There just isn't anything quite like the feeling of rolling deep in a waxed-up, super-slammed, road-dragging ride. Tucking impressive quantities of blinding billet and sticky low-profile rubber bands is something that has to be experienced. Add in the fun of listening to a killer set of compact discs banging out all of your favorite hits through a mega-watt screaming sound system, and you can't help grinning from ear to ear. You watch heads swivel quickly when you cruise by and receive gratuitous thumbs-up because of the hard-earned chunk of change you dropped on your rolling artwork.
But what would you do if something happened to your baby? We're not talking about a simple scratch, we're talking about having it stolen.
Joe Bernal of Corpus Christi, Texas, is an enthusiast who had exactly that happen. One minute, his fully custom Expedition was outside his house, and in the blink of an eye, some low-down thief got his gloved hands on it and took it away. This left Joe with a hole in his heart and an even bigger hole in his wallet. His friends doubted that Joe could rise from the ashes, but rise he did. From that broken-hearted soul came this two-tone, fire-licked, '02 Chevy standard cab.
In January of 2002 - with a strong desire to rebuild and overcome - Joe headed down to the local Bow Tie dealer and promptly smacked down $19,000 for a spanking-new Silverado 1500 standard cab sporting the venerable 4.3L V-6. Joe and his brother, Big O, have a shop called Biggies Wheels and Accessories that needed a new shop truck to roll out at the competitive Texas shows. The brothers started with a blank, fresh canvas without the common bumps and scrapes associated with a used truck, and got started without any repair delay.
The brothers placed the truck in the able hands of the Thrill Factory in San Antonio. Out came the welders, plasma cutters, and grinders. You can't rightfully have a show truck with stock suspension, so the original upper and lower control arms, the front coils, and the boring archaic leaf springs were sentenced and condemned to the trash heap. Joining them were the spongy stock shocks and the entire factory mounts for the rear suspension. Now that the frame was in a more workable condition, the Thrill Factory enlarged the front spring cup to make a new home for Firestone 2,600-pound air springs. On went a set of DJM upper and lower CalMAX control arms, featuring urethane bushings and better geometry to compensate for the lowered ride height achieved with the airbags. Of course, airbags create a need to relocate the shocks, and this setup is no exception. The Thrill Factory created a spot to mount the Toxic shocks behind the control arms to damp the oscillation of the front suspension movement.
Sliding to the rear of the truck, Joe decided he didn't want to cut through the bed, so the Thrill Factory crew C-notched the frame instead of the usual bridge-notch. With all factory parts out of harm's way, a two-link was placed under the frame to handle the chore of holding the rearend in place. Keeping the side-to-side movement in check is an adjustable Panhard bar. Another pair of Firestone 2,600-pound airbags was fitted into place to handle the adjustable drive height with Toxic shocks, once again, soaking up the bumps. Air Ride Technologies was called upon for two compressors to fill the system, with two 10-gallon tanks to hold all that spare air.
The Thrill Factory knows that speed matters, so the entire air system was plumbed with 1/2-inch DOT air line and eight 1/2-inch valves to control each corner individually. With the suspension knocked out, it was time to move on to the paint.
Fabian "The Kandy Man" Villarreal and his crew at Kandy Kustoms in Corpus Christi, Texas, had some schemes and colors in mind when Joe rolled the truck in. After hearing Fabian's ideas, Joe decided on the flamed treatment you see gracing these pages. Kandy Kustoms pulled out some body tricks and shaved the door handles and tailgate handle, swapped out the Dumbo-like stock mirrors for a Street Scene set, laid on a Goodmark cowl-induction hood, bolted on a roll pan and front bumper cover - also from Street Scene - and covered the bed with a fiberglass tonneau. Fabian pulled out his spray gun and waved a shiny coat of House of Kolor Ice Pearl over the exterior of the shaved Chevy before mapping out the flames. House of Kolor Cobalt Blue and Oriental Blue were chosen to make the fiery exterior come to life. Fabian even laid flames under the hood and added the icing on the cake - a deep coating of clear.
Buffed to a mirror shine and rocking, a few details still needed to be addressed. Fabian decided a little more color was in order, so to please the artist's eye, a splash of the blue stuff was slapped on the dash face, the Bow Tie on the grille, and a few of the underhood items. All of the engine accessories also got a little pink pinstripe added to complement the soon-to-be finished interior. Completing the exterior transformation are Altezza-style taillights, projection headlamps, clear-corner lights, a Trenz billet antenna, a DJ Motorsports-flamed grille, and a neon license plate frame.
Addressing the need for interior refinement and music, Joe turned his attention to Audio Addiction/Kustom Kraft in Corpus Christi, where the crew put needle to thread and colored the seats, dash, custom center console, and door panels in two-tone-flamed tweed and pink vinyl. Music is a must, and this truck has plenty of it. This rolling display received a Sony head unit, a DVD player, and a PlayStation 2, pushing the video signal to a center-mounted Microvision display. Following closely are Audiobahn amps for the Audiobahn subs and separates. Six-inch mids and highs fill the doors, while two 10-inch subs beat through a custom enclosure behind the seats. For some eye-popping perfection and extra show points, a Trenz flame billet steering wheel and rearview mirror, billet switch plates, doorsill plates, a heater box cover, and pedals replace the sad and boring stockers. With everything done, it was time to bring some rolling stock to the street. Back at Biggies, the decision was made to place big rollers on the project. Foose Spank wheels, 20-inch in front and 22-inch at the rear, are wrapped by 255/35R20 and 285/35R22 Nitto tires.
Since the mission was to complete the truck for shows, it comes as no surprise the boys have garnered five First Place trophies at shows such as Heatwave, Rio Fest, and Bad Boyz. Rising from the ashes of a previously broken dream to such heights is attributed to hard work, dedication, and the help of family and friends. Joe would not have been able to make it happen without the support of his wife, brother, and parents. A special thanks goes out to MHT for the wheels, Dave Dominguez for the tires, and Fabian "The Kandy Man" Villarreal for the exterior vision. From the ruins of one lost dream arises a fresh vision to fill the void of a custom trucker's soul.