You wouldn't think that Florida is a 4x4 paradise, but it is. Granted, the Sunshine State has no mountains, nor do deep places figure prominently there, except for sinkholes or swimming pools. No, it's all about the water. Florida is surrounded by oceans, loaded with lakes and rivers, flooded by fluid both below and above ground, and soaked by torrents of rain. This results in mud - big, messy mounds of mud. When you consider that the state supposedly used to lie at the bottom of the ocean, it's no surprise to see sand. So, imagine plowing through pine forests and next to clusters of squat palmetto bushes over an ever-shifting sea of mud and sand, and you have the Florida off-road experience - hot, wet, and gritty.
Enter Ridin' XXL, James "Cameron" Aguero's '93 Chevy K3500 that's garaged in Brandon, Florida. With a 30-inch lift, this 9-foot, 10-inch-tall truck might qualify as the highest point in Hillsborough County. Lee Childers, in Lithia, Florida, is responsible for the truck's dramatic lift. Look underneath the body (you won't have to stoop down too low), and you'll see custom leaf springs, Panhard bars, steering linkage, and painted shock hoops, shocks, and ladder bars that make for a nice and functional presentation when the undercarriage isn't plastered by mud. The four Weld Scorpio V two-piece forged alloy truck wheels, measuring 16.5x14 inches and wrapped in knobby IROK 21x49x16.5 tires, are damped by dual Rancho nitrogen-charged shocks. The tires, installed by Tire Kingdom, measure 50.2 inches high.
This truck bears a resemblance to two of the best four-wheelers in Florida, which re neither truck nor machine. It runs, digs, and crashes through the underbrush like an armored armadillo. But no bony hide constrains this ride. Tiger stripes and leopard spots are reminiscent of a local breed of big cat - the Florida Panther. For the most part, this flareside extended-cab pickup has a straightforward orange pearl color scheme that looks burnished by the color of the sun. The windows, however, were all replaced by Gatorz Auto Glass and camouflaged by the chrome and orange tiger-like stripes crafted by Alley Cat Customs in Tampa, Florida. The feline theme continues inside with leopard-spotted details throughout the cab.
Shaved door handles and a flipped tailgate lend some street-truck styling to this off-road aficionado, as do a '98 grille with an APC billet insert and a Bow Tie that grins over a '98 chrome smoothie bumper, while APC taillights gleam over a custom roll pan in the rear. Stainless steel bed panels add a cool variation from the usual black and plastic truck bed treatments. The bodywork, minus the graphics, was ably handled by TLC in Ruskin, Florida. Back inside, Childers installed a chrome-moly eight-point rollcage, no doubt to tame this beast, but the cage's leopard-spot detailing makes the truck look even more dangerous. Gray vinyl, tweed, and leopard spots on the dash, doors, and subwoofer box, courtesy of C&J Custom Upholstery Shop in Tampa, resembles a bachelor pad on wheels, sans wet bar. Steering the truck is a 14-inch carbon-fiber wheel with a billet horn and adapter.
Behind bucket seats borrowed from an Escalade rests a sealed enclosure that houses six 10-inch Audiobahn Fat Boy subwoofers and three MATTS amplifiers (two 1,600-watt models for the subs and an 800-watt amp driving the speakers). Infinity 4x6-inch component speakers in the dash, 6x9s in the rear, and 6-1/2s in the doors cover the highs and mids, and an Alpine source unit heads up the sound system. Car Stereo World installed all the audio components.
Under the hood lurks a '93 275hp eight-cylinder 350 with a K&N air filter and enlarged throttle body, and a Flowmaster 2.5-inch exhaust system. Brandon Transmission built a custom Turbo 400 tranny with straight-cut gears, 2,000-stall converter, and a B&M Shift Improver Kit. A GM 14-bolt rearend with 5.13 gears and a locker rounds out the powertrain.
Aguero competes at local events and has won about 25 trophies so far. All of the companies mentioned in this story, except for APC and the audio vendors, sponsor Aguero's competition efforts, a fact that he appreciates greatly. One sponsor yet to be mentioned, Golf and Darby Auto Detailing, has perhaps the most difficult challenge of all, keeping a truck that's at home in the mud clean enough for the showroom floor. He also holds a high regard for Childers, who, in Aguero's words, built the heart and soul of the truck. As for the heart and soul of his life, Aguero sends special thanks to his wife Tammy and son Austin.
Take a good look at Ridin' XXL, but don't get too attached to what you see, since Aguero plans to make some big changes to the truck. Whatever form the truck takes, it will still be for mudding, crawling, and smashing through the Florida countryside and for a simple yet compelling reason, "I love four-wheel drives, they make my son happy," says Aguero. We can't argue with that.