Arriving at Fort Hood, a detailed security screening was our first reality check that we weren't in SoCal anymore. We were on the world's largest military base and we were here to photograph a custom truck owned by a Silver Star-recipient Staff Sergeant in the Army. Driving past M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, we looked a little out of place in our 2010 Ram HD until we took a dirt side road and saw a 'bagged '08 Chevy Silverado awaiting its close-up. Giving it one final detail, Staff Sergeant William "Will" Payne had been waiting for this opportunity as long as he could remember. He told us, "I've always had a passion for trucks and I've wanted to own one that was cover-worthy." Only in America could two different worlds come clashing together with the common bond of custom trucks.
During our time with Will, we swapped stories of crazy photo shoots and our long road trip to Texas, while he humbly nodded and kept the real chaos of his military experiences to himself. Only after some prodding on our part, did Will tell us some of his stories. One of which changed his life forever. While on an operation in Sheik Maroof, a tough neighborhood of Baghdad nicknamed "Grenade Alley," an explosive-filled car sped into one of the squad's Bradley Fighting Vehicles and detonated-causing a huge explosion and setting the Bradley's rear gate ablaze. Capitalizing on the disabled Bradley, small arms fire began blasting down onto the street. Will recounts, "When I heard the concussion (of the explosion), I knew it was real and it was time to go." And go he did, as he set up his squad in strategic positions to provide cover fire, he grabbed Specialist Chase Ash and ran over to the burning Bradley. Using the strength of his 6-6, 290-pound frame, he ripped open the stuck top hatch and pulled all five soldiers out of the burning vehicle and lowered them down to Spc. Ash. "I didn't really have time to think about it," he tells us, "All the training just kicked in." Once the five men were in a safe position, Payne's squad teamed together and were able to evacuate the men from the hell hole and get them to the combat support hospital. "I owe everything to my squad," he was quick to tell us and just as we were impressed with his bravery and heroic efforts, so was the Army. Major General Pete Chiarelli made sure to attend the ceremony where Will's dad, a Dept. of the Army worker in Iraq at the time, awarded his son the Silver Star. This was our second reality check. As civilians, we take for granted what the brave men and women of our military do every single day.
Once the adrenaline had settled through our veins from Will's incredible story, we tried to focus on the job at hand-making a deserving man's dream come true. With an Abrams tank and Bradley in position, we aimed our cameras at his pride and joy. Built primarily in Southern California, the truck was 'bagged by HOT Motorsports using Ground Force spindles, Slam Specialties RE7 airbags, and Chris Alston's VariShocks. Out back, a KP Components six-link, with Watts link, Slam 'bags, and another set of VariShocks keep the frame on the ground. Tucking inside each fender are 24-inch Boss Motorsports 333 wheels wrapped in 295/35R24 Yokohama Advan tires. Each corner is controlled by a Dakota Digital air-ride system.
Powering the standard cab Chevy is the tried and true 5.3L. Equipped with a ProCharger supercharger, the V-8 mill is force-fed 7 psi of boost, that works with Gibson headers, Gibson exhaust, and an Edge CTS programmer to deliver more than 400 ponies to the rear tires. Trying to keep the Yokohama tires from spinning, an Auburn ECTED electronic locker rearend and 4:10 gears provide the traction necessary to blast down the Texas highways.
Turning heads on those highways is as easy as driving the truck in the sunshine and getting good light on the House of Kolor hues. Ryan "Ryno" Templeton, from Blast of Air, in Anaheim, applied the Orion Silver/Galaxy Grey and red two-tone paint scheme with intertwining flames. He also airbrushed the skull and crossed rifles on the tailgate, an appropriate military interpretation of the Jolly Roger. Gene, at B&G Collision, in Temple, Texas, handled all of the fit and finish work. Body mods for the Silverado include a full complement of Street Scene urethanes, a Leer tonneau cover, InProCarWear LED taillights, and an aggressive hood from RK Sport.
Inside the tight confines of the cab, Tony Hernandez, in Costa Mesa, California, chopped down and wrapped the factory seats in black leather with black suede inserts and stitched them in red. Mike Ungles then stepped in and built the fiberglass center console that is home to two Kicker 650.1 components, one 10-inch Kicker Solo X sub, and the Dakota Digital air-ride controls. Ryno applied matching flames to the top-half of the enclosure and then it too was wrapped in black leather and suede. To add some vibrance to the dark interior, the dash plastics were painted red and a set of US Speedo gauges were installed. Kinetik batteries keep the juices charged and also keep the two Kicker amps happy.
Driving the truck during our photo session, it's easy to see why Will likes his truck so much. Constant mashes of the throttle, bumping some Kid Rock at concert sound levels, and the up and down motion of the airbags, it's just the right escape from reality every man, and especially ever soldier, needs. As our short time with Staff Sergeant Payne ended, he was quick to thank his lovely wife Jonette, his daughters Madalyn and Olivia, and Mike Ungles for all of their help and support during the buildup process. It only takes one person to make a huge impact on someone's life and we came away from our experience at Fort Hood with humble spirits and a thankful attitude. We would like to thank all of you serving in our armed forces for your hard work and dedication.
Inside the Chevy, black leather and suede provide the luxury...
...and Kicker audio provides the rockin' tunes.
Painted plastics serve as the backdrop for a ProCharger supercharger feeding 7 psi of boos
"Ryno" Templeton, from Blast of Air applied his talents to the Silverado by way of a House