When asked why he built his '97 Ford F-150 XLT into such a radical showpiece, Erick Stokes said he was inspired by the energy, excitement, and, most of all, the fun he had attending his first custom-truck event. He said he always wanted to build an outrageously cool rig since he first noticed wheels as a teen, but he had neither the money nor the vision until a few years ago when he started the project.

He didn't think it would take two years to complete, but soon after he began he found out just how difficult it is to build a one-of-a-kind custom. His first efforts at the suspension did not perform to his expectation, so he had to regroup, research the systems on the market, and find a shop that would help him achieve his goal.

That experience set him back a few months and a few thousand dollars -- ouch! But it got him focused. When he hooked up with Eric Scarlet's shop, First Class Autowerks in Oxnard, California, he knew from experience what he wanted, both from the shops he hired and for his rig. What he wanted was a bad-looking rig with a spectacular audio system and a show-stopping suspension system. The First Class crew went right to work installing and tuning the ½-inch ported Contitec 'bagged front and rear suspension system. On the nose, DJM arms and Doetsch Tech shocks back up the 'bags. Rearward, a Pete 'n' Jake's triangulated four-link is leveraged to give optimum travel for wild suspension effects. A pair of nitrogen bottles mounted on the raised bed floor feeds a 10-gallon storage tank. SMC fast valves control the pressure and reaction speed of this solidly engineered suspension system.

After the suspension system was installed and working properly, it was time for some First Class custom bodywork. The owner had the body smoothed by shaving the door handles and removing the emblems. He also had First Class install a Cobra-style cowl-induction hood and custom roll pan before having RK Sport install a Breezer rear pop-out window and fabricate a system that makes removing the rear quarter windows quick and easy. With the body styling makeover complete, next stop was the paint booth for the Pearl Blue flames.

The final stage of the project, and perhaps the most ambitious, was installing the multimedia system. For this he enlisted the services of Nathan Tapie, a talented enthusiast who worked more than 150 hours in his father's garage installing this killer system. The owner asked Tapie to build a system that provided both sonic and visual impact. To that end, Tapie built a custom sub box and amp rack and a center control console. He built special speaker enclosures in the doors to aim the component speakers in order to provide excellent audio image and sound quality. The systems features a Panasonic CD/DVD head unit and Audiobahn speakers, amps, and electronic crossovers.

The dual-amp system uses a 2,400-watt amp with capacitor to drive the subwoofers and a 1,200-watt amp to drive the top end of the system. Needless to say, this system rocks.

By any measure, Eric Stokes has built a stylish sport truck. His first effort really impresses the spectators at Southern California sport truck shows, and we expect great things from this enthusiast and his next sport truck.