Online truck buying is not what you might think. Bits and bytes travel at the speed of light as you bid on the truck of your dreams. You watch intently as the other auction players bid mercifully against you. Don't they realize what they're doing? A few more keystrokes have you in the running for the lead. You decide to get a frosty cold one from the kitchen, and when you get back to the computer - wouldn't you know it? - you got bumped again. The game of cat and mouse is on.

We recently had the opportunity to get with eBay Motors for the Editors Charity Challenge, a deal that would have us actually purchase and customize a truck from the Web. A couple clicks here and there had us surfing the online superhighway in no time at all. Heading the project for the Custom Street Truck Team is Harley Camilleri. He is tasked with the actual building, planning, and buying of online products.

Let us give you a little heads up with what we're doing. A couple limitations were set by eBay Motors to make this a somewhat realistic project. We started with a workable budget of $25,000. Of that amount, 75 percent has to be spent on eBay Motors, and the rest is available to spend offline for items you can't possibly buy online, such as paint and fabrication. We are allowed as many as five "gifts." Basically, we are allowed to have five freebies worth no more than $500 retail value, and we are not allowed to receive more than one per brand name. There is no limitation set on labor or services. What that means is we can buy parts online and if someone volunteers to install them for free, well, no harm, no foul. The way the program is set up is really about what it would be like for you as a reader to have $25,000, a couple friends, and the will to build a show-winning custom.

Being the head of the truck team meant Harley had to log some time in cyberspace and be on the lookout for the right truck to bid on. Generously enough, eBay Motors hooked him up with a username and password so he could be on the road to bidding stardom. The first truck that popped up was located on the East Coast, but it was nice nonetheless. Onward with the bidding. One of the obstacles associated with the truck purchase was the distance factor. The Web site did not allow for the money to be used for transportation costs to get the vehicle. OK, so something close to home was now part of the equation, so Harley stopped bidding and ran a new search. Eureka! Lots of trucks are located in the West. Keep in mind that we are allowed to buy a truck in any state of customizing that we see fit. What would you do? Buy a truck that has some work done to it already and use the money to improve it, or start out stock and build it your way but not make it overly custom? Harley chose the customized route as his starting point. Enter a '97 Chevrolet standard cab shortbed that was in Phoenix. The truck was already in a stage of customization with an '00 Cadillac front clip, shaved door handles, tailgate skin with a flipped handle, welded roll pan, Cadillac taillights, 20-inch wheels with an airbag suspension, and tweed/vinyl interior. It sounded right up our alley, so click-click-click and Harley was the leading bidder.

Soon enough, we strapped Harley in a borrowed Titan (thanks to Nissan Motor Corporation) and sent him to Phoenix for the retrieval of the $11,550 prize. He arrived in Phoenix to sweat-inducing summer temperatures in the neighborhood of 100 degrees F and talked with the owner of the truck to get some more background information. The owner popped out of the garage with the truck and Harley was in it, under it, and through it. With the inspection completed, the PayPal payment made, and the trailer loaded, he turned west and headed for the cool shores of South Orange County. Yes, you got it: He went there and back in one session.

Once we complete the buildup process for the eBay Motors project, it will be tested, shown, and then sold. We'll be taking the truck through its paces at a test-and-tune day at the famous California Speedway in October, before packing our things for a ride through the desert on our cruise to the Sport Truck/Truckin' Nationals in (can you believe it?) Phoenix. After some fun in the sun there, it's off to Las Vegas for the annual SEMA show in November, and we'll be getting a little break for December just so we can be relaxed enough to roll the eBay project into the Los Angeles Convention Center for the L.A. International Show in January. Then, my friends, the party will be over. The baby will be relisted on the eBay Motors Web site for auctioning, with all proceeds from the custom truck sale going to a great charity.

There will be some online voting for the best eBay Motors project during the SEMA show, so be sure to put in your vote for the Chevy. Voting starts November 1. For more information, check the action out online at www.editorscharitychallenge.com.