There comes a time in every person's life when they must step back and take stock of a project truck. When you're so deep, deep, deep into a project that you can't see the light at the end of the work bench, when your wife dare not enter the garage for fear of being pelted by a flying Crescent wrench, when the money runs out and all hope is lost, you have to make a decision. You can either cut your losses and run as fast as you can away from that hole in the garage draining your pocketbook, run just as fast to the bar to spend your last buck on some suds to drown your sorrows, or simply take a break from the madness and pick up where you left off when you're in a better place, mentally. Each alternative has its merits, although we've never seen beer magically make bodywork disappear, and running away from home doesn't look too cool once you're out of high school. God knows we've seen quite a few projects change hands when the money runs out. We've also seen a bunch just wither away into a pile of rust after being pushed outside into the elements, only to be forgotten. Either scenario is a dismal end to something that had all the potential in the world to be a fun truck to drive, if you could just see it through to the end.
The following pages of Sport Truck are dedicated to some folks who have a great shot at seeing their projects through. Some are further along than others, and there's always a chance that a few won't make it to that magical land of painted sheetmetal and completed interiors. But, each owner has one thing in common: They are all nuts. These are arguably the most hardcore sport truck owners and builders on the planet. The trucks you are about to see are sick and wrong and we love them for it. They are long-term labors of love. Some have been under construction for five years or more. We'd be surprised to see a daily driver among this lot, even though a few are being built to be driven hard and fast. We have everything from insanely fast turbo'd mini-trucks to ultra-hammered fullsizes, so there's bound to be something you can glean inspiration from. So, sit back, relax, and hit the fan in the bathroom, because you're gonna be here for awhile drooling over the detail work of the best project trucks in America.
Mike Alexander plays with trucks for a living and so does his friend, Aaron. While most of Mike's time is spent on the road with a camera strapped to his neck as the editor of Mini Truckin' magazine, Aaron, on the other hand, can most often be found with a MIG-welder in his hand at his shop, Chassis By Aaron. No doubt about it, Aaron has mad skills and he's used most of them on Mike's mini. Mike's truck still somewhat resembles an old 'Yota, but that semblance stops at the highly modified sheetmetal. The underpinnings are the stuff dreams are made of, and Toyota Motor Corporation had nothing to do with it.
Beneath the chopped and body-dropped exterior lies an unfinished chassis that is completely off the deep end. Forget that, among a sea of square-tube chassis, this one stands out with round bars. Also, forget about the fact that this particular chassis is a non-perimeter design. No, what really stands out here isn't that all the extraneous devices are hung off the center of the truck, it's the suspension itself. We've watched onlookers stare at the IRS at shows and try to explain it to each other, most of the time failing to trace the maze of levers and cams that make this mini lift off the ground. Get this: The rear suspension features two airbags, two air cylinders, and a pair of coilover shocks just to make it lift off the ground and, hopefully, ride like a Caddy. To date, the truck hasn't yet seen the road, so the jury is still out as to how well it will work. It sure looks cool, though.
The frontend is just as trick, with an airbag doing the work of cycling the suspension throughout its range of motion and a third control arm that effectively locks the air spring out of the equation when Mike doesn't feel like lifting the truck up and down. With the installation of a pin into that third arm, the suspension will ride solely on the Bilstein coilover shock, which will naturally ride better than the 'bag alone, because the coilover offers both spring rate and damping control.
We picked Mike's mini as one of the sickest project trucks in America, not only because the engineering and fabricating are unique, but also because he carried that effort over into the bodywork and the engine. After all, a sport truck must go as well as it shows, right? LC Engineering of Lake Havasu, Arizona, pulled the parts necessary to build a pump-gas-burning, fire-breathing four-banger. Mated to a five-speed manual, this engine will have no trouble pinning Mike in the seat of his truck, which can't weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
When you factor in the work involved in lopping 2 inches out of the roofline and the bed length of this truck just to make his mini-truck even smaller and yet still proportionate, it's easy to see just how possessed Mike must be. Imagine investing this much effort into a truck that might never return even half the investment. This is love, right here. This thing is body-dropped, shaved within an inch of its life, and full of one-off sheetmetal touches that extend from the exterior to the interior. In short, this is one bad mofo, and we hope Mike finds the time and money to someday drive it. The only other road blocks we can see to that end might be the five other project trucks he has stashed throughout the state.
Mike Alexander / Ontario, California
2.2L four-banger / five-speed manual tranny / custom aluminum fuel cell built by Chassis By Aaron
Engine work by LC Engineering
FRONT: 19x8-inch one-off Boyd Coddingtons / 225/35ZR19 Nitto NT555s
REAR: 19x10-inch one-off Boyd Coddingtons designed by Mike / 275/35ZR19 Nitto NT555s
FRONT: Contitech airbags connect to a pivot arm and connecting rod to raise and lower the suspension / Bilstein coilover shocks control the ride and feature a mount that isolates the airbag so the truck rides solely on the coilover
REAR: '92 Toyota Supra IRS centersection / axles shortened 3 inches each side by Dutchman Motorsports / hubs swapped from left to right and new mounts were fabricated / cantilever-mounted airbags actuate a lever arm to rotate a cam that raises and lowers Bilstein coilover shocks / a second arm locks out the cam using air cylinders so the truck only rides on the coilovers / handbuilt tubular chassis / tubular control arms pivoting on uni-balls / custom steering
Aaron Iha from Chassis By Aaron
3-1/2-inch body drop / 2-inch choptop / bed shortened 2 inches to remain proportional to cab / everything is shaved off the sheetmtal / suicide driver-side door / one-off Grant Kustoms front bumper / Grant Kustoms tailgate skin / Silver Star Customs LED lighting / gas filler relocated to driver-side doorjamb / Asco valves / Air Zenith compressors / custom air tanks
Chassis By Aaron
First and foremost, Aaron Iha for his dedication and mad skills (None of this would be possible without him. This has truly turned into a labor of love!); Chris at Boyd Coddington Wheels, Nitto, the boys at Grant Kustoms, Steve at RCD, Dale, Woods, Chad, Ben, Jerry, and anyone who's picked up some Scotch-Brite and WD-40 and went to town; Mike's wife Ashley for all her patience and support; Christine, Aaron's girl, for all her support, letting us play with this truck for so long; Kaik Products, LCE, Wilwood, Air Zenith, and anyone else who was roped into helping out; all Mike's friends and family in Severed Ties.