The greatest custom trucks are never really finished. It's true. The ones that really push the limits of creativity, ingenuity, engineering, and style end up becoming constant works in progress because they break new ground, venturing into territories of truck customization that few others would dare to enter. This means that these trucks end up getting built, road-tested, and tinkered with, and then, maybe then, they'll get blown apart to be dressed up for show. Lots of them never make it that far, and it's rare that they make it past the initial planning, build phase, and testing to the promised land of paint and interior work. We're cool with that. Most times, it's the unfinished truck stashed in someone's home garage or in a dusty corner of a shop that really appeals to our sense of custom. With so many cookie-cutter customized trucks rollin' today, it's the ones that usually never see the light of day that end up being innovative.
Here are four new rides that fit the bill and have at least a shot of seeing the road and the show circuit one day. Each one carries weight in the world of horsepower, styling, and fabrication. But each one also leads by a different example, bending the envelope of coolness and possibility in a different direction. Some flex big-time body mods, while others are a testament to the skills of the fabricator behind the custom frame work. No matter what the case, each will give inspiration to anyone looking to build a truly killer custom sport truck.
Since its introduction in 2004, the Nissan Titan has continued making converts in the truck world and making the suits in the Big Three squirm in their driver seats. Offered in King Cab or Crew Cab, this fullsize truck turns heads and collects awards for its performance, comfort, and solid hauling capacity. For the second year in a row, J.D. Power named the Titan "Most Appealing Large Pickup" based on owner satisfaction. Consumers Digest made it one of their Best Buys, and Popular Mechanics voted it their first choice two years in a row. And did we mention how hot it looks?
It comes by its front-runner status honestly. Titan's boxed frame adds considerable strength compared to a standard C-shaped rail. Two-wheeldrive models are fitted with Dana rear axles (front and rear Danas on 4x4s) and boast a 1-ton payload with a 9,500-pound towing capacity. The flex-fuel Endurance 5.6L engine is the biggest in its class, pumping out 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. Electronic Brakeforce Distribution automatically adjusts the four-wheel vented discs based on additional cargo weight. All this means that this hauler goes and stops as good as it looks.
So, what do you do with a vehicle that's loaded with just the right mix of utility, luxury, and style? Make it better, of course! Because our charter clearly reads "Thou Shalt Not Drive Stock," we've tracked down what will soon be one of the baddest Titans on the planet. Jimmy Graham and the team from Scrape-n-Customs in Edgewater, Florida, are no strangers to these pages. They create cover-quality customs on a regular basis such as the stunning S-10 belonging to Jenn Lacey Jimmy's fiance) that's been featured in multiple national magazines. Jimmy's latest automotive adventure is to lay out his new '07 Titan Crew Cab XE and ease the frame to the asphalt while rollin' on 24s and still able to tow Jenn's truck to shows around the country. We rolled into his shop to give you a peek at exactly what's in store.
At the time of our photo shoot,...
At the time of our photo shoot, Jimmy had been working on the Titan for six weeks-a strictly spare-time project after customers' vehicles were completed. he expected to have the ultimate shop truck rolling within the following few weeks.
A longtime Nissan fan, Jimmy bought his new '07 Titan Crew Cab XE with the intention of creating the ultimate shop truck. Once the complex lowering job is complete, the Crew Cab will become the shop tow vehicle, pulling the trailer that holds Jenn's S-10 while providing plenty of room in the cab for the shop staff. All of the mods will be handled in a way that will not change the Titan's impressive 9,500-pound towing capacity.
The first step in the process was C-notching the frame 6.5 inches and narrowing the rearend 2.25 inches on each side to ensure the big wheels fit inside the factory fender lip. Jimmy designed a parallel four-link setup and Watt's linkage for stability. The air suspension uses two 5-gallon aluminum reserve tanks, a pair of Air-Zenith compressors, Air Ride Technologies 9100 sleeve bags rated at 2,000 pounds each, 3/8-inch stainless lines, and ASCO valves. A new stainless steel fuel tank will replace the plastic factory version that hangs a little too low, and the rear crossmember was cut and will be reworked for driveshaft clearance. Jimmy is also creating his own hidden trailer-hitch design that will come through the stock bumper.
Thanks to a floor jack in...
Thanks to a floor jack in front and a creeper chair in the rear, we were able to simulate what the 24-inch Velocity U2-55 rims and 35-series Nankang rubber would look like once they're installed. The truck is not body-dropped-its asphalt-scraping stance comes entirely from sophisticated suspension mods.
The front end uses 4-inch dropped spindles that were custom-made by Max at Bio Kustoms in California. After eliminating the factory spring pocket, Jimmy built new tubular upper and lower A-arms that are 2 inches shorter than stock. The frame was Z'd 1.5 inches, allowing the wheels to travel upward just enough to make front and rear level, both within about 1 inch from the ground. The front end uses RE-7 Slam bags with 3/8-inch lines. The factory sway bar will be retained thanks to relocated mounting brackets. Inner fender panels complete the suspension package. The measured lift is a huge 14 inches of travel with very little camber deflection when the front wheels are tucked into the fenders. Jimmy has a set of 24-inch U2-55s from Velocity wrapped in 295/35R24 Nankang rubber. They are the same diameter as the stock 18-inch Titan tire, so the speedometer and engine computer will read correctly.
To provide clearance for the hood, the motor will be lowered approximately 1.5 inches by cutting the motor mounts. All of the original factory controls like ABS, traction control, and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution will be retained, although the modules will be relocated. The brake booster will be moved over 2 inches to clear the wheel when the truck is on the ground. The electrical relay box and engine computer will find new homes somewhere on the firewall. Both batteries will be moved to the rear to free up room in the engine compartment.
The bed will be the final step, with tubs added to clear the tires and the floor raised 5 inches to maintain a stock appearance. Since this will be a true shop vehicle, the bed will probably be protected with Rhino Lining.
Stay tuned for photographs of the finished truck easin' through the weeds but still strong enough to tow a trailer!