In general, Shales tells younger buyers of sport trucks to try to save up as much cash as possible, or build up the truck over time. He also recommends calling your insurance company beforehand to make sure what's covered under a policy. And to protect your investment, he says to make sure you take pictures and document any enhancements.

Hit The Gas
Of course, when it comes time to sportify your truck, going to a dealer's F&I department is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, partly because of the image of many parts departments-you know, the ones with a sleepy-eyed clerk behind the counter who struggles to figure out the difference between dubs and subs. That stereotype, however, is totally unlike what you will find at GAS, the customizing shop that handles those radical transformations featured on Pimp My Ride. If you haven't seen the show, rap superstar and car enthusiast Xzibit and car customization specialist Mad Mike take on some real clunkers, turning sows into silk. Joining them to put a new spin on vehicle customization is Beau Boeckmann of GAS.

To determine if it makes sense to rely on a dealer's aftermarket outlet, we spent some time at the new GAS facility, checking out the vehicles firsthand to cover the gamut of what the company does and to see how it differs from a low-volume custom operation.

Before GAS came into existence last spring, located at a former sofa store, right across the street from the dealership in Van Nuys, California, Galpin had a long history of customizing cars and trucks. The dealership, owned by Beau's dad, Bert, has been modifying vehicles for four full decades. It even invented the verb Galpinize to describe how it transforms cars. While not all of these one-off concepts have been big hits-and some have been a bit strange-the company takes credit for starting a number of automotive styling trends, such as van conversions and off-road accessories on four-wheel-drive pickups. He added winches, roll bars, foglights, and big wheels, among other items, stuff that seems routine in hindsight.

Today, Beau Boeckmann breaks down GAS vehicles into three basic menus: pre-packaged customs, customer-selected accessorization on a new vehicle, and those customers who bring in an older vehicle for modifications.

Starting with a pre-packaged custom, that may sound like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp, but he notes that, "We have two to three hundred vehicles on our lot that are already pre-customized."

As just one example, Boeckmann points to a row of Ford F-150 pickups, specially equipped for tailgate parties. The toys include a barbecue, a cooler, two beer taps, a satellite dish, a Sony PlayStation 2, and a big-screen television. Those extras can double the list price of the truck to about $70,000.

The dealership moves a staggering amount of iron every month, typically 300 to 500 vehicles, and roughly 25 percent of those are customized to some degree. And with these pre-customized pickups, there's no waiting, no fuss, and no muss. Also, you can usually finance the whole deal, assuming you have a decent credit history and can cough up a reasonable down payment. He's a bit vague about the loan details, since that varies with the profile of the customer, but a typical pre-customized pickup adds about $3,000 to $7,000 to the total purchase price.

Now on to Column B, the true custom category, at least from the standpoint of personalizing a pickup yourself. Here's where you can implement your own plan on a brand-new truck, with some customers adding as much as $50,000 or more worth of upgrades. The black Ford F-150 shown above is one such vehicle, loaded with ICE, a supercharger, custom paint and rims, and so on.

While GAS can do a lot of things to put more sport into your truck, it draws the line in certain areas: "We won't build any unsafe or illegal vehicles," Boeckmann says. "We'll lift the front 2 to 3 inches to level it out and add some fender flares." That's fairly mild in comparison to what most custom shops will do (recall the 10-inch lifts regularly handled by Norcal Truck), but then again, it doesn't necessarily offer the same low-interest financing deals.

As for lowering or airbags, that poses less of a problem, as long as no cutting of the framerails is involved. Minor body mods, such as a roll pan or shaving door handles, usually aren't an issue either.