A Diamond In the Rough
Sometimes, things in life happen that you never expect, and people end up going down roads that are off the beaten path. Building a customized show truck is a lot like taking the road less traveled because enthusiasts are creating something that takes on a different look than the countless stock trucks trampling across America's highways.
Anyone can go to a car dealership, sign on the dotted line, and drive out with a bone-stock grocery-getter, but it takes commitment, creativity, and perseverance to actually take a mental custom truck image and turn it into a rocker-crushing, head-turning reality.
The way the show scene has changed in the past few years has forced enthusiasts to get a bit more radical with their rides and rethink their battle plans for building the picture-perfect hauler. Today, the frame or the body has to be touching the ground and at least 20-inch wheels have to fill the fenderwells for a truck to be considered radical.
Mitch Diamond from Pueblo West, Colorado, is definitely one enthusiast who rocks the boat and pushes the envelope of originality when it comes to building custom pickups, and his latest creation is no exception.
Mitch is the owner of First Strike Design, formerly known as Diamond Aerosports, in Pueblo, Colorado, and he built the House of Kolor Candy Lime Green '95 Chevy pickup seen here to market his new line of custom grille housings and roll pans.
The goal within an eight-month time frame was to make it to the 2001 SEMA Show in Las Vegas with the truck sitting as pretty as it does in these photographs, and Mitch pulled it off and got the cover of this month's Truckin' to boot.
Mitch picked up the truck in '98 for a reasonable $14,000 and immediately performed a 5/6-inch drop and slapped on a set of 17-inch wheels and tires. The body was adorned with a classy two-tone paint scheme, and the truck was used as a shop truck for chasing parts and going on lunch runs.
After prototyping the first new First Strike custom grille and rear roll pan using the shop truck as the guinea pig, Mitch decided to retire the Chevy from daily shop duty and make it a showpiece.
Drastically dropping the stance was the first area of concern, since a truck dropped with fixed suspension can no longer survive in an adjustable-suspension world. Without hesitation, Mitch installed Belltech 2-inch dropped spindles and Firestone 2600 airbags under the frontend to get the nose cozy with the Colorado soil.
Smoothing First Strike's ride are KYB shocks forward and aft. Bringing the back end down level with the nose was accomplished by a host of products from Ektensive MetalWorks in Houston. An Ektensive bridge-notch allows the back axle room to roam when Mitch deflates the rear Firestone 2600 airbags, while a rear two-link system with a Panhard bar keeps the differential solid and centered.
Plumbing for the fast air suspension system is handled by 3/8-inch hard air lines from Ektensive, two Thomas 317 air compressors, and a nitrogen bottle mounted neatly to the bed side. The switches allowing First Strike to be laid out for shock value and raised up for driveability are electric units from Ektensive.
Since a rather potent powerplant was slated to occupy the engine compartment, Mitch placed a call to Stainless Steel Brakes in New York to have them send out slotted rotors and performance calipers, enabling First Strike to come to a halt when his right foot gets a bit too heavy. Mounted over the top of the performance brake system are highly polished Intro Pentia billet wheels shoehorned on Toyo low-profile rubber.
Tucked neatly under the front fenders are 20x8-inch Intro Pentia billets encased in Toyo Proxes P245/35ZR20 skins, while the rear suspension is capped off by 20x10-inch Intro Pentias cushioned by Toyo Proxes P275/30ZR20 rubber bands. With the frame modifications in check and the suspension slicing dialed, Mitch and his crew at First Strike let the truck down off the jack, and the frame punished the pavement. The truck was laying frame and tucking boatloads of rim, but that was not enough for Mitch.
He jacked the truck back up and proceeded to body drop it 2-1/2 inches until the rockers pounded the shop floor. Now that the stance was nailed, it was time to focus on giving the engine bay a high-horsepower tenant along with the mandatory show truck touch.
Giving Mitch's 'bagged and body-dropped Bow Tie a fresh heartbeat was achieved by installing a '92 IROC tuned-port injection 350ci small-block Chevy motor. The engine was originally intended to go in a customers street rod, but after the customer's buddies told him you can't put a Chevy in a Ford, Mitch bought the motor and dropped it in the truck.
Performance modifications were limited to Gibson chrome headers and a Gibson 2-1/2-inch exhaust system. A Street & Performance air filter, polished billet valve covers, and polished March Performance pulleys and brackets take care of detailing, while a splash of Candy Lime Green on the TPI system adds a hint of color.
Putting this newfound power to the pavement is a 4L60-E transmission, mildly massaged by Mountain View Transmission in Pueblo West, Colorado. After the motor was nestled in its new surroundings, Mitch got busy putting his customizing signature on the body.
Seeking a truly different-looking, '88-to'98-style Bow Tie pickup, Mitch busted out his welder and locked himself in the shop to create the aggressive lines on First Strike's body. First off, the bed was widened 6 inches, the taillights were shaved, and the bed steps were removed to create sleeker lines.
A custom prototype roll pan with air channels and columns coming down to split the air channels into small sections was fabricated and mounted up. Three Hitech Products L.E.D. taillight strips were frenched into the roll pan with one located just above each air channel to warn close followers of sudden stops and to contribute a noticeable street rod touch. Further promoting the street rod look is another Hitech L.E.D. light frenched into the top of the cab.
Shaved cab seams, rounded door corners, and shaved door handles give the cab that smooth-as-glass look, while custom-sculpted mirrors help keep opposing traffic in view. The lower pockets in the bottom of the body were curved and softened at their end points on the front fender and bed for better aerodynamics.
Adorning the nose is a steel, smooth front bumper and the aggressive First Strike Design custom grille shell complemented by First Strike headlight covers and a Trenz billet grille insert. The custom-made grille facelift piece and uniquely styled roll pan are now available from First Strike Design in Pueblo West.
Once all the body modifications were sealed and Mitch had successfully put his metal altering signature on First Strike's skin, he rolled it into his brand-new spray booth and coated the exterior from nose to tail with eight coats of House of Kolor Candy Lime Green. The shiny green glow was sealed in with five coats of clear. Upon completion of hours of color sanding and polishing, the truck was rolled out of the booth, loaded up on a trailer, and hauled over to Sunshine Audio in Pueblo West for a healthy sound system.
Filling the cab with rocking harmonies comes by way of an Alpine CDM 7871 head unit, an Alpine V12 amplifier, mids and separates in the doors, and a Kicker 10-inch square subwoofer. Sunshine Audio installed all the stereo gear and built the trick center console that Mitch designed, put the finishing touches on, and painted in Candy Lime.
Mitch Diamond has made quite a statement with the unique look of his First Strike custom Chevy. This is truly a truck that was built right, with an emphasis on good craftsmanship, solid design, and intense detailing. First Strike is a truck that needs to be looked over several times before all the trick modifications can be noted. Mitch would like to thank Intro Wheels, Toyo Tires, Stainless Steel brakes, Gibson Performance Exhaust, Ektensive MetalWorks, Hitech Products, Trenz Manufacturing, and Nordskog Gauges for contributing product to make First Strike a smash hit custom pickup. Also on the long list of thanks is Mitch's wife Pearl who has supported this project since day one. This bright-green cruiser will definitely strike your fancy.