For many people like Mike Demello, rolling a vehicle that is considered to be a dime a dozen is not their style. It's knowing that your ride reflects your individualism with its rarity and flash that fuels this desire. If you think about this, it is the defining purpose for anyone who alters a truck from its stock form. No one wants to be the same as the next person, and if you're going to spend some serious money on a custom truck, you definitely don't want it to look like the next truck on the road.

In Mike's case, he was always driving on rough roads to get to parties by the rivers near Lemoore, California. The terrain was bad, and his lifted trucks served his driving needs. Mike thought that by making his truck large and in charge, it would set him apart from the rest. He shortly noticed that he was not the only person in his town with a lifted truck. With many lift kits on the market being offered at a reasonable price, anyone can own a truck of raised proportions.

Mike knew that cool vehicles turn heads but realized people go absolutely bananas over a truck that can slam down to the pavement. So, he set his heart on buying a mini-truck to show his personality and save money with the ever-increasing gas prices. Mike got to the phone and hit up all of the local shops in search of his next ride. He was fortunate enough to find an abandoned Chevy S-10 project that was cheap and could be easily finished. Seven days of elbow grease later, Mike dragged the frame all over town and quickly realized that S-10s are also more than plentiful in the scene. He had his fun with the truck and passed it along to someone who was willing to pay more money than he expected for it.

The sale of the truck put some extra bucks in Mike's bank account and got him in the market for another custom truck. Of course, to meet the criteria, this new truck would have to be different from anything seen at shows. After an extensive search on the net, he found this already 'bagged and body-dropped Dodge Dakota in Bedford, Texas. This style of truck is a rare find in the custom scene, and because the rocker panels on this one hit the ground, Mike knew that it would stand out from others in his town. He called up the owner and made a deal to fly to Texas, and he would drive the truck home.

It was going to be a long haul to drive the Dakota back with more than 1,500 miles between the two places. Mike was definitely in need of some help on the road trip, so he called up his friend, Anthony Haley, to tag along with him. Being a good sport, his friend agreed, and the two of them caught a flight to Texas. Once they made it to Bedford, they packed up the truck, Beverly Hillbilly-style, with a load in the bed stacked higher than the cab. The freshly painted and assembled truck was just finished before the two of them were to pick it up. However, it had no stereo, so they bought a single-CD Walkman and split the headphones for each to have one earpiece to listen to. From then on, it was your typical road trip with near collisions, a tire blow-out, and a stretch in New Mexico where they ran out of gas.

A few days later, they made it back to California on the verge of passing out from the long hours of driving. When they stumbled out of the truck, they were repeating nothing but the lyrics to Johnny Cash's "The Ring of Fire," like two individuals coming out of a bar late at night.

With the truck in Lemoore, Mike was able to add some finishing touches, such as a stereo system and spray-on bedliner. He also redid the paint with some new graphics to top off Viper Blue paint. These small touches added something extra to the already-cool truck and tailored it to best suit Mike's personality.

Even though the trip was grueling, it was a trip that Mike was willing to take. He loves owning vehicles that are different and was shocked to see another slammed Dakota in his town just weeks after the trip. He went through a lot of trouble to get this truck, and it made him feel like it was all a waste when he spotted a similar truck. It's disturbing, and knowing Mike, he may just drop everything for a more unique truck.

THE 411

OWNER/HOMETOWN:
Mike & Stephanie Demello / Lemoore, California

YEAR/MAKE/MODEL:
'99 Dodge Dakota standard cab

ENGINE/DRIVETRAIN:
Mopar four-cylinder 2.5L engine / K&N cold-air intake / Flowmaster muffler / Mopar five-speed manual transmission
BY: Cole Baker of Bedford, Texas

RIMS:
FRONT: 18x8-inch Intro Vistas with painted spokes to match the truck
REAR: 20x8.5-inch Intro Vistas with painted spokes to match the truck

TIRES:
FRONT: Federal 225/40ZR18
REAR: Toyo Proxes 245/35R20

SUSPENSION:
FRONT: Firestone 2,600-pound airbags / 2-inch cups to mount airbags
REAR: Nitro-Drop shocks / custom-made forward four-link with airbags mounted over links / Firestone 2,600-pound airbags
ACCESSORIES: Two Viair 380 compressors / 3/8-inch SMC valves / 5-gallon air tank
CHASSIS: Stock floor body-drop, using rectangular steel tubing from the firewall back / stock gas tank relocated to the rear of the frame for clearance reasons
BY: Sammy Livingston of Performance Auto works in Fort Worth, Texas

BODY MODS:
Shaved door handles, gas door, taillights, and Grant Customs tailgate skin / Cadillac taillights / stock bed floor raised for body-drop to cover air components and suspension / spray-on Rhino bedliner / Street Scene mirrors sport mirrors / billet grille
BY: Chris Birtcel of Bedford, Texas

CUSTOM PAINT:
'02 Dodge Viper Blue / House of Kolor Orion Silver / PPG Candy Blue with Ice pearl
BY: Cole Baker of Bedford, Texas / (Graphics) Paul Contreas of Hanford, California

INTERIOR:
Stock Dakota seats cut down and upholstered in black ostrich material / APC billet steering wheel / FBI billet window cranks / Billet Accessories Direct (BAD) fireball rearview mirror / two KP Components 2-inch air gauges / stock center console fiberglassed to hold two 10-inch subwoofers and switches / all interior plastics smoothed and painted '04 Mercedes silver
BY: Cole Baker of Bedford, Texas

AUDIO/VIDEO:
Sony Xplod CDXGT20W head unit / two Memphis Audio MC 6-1/2-inch speakers / two Memphis Audio MC 5-1/4-inch speakers / Memphis Audio 16-MCA200.4 amp for mids / two Memphis Audio PR10 4D subwoofers / Memphis Audio 16-MCD500 amp for subs
BY: Planet Rock of Hanford, California

CLUB:
Freaks of Nature

SPECIAL THANKS:
Mike's wife for putting up with him, Anthony Haley for going with him on the road trip from hell, and everyone in his club. Mike would also like to give special thanks to his favorite mini-trucker, Kaydence, from Carson City, Nevada