Custom Toyota Pickup - The Transformer
More than Meets the Eye
To see the beauty in some things, all you have to do is glance at them. To realize that other things are more beautiful than they appear, you have to look a little deeper. Ben Wood's Toyota is like that. It is an awesome mini in its own right -- all he has to do is open it up for show display and then stand back to see the expressions on others' faces who had no idea that this bright-orange mini had so many tricks up its sleeve. To get to the heart of the matter, we spoke with Ben himself who had all kinds of cool things to say about his ride, mini-truckin' as a pastime, and the scene as it pertains to him. Are you ready? Let's go.
MT: You ready to get drilled, Ben? When did you buy your Toyota?
Ben: (nodding) I bought it in 1997 and it was so stock, it didn't even have a stereo in it when I got it.
MT: Was it a stripped model?
Ben: Yeah, I'm the second owner of the truck.
MT: You work at Brand-X Customs in Temecula, California, right?
Ben: Yeah, I've been working with Alex and his crew now for about six months.
MT: Did you work for other shops before this?
Ben: Uh huh, I worked for Bio Kustumz.
MT: And you do fabrication work, right? How long have you been slicing up rides?
Ben: Counting the time I've spent working on my friends' stuff, probably about four years now.
MT: And how long has it taken you to build your Toyota?
Ben: I've been working on it for the last four years now.
MT: How did you get involved with mini-truckin'?
Ben: Um, well, it started off when I just wanted to lower my truck and just kind of went from there. I lowered it and it rode like crap, so I 'bagged it and then decided to do the subframe. It all went from there.
MT: How many suspensions would you say you've had on the truck since you've had it?
Ben: I've had two different suspensions -- no, wait! There has been three different setups on the truck.
MT: (laughs) It's pretty bad when you can't remember yourself, huh?
Ben: No kidding. It was bad when it was just slammed -- no notch, slammin' the rearend, just clangin.'
MT: How bad did you whack the friggin' frame before you subframed it?
Ben: When I started breaking rivets and stuff on the bottom of the bed, I decided it was time to do something about it.
MT: (starts laughing hard)
Ben: It handled great around corners, though.
MT: (still laughing but trying to be serious) How long ago did you cut the truck in half?
Ben: It has probably been a good three years now. I used 2x3-inch box tubing for the rear section.
MT: Is there anyone you'd like to mention who you couldn't have possibly gotten your truck to this point without the aid of?
Ben: I have to mention Brand-X Customs, of course. They hooked me up with all my valves and other stuff. Whenever I need to do little stuff, I just pull my truck in. Alex (the owner) is cool like that.
MT: Anyone else?
Ben: KMC Wheels, Chris Call (helped cut and buff the truck after paint and helps keep it looking good), Dick Simpson, my dad Dave Wood, Jeremy Bonnel at Loud 'n' Clear Stereo, Mark V Cleaning Products, Kustom Options, BFGoodrich, Randy Davidson at Airflex for my 'bags, Temecula Valley Paint, and Gabe Perez at Gabe's Restoration in Hemet, California. Man, there's more people involved than I thought.
MT: Projects seem to get that way, don't they? Are you done with your ride now?
Ben: Yeah, they do. I think I'm done with it for now. I just want to show it everywhere I can and enjoy driving it around.
MT: Was there more that you would like to have done to this ride?
Ben: Considering how much I learned on the truck, I think that the next ride will have more done to it, but I'm happy with this one for now. I body dropped this Toyota in my driveway at home, not knowing what the hell I was doing. I really had no clue, but apparently everything turned out all right.
MT: You're in Negative Camber, aren't you? How active are you with //NC\\
Ben: Yup, I'm in //NC\\ and I'm very active. My chapter goes to 40 to 50 shows a year. We've been to a show every weekend lately.
MT: It has been a really good month for shows around Southern California. I've seen you at all the ones I've been to. What do you think of the mini-truck scene?
Ben: The mini-truck scene is cool, but the partying side of it has gotten a little out of control. It's fun, but there's not enough people who are into the show side of it. I consider myself a bit more of a show purist than a partier.
MT: That sounds like me too. I've seen the scene become more about partying than showing. I think it's hurting the scene to a degree. Who gave your truck its nickname, The Transformer? Were you a Saturday morning cartoon junkie or what?
Ben: Nah, Alex from Brand-X gave the truck that name because it takes on a whole different look when it's all opened up for show. I like it all closed up and stealthy myself. People trip when they see it laid out and opened, though.
MT: Tell me a little bit about what you were doing last night before the photo shoot.
Ben: I had the whole dash torn out of it when you called me. I worked on it until after midnight. The whole interior was torn out; I had to pressure wash the whole thing before today because I've been showing it so much that I haven't had time to really detail it all.
MT: I appreciate you going the extra steps to make sure it looked its best for us. I'm sure you'll have thousands of mini-truckers drooling like starved dogs. What were you doing with the interior torn out?
Ben: I had an old set of ARO valves that were ridiculously slow. So, I went to 1/2-inch lines and SMC valves. I think they just might be the best valves out there.
MT: What are you using for air supply for those bad boys now?
Ben: I use two tanks; a 3-gallon tank and a 1-gallon tank. They're all tied in together, and I use an A/C compressor that's engine-driven to fill the tanks. After burning up a few regular compressors, I went high-tech. With the A/C compressor, the tanks go from empty to full in about 40 seconds to about 200 psi.
MT: Really? That's rad. We may need to run tech on hooking that type of system up.
Ben: I'm sure people would like it; it's the only way to go. It's just like running the A/C and the battery can't go dead because of it.
MT: So, what's next?
Ben: Possibly SEMA in November for this truck for KMC Wheels as well as my other ride that I'm also working on.
MT: What other truck?
Ben: It's 'bagged, chopped 4 inches, with a 4- to 5-inch body drop on a '93 Toyota that's pretty beat right now. It was a trashed prerunner that had 31s on it and beat into the ground until I came along.
MT: How much lower will the new truck be compared to this one?
Ben: It will be 6 inches lower overall: 2 on the body drop and 4 on the roof.
MT: We just might be talking about another cover truck.
Ben: Yeah, I'm gonna go big on the interior and stereo. A little bit of sheetmetal, fiberglass, tweed -- you name it.
MT: We're gonna be looking forward to seeing the next one now. Thanks.
Ben: I almost forgot to thank my parents and friends who have helped me. They put up with me cutting the crap out of my truck in the driveway. My dad would say, "What in the hell are you doing now?" They put up with a lot.
MT: Did the neighbors want to kill you for all of the late hours?
Ben: My parents live on two and a half acres, but I'm sure someone had to hear all of that noise.
MT: I really appreciate you being available for us on short notice. We've had a lot of orange trucks in MT this year, and I wasn't trying to make you wait forever for your chance on the cover.
Ben: It's cool, I understand, and I've seen all the past issues.
MT: What do you think of the new format on MT?
Ben: I like it, it's flashy. (The sound of Ben's Toyota hopping on air in the rear studio.) The features are a lot better now with better pictures and more core information about each truck in the spec boxes.
MT: Thanks for letting us use and abuse you for the day. We're all about making Mini Truckin' its very best every month, and your ride is definitely the shiz.
Ben: No problem, man. Thanks.