Tragedy Turned Into Triumph
There is something incredibly awesome about taking a completely stock truck and adding your personal flavor and taste of custom ingredients to make it your own. Once the ride is completed -- although to most show truck owners, they never are -- you get to stand back and experience a great deal of pride knowing that the gleaming showpiece in front of you was your creation, put together with your hard work, commitment, and vision.
The story behind this month's cover truck has an unfortunately sad beginning, but the ending is one of the most powerful stories this staff has experienced in a long time.
Stretched gracefully across these pages is one of the most insanely customized '95 Chevy fullsize pickups we have seen to date. It was the vision of a young man named Mark Zelfer, who bought the truck brand-new in 1995 and immediately began tearing into it to fulfill his ultimate dream of owning a super-low, fully shaved, graphic-enhanced winner. The truck went from stock to lowered to 'bagged, while all sorts of accessories were added and subtracted from the equation to keep up with the times.
In February of 2000, Mark's slick and smooth, daily-driven custom was keyed down to the metal on both sides and across the hood in a parking lot. Mark saw this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to tear the truck completely apart and go crazy implementing every single wild and wacky modification he had stored in his brain. The truck was dismantled, and the plan for a body drop, big wheels, a full color change with graphics, and one wild interior was put into action. Unfortunately, Mark's project came to a quick halt in May of 2000 when he was killed in an auto accident during Memorial Day weekend while in Mexico.
One can only imagine the effect this tragedy had, and continues to have, on Mark's family, but the love for their son and a strong commitment to his dream has helped them press on, despite their loss, and finish what "the man who lived for it" started.
Larry and Vicki Zelfer from Glendale, Arizona, are Mark's parents, and after going through probably the hardest thing any parent could ever experience, they pulled themselves together and proceeded to complete the dream their son had so passionately pursued before his death.
In January of 2001, after getting a recommendation from family friend Patrick Jones, Larry and Vicki delivered the truck to Tim Parker at Street Boutique Customs in Santa Clara, California, in a state of total disarray.
The windows were out, the front end was off, and several of the parts and the pieces that Mark had already purchased were scattered between shops. The truck had been partially body dropped, but the work was very poor and did not at all represent the quality Mark so clearly envisioned. Tim would fix all that and become a true hero to Larry and Vicki.
Tim tore into the truck with a vengeance. He started by re-bagging it the right way with good-quality welds on the chassis and quality air components. Starting the initial descent is Belltech 2-inch drop spindles complemented by Firestone 2600 airbags, which successfully set the Cadillac Escalade nose of Mark's dream down on the blazing Arizona tarmac.
Moving to the rear to complete the suspension stance Mark was striving for, Tim performed a 5-inch step-notch on the rear framerails and built custom 'bag brackets for another set of Firestone 2600 airbags, which successfully brings the roll pan down to earth. A collection of 1/4-inch airline flows air to and depletes air from the 'bags, while manual valves control height adjustments. Custom-built trailing arms were fabricated by Tim and installed out back to improve ride quality. After Tim finished getting the suspension right, it was time to perform the mother of all modifications: a wicked, pavement-hammering body drop.
You know Mark was smiling down on Tim the night he cut into the floor of his ride, since this step would put his truck into the category of awesome and unbelievable. Tim fired up his plasma cutter and proceeded to slice into the floor of Mark's Dream and raise the stock floorboards up 3 inches so the rockers would lay square on the shop floor below.
After the body drop was finished, Larry Kingsland at Boze Alloys agreed to throw a set of 20x8.5-inch Boze Stix on the truck, cushioned in Michelin P245/40ZR20 rubber, which was the perfect finishing touch to the radical drop. Sitting right behind the fresh, Boze-polished rollers is polished Baer Racing brakes, contributing a strong performance element to the show-truck picture. James at Dirt Cheap Parts in Phoenix supplied these blinding polished binders.
Larry and Vicki could not be happier, since their son's most prized possession was well on its way to becoming eligible for the cover of the World's Leading Truck Publication, and nothing would honor his memory more than its appearance in this coveted spot. After Tim finished the body drop, it was on to putting Mark's wishes for body and paintwork into effect on the exterior.
According to his parents, Mark wanted the truck to be something people remembered and talked about after they visually experienced all its modifications and beauty, so after hearing that, Tim knew he had his work cut out for him. Once again, Tim burned the midnight oil for an extended period and implemented the modifications that Mark was not given the chance to see.
Tim and the crew at Street Boutique Customs shaved the taillights, the door handles, the third brake light, the cab seams, the factory antenna, the gas door, the tailgate handle, and the stake-pocket holes to clean the skin up for the more serious modifications.
Once all the annoying factory features were shaved off the body, a Cadillac Escalade clip fit with a Trenz Manufacturing billet grille and a GMC Denali bumper were mounted up front to capture the Cadillac theme Mark wished for before he left this earth.
At the tail end, a custom-molded steel roll pan was teamed with a fully molded tailgate skin and Cadillac taillights for a rich and smooth look. As if all this intense metalwork was not enough, Tim went crazy on the inside of the bed to widen the bedrails and reconfigure the whole inside with sheetmetal that is as smooth as glass and curves up toward the cab at the bulkhead of the bed and up towards the tailgate at the back of the bed.
The finished look resembles a downscaled version of a half-pipe skateboard ramp, although we don't think Mark would be too thrilled about anyone trying to perform skateboard tricks in the bed of his hauler.
Upon completion of all the body modifications and metal massaging, Tim placed a phone call to Larry and Vicki to let them know that their son's truck was ready to go into the spray booth and be coated with the dream paint scheme that Mark had often talked about.
One can only imagine the amount of emotion that was expressed when that good news reached the Zelfer household. The dream that Larry and Vicki's son had wanted so badly to come true was on its way to being a rocker-dragging reality. As soon as the phone hit the receiver, Tim was hit with the sound of Vicki's tears of happiness, and he immediately loaded up his paint gun and started spraying.
First to be laid down was a glossy dose of the stock indigo blue over the nose, complemented by PPG Bright Silver Quartz from the doors back. Tribal graphics in the indigo blue hue cover the entire truck, racing down the sides, over the roof, through the inner bed, and down the tailgate area; they really set the exterior off.
After the tribals were laid down, Tim completed the intense exterior with PPG Light Royal Blue Satin checkers popping in an out of the tribals from nose to tail. Color-sanding and polishing commenced once the paint conformed to the wrinkle-free surfaces of Mark's Dream. It was now time to put on the finishing touches and call Larry and Vicki to let them know their baby's baby was ready to roll.
The Zelfer's could not believe that this was the same truck they had dropped off at Street Boutique Customs, and they were overjoyed that their son's dream truck had come out so incredibly awesome.
The efforts made by a mother and father committed to completing their son's customizing mission proved worth it, not only in the fact that they fulfilled Mark's wishes, but that the truck came out so nice that Truckin' editor Steve Warner gave it the coveted cover spot this month.
Several accolades at various shows have made all the work worth it, and members of the Sub Zero Truck Club of Arizona have always been there to lend a helping hand. When we all got together with Larry and Vicki to photograph the truck, the pride and joy evident in their eyes when we rolled it into the studio even made the Truckin' staff a bit weepy.
Congratulations, Larry and Vicki, for making the cover of Truckin' and for honoring the memory of your son so well in something he truly loved to do. We know for sure that Mark was in the studio that day in spirit with an ear-to-ear grin. His memory and commitment to our hobby of building and showing customized trucks will continue to shine through in this exceptional Chevy.