Swinging A Dead CatI am a young, avid sport truck enthusiast. i live in the Los Angeles area, yet i cannot find any place that modifies and lowers trucks. i'm sure there must be tons in the area. Can you provide me a list of recommended shops that i can go to? Thank you. Bart Kwan via e-mail

To paraphrase an old expression, you can't hardly swing a dead cat(alytic converter) around here without hitting a shop that lowers and modifies trucks. The greater Los Angeles basin is full of automotive specialty shops. A little internet detective work should turn up lots of shops near you.

We don't have a list or make specific recommendations, although we do include contact information in our how-to stories. A good place to start in your search for a shop is the websites of companies that manufacture suspension components. They should have links to their dealers.

The internet is also great for making contact with truck clubs in your area. Most comprehensive club sites have message boards and forums where you can enter into discussions about products, shops, and how-to information. You can be sure that suspension lowering and wheel/tire issues are popular topics.

When checking out a potential shop, we like to look at the trucks driven by the owners and employees. we favor shops that build and drive the same vehicles as their customers. Truck shows are a good source for shop leads. we've never met a custom truck owner that didn't enjoy talking about their truck and the good/bad experiences they had during construction.

Dumpin' A DodgeI have a '72 Dodge D100 and i can't find anything on replacement parts for it. i am really interested in lowering components. i just want to lower it now and eventually slam it with a complete set of 'bags. Any suggestions?Zach in Alabamavia e-mail

If you want easy, get a '72 Chevy C10. if you want different (and diffi cult), stick with the Dodge. As far as we know, the aftermarket industry for early Dodge trucks is nonexistent. Your best bet for sheetmetal replacement parts is on the internet, such as Ebaymotors. com or Craigslist.org.

If you want to lower your Dodge, it's going to involve inventiveness and fabrication. There are spring manufacturing shops, such Deaver Spring Company, www.deaverspring.com, that will custom-build lowering springs. This is diffi usually a pretty affordable way to get a modest drop. if you want to 'bag your truck, there are universal airbag kits that can be adapted to your situation. we do know that Chassis Tech, www.chassis.com, will custom-build lots of different parts, so contacting that company may be a big help to you.

If you really want a totally new, weedeating suspension chassis, contact Art Morrison Enterprises, 5301 E. 8th St., Fife, wA 98424, www.artmorrison.com, (800) 929-7188. The company can custom-build a complete chassis for almost any vehicle. You can order the new chassis with your choice of street or strip suspension components, including Morrison's air suspension system.

We've often wondered why there aren't more customized '72-'93 Dodge shortbedtrucks around. The first year for this long-lived body style, which is as handsome as its Chevy counterparts, was 1972.

Foreign ConsulateI need a place to store lots of stuff in my '01 Toyota Tacoma regular cab pickup. The truck was a pretty basic truck with a bench seat. i've removed the bench and replaced it with aftermarket bucket seats. Now i'd like a big center console to store things. what's the easiest way to make or fit the largest console? what materials are easiest to work with?Shawn Washingtonvia e-mail

You have several choices, based on budget and skill levels. The best console will be one custom-built by a custom upholstery/interior shop. The next choice is to try to make a similar console. The cheapest, easiest choice is to buy one of those "one size fits most" pre-made plastic consoles and bolt it in.

We've watched a variety of custom consoles being made for high-end trucks and street rods. The general plan is to first make a pattern or mold. Tag board is frequently used for a rough mock-up. That shape is massaged as much as possible. Then, the real console is made out of thin-gauge sheetmetal, aluminum, thin plywood, or fiberglass. The base choice often depends on whether the console will be painted or upholstered.

Large slabs of styrofoam can also be used as a mold. The styrofoam is mocked up oversize. The various pieces are glued together. it is then shaped with Surform files and rasps, and followed by sanding. That finished shape is covered with fiberglass. The cured fiberglass is sanded and tweaked with body filler. The finished console can be painted or upholstered.

Components such as doors, latches, lights, and cupholders are usually adapted from wrecking yard consoles.

Jimmy Two-ToneI was admiring the red-over-black GMC pickup on page 123 of your Feb. '07 issue. i really like the two-tone paint scheme and would like to do something similar on my '94 GMC two-wheel-drive Jimmy. i'd like your opinion on where to break the two colors and whether to put red or black on top. Thanks.Jorge Villanova via e-mail

We once knew a guy called Jimmy Two Times 'cause of his tendency to repeat things and because he said stuff twice.

A red and black two-tone is a classic combination that works well on lots of vehicles. Your gMC has two natural breaks. The first is the styling crease that's 5 to 6 inches below the window. That's the point used on the truck in the February issue. That line works very well in that it flows around the hood and bed sides. On your Jimmy, it would cross the doors and go around to the rear liftgate.

The second choice would be to split the colors just under the windows. On the hood, this version would cut across the top edge of the fenders where they meet the hood. The top color could cover the entire hood or be split on the leading edge.

On a pickup, your second choice would be to leave the bed alone. This is good for a quick and easy two-tone job.

Painters tend to favor black as the top color (the opposite of the example truck) because it makes the truck's roof look lower. Black on top with dark-tinted windows and blacked-out window trim is an excellent visual trick to make the top appear slightly chopped.

Shocking NewsPlease settle an argument: My friend says you should always remove the negative (ground) cable first when disconnecting a battery. He also claims the negative cable should be reinstalled last. i say it doesn't make any difference as long as you're careful not to touch the two cables together. Who is right? A free waxing of the other guy's truck is riding on your answer.Brian Nickersonvia e-mail

Break out the wax because you owe your friend a shine. The negative or ground cable should be removed first and replaced last. A little word association helps us remember. We use the acronym, NOFOL (Negative Off First, On Last), and think, "No foolin'" as a memory aid.

A 12-volt automotive battery can be very powerful and highly dangerous. A shorted battery can deliver a couple hundred-amp jolt. we know a friend who learned that in his teens, when resting his metal watchband on the positive battery terminal while holding a wrench. when the wrench contacted the engine block, the resulting energy welded several watchband links together. it also made the watchband incredibly hot. He furiously shook off the watch, breaking it on the cement, and he still has a scar on his wrist to remind him to never make that mistake again.

When you remove the negative (ground) cable first and accidentally complete a circuit, there won't be any current flow because the cable is already grounded. Then, when you remove the positive cable second, it can touch metal without harm because there isn't a return path to the negative battery terminal.

Van GoghI saw a clever commercial while watching the Super Bowl. I think it was for Jack in The Box. Some stoner was driving a '70s-style custom van and trying to order fast food.

Looking at the van got me thinking about how trends recycle and wondering if there was some way use old van culture cues on my '02 Chevy S-10 without going too far. I'd like to find some elements of the era without making my truck look stupid.

I can't envision anything shag, but maybe there are some external' cues that would work. i'd like to do the work myself and for it to not be anything that couldn't be undone easily. what do you think?John Clarkstonvia e-mail

That would be so groovy and far out if you could add a little shaggin' wagon styleto your S-10, but just a little. Excess seemed to mark custom vans, but as you suggest, a couple minor classic cues could be just the thing.

Borrowing bits and pieces from past trends works for fashion and automotive designers. The trick is to invoke a little nostalgia without evoking a little nausea.

Many classic custom van paint tricks were quite simple and could be done by do-ityourself customizers. Large, elaborate murals were quite the rage, but we'd stay away from cactus collages. Our suggestion is to employ some old paint tricks within the boundaries of some stripes or other more contemporary graphics. Make the stripes appear relatively solid from a distance, but when viewed up close the details will stand out. if you want to be extra conservative, apply the paint tricks underneath the hood, inside the bed, or on some interior surfaces.

A little paint and an airbrush should get you started. A very simple trick was to spray the edge of a paint strainer. That left various arcs that could be made into simple or complex patterns. Stencils made out of manila file folders were popular, but they have a short lifespan because paint deteriorates the edges.

Freak drops are a simple trick. Using an airbrush, deposit a heavy burst of paint. Then, use air alone to make the paint spread in amoeba type patterns. Overlapping freak drops in a variety of colors gives an interesting pattern to a stripe.

Lace painting is where lace or other fabric with holes is taped to the panel and painted over. when the lace is removed it leaves a distinctive pattern.

Cob-webbing or spider-webbing is where paint is applied so thick that it spits strings of paint instead of atomizing. A full-size spray gun or touch-up gun is needed because extrathick paint won't spray through an airbrush.

Plastic wrap, such as Saran wrap, was used to lift or mottle areas of paint that weren't dry. Usually, a pearl or metallic color was sprayed first and allowed to dry. Then, a contrasting color was applied quite wet and manipulated with the plastic wrap before it dried. Aluminum foil was also bunched up and used to texture wet paint.

Endless line painting was where a base color was applied within a panel, and after it dried, 1/8-inch fine line tape was used to make a continuous, twisting, winding line. A contrasting color was used to follow the tape. when the tape was removed an endless line with fuzzy edges was the result.

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