt ribs as they try to seat in the V-grooves. That makes more friction and more chirping.

You probably did something a little differently when you installed the new alternator. It's too late now, but it would have been a good idea to compare the pulley location and mounting hardware of the old alternator with the new one before you returned the old alternator for the core charge.

High Or Low?
I'm in the planning stages of a restoration. I'm planning on restoring my dad's '87 C10 4x4 with an 8-foot bed to serve as a rolling memorial to him. He died suddenly earlier this year. I've always wanted to build a custom truck and can't think of a better reason to start building.

I'm looking to do some custom work at the same time I'm restoring the truck. I'm ordering the replacement panels and mapping out the paint scheme. It looks like I can get all the needed parts for under $1,000. I plan on doing the work myself.

There is one aspect that I haven't been able to figure out: the suspension. I want to drop it, but I don't want to drag the frame or bag it. I'm thinking a 4-inch drop would give it the look I'm after. I also want to maintain the cargo capacity and still use the truck as a truck when needed. I carry 1,500 to 2,000 pounds at least twice a year.

I want to keep the truck four-wheel-drive. All the suspension mods I've seen point to either two-wheel-drive drops or dropping trucks sporting IFS. Are axle flips easy? Aside from needing shorter shocks, what else would I need?

I don't want the truck to drive like a car, but I also don't want a bone-jarring ride. If it rides the same way it rides now, I'd be perfectly happy. Can you help me?
Jim Lowe
Watertown, Connecticut

From the sound of your letter and the parameters you've established, it seems like your interest in lowering the truck 4 inches is mostly cosmetic. It also sounds like you're interested in keeping costs as reasonable as possible.

You state that the truck is a C10 4x4, but C-series trucks are two-wheel-drive. Four-wheel-drive Chevys are designated K-series. If your truck were a 2WD C10, lowering it 4 inches would be a snap. If it's a K10, it's not so easy or even desirable given your parameters.

An axle flip is easy on 2WD trucks. Problems you might encounter include potential bed-to-axle clearance issues when carrying 2,000 pounds and adjusting all of the front steering, suspension, and driveshaft components if you flipped the front axle. Most K10 owners want to raise their trucks instead of lower them.

There are shops that custom-build leaf springs. They might be able to make some leaf springs with less arch. You could probably drop an inch or two this way. There could be some ride compromises since you still want to be able to haul heavy loads. The lower springs would be stiffer.

If it wasn't for the obvious sentimental value, we'd suggest selling the 4x4 Chevy and finding a nice 2WD model.

Our suggestion for lowering the truck is to do it with wheels and tires. Your truck probably has 15-inch 78-series tires. Get some custom wheels and lower-profile tires. Depending on the tire's aspect ratio, you could drop an inch or two. Then have your original-size (or larger) wheels and tires available for when you want to do heavy chores.

Where's My Calendar, Yo?
Being a subscriber, I was wondering why my mag that came in the mail does not have a calendar yet the store version does? Is this a ploy to get the subscriber to buy two issues?
Deluxe Dave
via e-mail

How can I put this gently? It's definitely a ploy to get people to buy the magazine off the newsstand, although it's not necessarily a ploy to get you to buy two copies, Dave. Sorry man, but I don't control these things. -Mike

Got Something To Say?
E-mail your letters to mike.finnegan@sourceinterlink.com, or send them to:Sport Truck Mail, 2400 E. Katella Ave., Ste. 700, Anaheim, CA 92806

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