Toys are important objects in a kid's life. For many youngsters, automotive enthusiasm begins when they build that first Hot Wheels track on the living room floor or spend countless hours pushing Tonka trucks around the sandbox. Tonka trucks have been staples in most toy chests for many years. And building life-size renditions of childhood automotive toys is a popular build style to explore, and when it's done properly, these vehicles can be very powerful attractions in the custom truck world. Doug DeBerti of DeBerti Designs in Bakersfield, California, is known throughout the industry for building one-off custom trucks and SUVs that feature loads of meticulous fabrication and detail. His work has occupied a few Truckin' covers over the past couple of years, and each specimen that leaves his garage gets people talking. Mr. DeBerti's latest pair of stunners includes the Terminator, a heavily modified Ford Super Duty sitting on Mattracks and this stunning Tonka-themed '04 Ford F-150 4x4.
Similar to most builds that take place in the DeBerti shop, Tonka had to be built on a tight schedule to make it to the '03 Sema Show in Las Vegas. Ford Motor Company delivered the truck to DeBerti Designs' headquarters just five weeks before it was scheduled to debut on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As soon as the gloss-black F-150 was off the transporter, the DeBerti team began cutting, notching, grinding, and fabricating to create this bright-yellow masterpiece. The first step was to mount the 39.5x15.5x20 Interco trXus tires surrounding Weld 20x12-inch Commando wheels. Sounds easy enough, but the catch was that these massive meats were mounted under the truck at stock ride height. This was where things got interesting. Using a tape line to mark the outside diameter of the tires, the DeBerti team took a Sawzall to the factory fender flares and cut them clean off the body. Pretty courageous cutting to be doing on a brand-new truck, but one thing we have learned from working with the DeBerti team is they are not scared to do anything custom. Using a combination of cardboard and tape, fender flare templates were constructed to clear the extra-large rim and tire combo. The cardboard templates were digitized on DeBerti's high-tech machinery, and foam molds were machined to create the truck's new flares. For additional clearance, the floorboards were cut out and reshaped on both sides of the truck, providing excess room to move the wheels and rubber from side to side. Since the stock stance was left intact, the rear of the truck was dropped 2 inches to maintain a level ride height. With the goal of fitting the wide and tall wheel and tire combo under the stock, suspended F-150 achieved, it was time to cover the exterior with the requisite bold yellow to fit the Tonka theme.
The DeBerti team shipped Tonka off to Neirras Auto Body in Bakersfield, for a fresh blanket of color. The crew at Neirras delivered the goods by topping Tonka with House of Kolor Chrome Yellow. Once the fresh color sealed the envelope, the DeBerti crew rolled the truck back into the shop and began fabricating one-off billet aluminum components to highlight various portions of the truck's exterior. Custom, billet satin-aluminum bumper caps, a grille, bumper inserts, Tonka-style door handles, Ford logo-embossed aluminum towhooks, and fender vents were made to lend a high-tech touch to the otherwise monochromatic exterior.
Once the design team completed the outside flavor, the inner realm received its own share of wild updates. The dash, door panels, and center console were smoothed off and covered in a rich contrast of black and yellow. Classic Soft Trim was commissioned to wrap the seats, door panels, and headliner with a new satin-aluminum material. Complementing the off-the-hook interior is a full-throttle Sony sound system complete with a DVD player and two headrest monitors. Privileged pilots navigate Tonka in style behind a one-off DeBerti Designs' steering wheel while listening to the burly roar from the Borla stainless exhaust system.
Tonka is a high-quality, life-size version of one of America's most popular sandbox toys, and it does a great job of exhibiting the customizing potential inherit in Ford's F-150. The vehicle successfully blends the softer elements of a street truck with the rough-and-tough feel of a genuine off-road trail pounder. Doug DeBerti and the entire DeBerti design team has once again outdone themselves and created a ride that is built Tonka-tough and definitely hard to beat.