Old School Mods for Mini Trucks - Retro Is Back

The Best Vintage Mods For Minis

Mike Alexander
Oct 1, 2005
Contributors: Chad Lucas
Photographers: Mike Alexander, Chad Lucas
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Every few years, our sport gets a breath of life, thanks to a new style or trend. Recently, big wheels have made a push into the mini-truck world. Before that there was the body drop, and before that, of course, airbags. And way before the fiberglass and big and small look of the '70s and '80s, there was the hot rod. The mini-trucks of today have evolved into the modern hot rod for many reasons: Detail, custom modifications, innovation, and originality are all part of that equation. Lately, however, it seems more and more apparent that the retro look is coming back in a huge way. From scallops to white walls and chop tops to tuck-and-roll interiors, these vintage looks are definitely impacting today's mini-trucks and are popping up at shows nationwide. We decided to take a closer look at these old-school modifications that have found their way into the mini-truck scene by putting together a conglomeration of the coolest retro mods we could find.
Pinstriping
Pinstriping, or line art, can be traced back to the Roman Empire. However, it was made famous on the automotive side by people such as Tommy the Greek and Von Dutch. Killer pinstriping work adds that extra flair to your paintjob. Whether it be swirls, gold leaf, scroll work, or traditional pinstriping, this is one retro element that will be used by mini-truckers for years to come.
Satin/Suede Paint
Satin/suede paint - or as some would call it, glorified primer - has also been around for decades. Hot-rodders were the original mini-truckers, and just like us they couldn't afford to build their vehicle to the extent of their imagination all in one quick swoop. As such, the vehicles would remain primered for long periods of time until the owner completed every mod that was in their head. Just as some mini-trucks, many would remain forever primered.
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Flake paint
More than just a lowrider trend, flake paint has really made a comeback in the custom-truck world. Back in the day, street rods would have heavily flaked roofs and solid-color body panels. The trend evolved into flaked flames over primer, and eventually flake crept its way into the everyday custom paintjob. Jared Crutchfield at Classic Traditions has a talent for old-school paintjobs and laid down these crazy flaked licks on Brian Hale's S-10. Check out www.classistradi tions.net for a closer look at some old-school paintjobs.
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Scallops
Scallops - not the seafood - are the retro way to two-tone your ride or add stylized graphics. Scallops are characterized by dual swooping lines, and if done right, this style of paint looks incredibly good on mini-trucks. Our retro feature, Tom McWeeny's XXX Sled, is a perfect example. Scallops are an ultra-traditional yet ultra-effective way to get that retro look.
Pinups
Who cares if you're going for a retro theme? Seductive ladies adorning your ride gives you reason to wake up in the morning. Artwork such as this was done on planes way back in the day (such as the Memphis Belle) as well as rods. The pinup was an American icon that was introduced in the '30s and would be equivalent to a risqu magazine today. There are several mini-trucks rolling the streets with old-school pinups, as well as more modern pinups that might make your mom blush.
The Chop Top
Mini-truckers obviously aren't the inventors of the chop top. For decades, roof lines have been brought down in an effort to lower the total height of a truck or car and give it a custom look and feel. One shop in particular that's known for chopping the top of almost every truck that rolls into its garage is IF Customs in Sylmar, California. The crew there has been steadily building the world's lowest trucks for the past six years, and with every roofline reduction, they only get better. For more information on one of the coolest body mods on a mini-truck, check out www.ifcustom.com.
Taillight Conversions
Another body modification that has found a home in the mini-truckin' community is the use of old car taillights. Mini-truckers are notorious for modifying anything stock on their truck, including the taillights. LEDs, Caddy tails, and a few others are commonly used after a stock taillight is shaved. Lately, however, we have seen a few minis using the old '37 Ford teardrop tails, as well as the old-school '59 Caddy bullets. Or if you're really feeling ballsy, you can go all-out like the Grant Kustoms sheetmetal Tacoma and redo the entire rear of your mini-truck to resemble an old-school Chevy.
Frenchin' (Not the Kiss)
The old-school kustoms would sink their antenna, license plate, and even their headlights and taillights into the body for a cleaner look. This modification quickly became dubbed frenching, and has been used on mini-trucks for all the same reasons.
Styling
What better way to get that old car flavor than to steal a part off of it? We spotted a mini running around with Buick/Oldsmobile portholes installed on the front fenders. Also, some mini-truckers have taken it upon themselves to find new ways to use other old parts. Old-school bumpers, such as this modified '69 Chevy Camaro bumper on Rico's S-10, adds a little old flair to the lines of modern mini-trucks.
Steel Dash Conversions
A few years ago, mini-truckers got the itch to take their interiors to a whole new custom level and began to build steel and fiberglass dashes for their rides. Last year, we did a cool retro dash install in the Nov. '04 issue using a metal dash from a '60 Oldsmobile. As of late, we have seen more and more mini-trucks coming out using old steel dashes. For example, Eli Griffin's Mazda, our Retro Special cover truck, modified a '51 Ford dash to complement his classic theme. Gerber also went the old-school route with his first-generation S-10, sporting a dash and Dakota Digital setup from a '56 Chevy.
Bench Seats/Tuck-and-Roll Interior
Bench seats aren't just a way to get a little closer to your girl anymore - they can also be used to add old-school flava when upholstered in a vintage tuck-and-roll fashion. In the 1973 classic car movie American Graffiti, Terry gets out of his car to let Debbie feel his tuck-and-roll interior. Tuck-and-roll consists of the center section of the seats using vertically stitched channels, and the outside edge swoops completely around, unadulterated, for that truly classic look.
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Big Steering Wheels
The big classic steering wheel addition is not necessarily fat-guy-approved, so some of us are out of luck on this one. However, if your truck is stock-floored or you can fit your skinny butt in there, many of the old steering wheels are very intricate and really complete the interior of any retro-style mini.
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Shifters/Knobs
Larger-than-life shifters bejeweled with the craziest shift knobs or whatever attached to make people gawk has steadily become more apparent among the mini-trucker crowd. Shift knobs modeled after grenades, gun handles, skulls, beer taps, brass knuckles, and unexplainable creatures have been around for years, but are still very at home in the retro mini-truck market.
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Old-School Insignia
We say old-school insignia is definitely a little cooler than letting people know what rim size you have with a chrome 22-inch sticker on your fender. Classic car moldings, side trim, and badging, completely restored with colors accenting your ride, will add that classic look and feel to complement the old-school theme.
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Old-School Gauges
Classic gauges make for a killer look in any mini-truck interior. Whether you want to upgrade your stock dash, add flair to an old-school dash, or just want some cool-looking gauges, check out the following Web sites. Auto Meter (www.autometer.com) has everything, from old-school classic gauges to the company's brand-new Nexus line. If digital gauges are more your style, check out www.dakotadigital.com.
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Whitewalls/Wheels
Whitewalls are timeless, and although 14-inch whites are easy to find, there are bigger, more hard-core alternatives. For years, whitewall tire makers (shops that essentially take standard tires and melt a white lining around them) had to make a living off classic car collectors going for that authentic look. But now, more and more mini-trucks seem to be catching that old-school retro bug. The original wheels customizers used to shine on the weekends were smoothies, rallies, and Lakesters. Companies such as Wheel Vintiques have a full line of old-school shoes as well as updated larger billet versions. Check 'em out at www.wheelvintiques.com.
Online Sources
Parts and Information
www.autoloc.com - Flame throwers, hot-rod gauges, old-school horns . . . need we say more?
www.bitchinproductsinc.com - Check out these '50s aluminum air cleaners
www.dbtires.com - Diamondback Classics can custom-vulcanize your choice of wide whitewall, red line, blue line, and gold line tires as large as 20 inches
www.ebay.com - If all else fails, go to the mecca for all things old and new - they have it all
www.elchamaco.com - Mexican blankets for all your upholstery needs, with ponchos to boot
www.hagan.com - Retro taillights and accessories
www.ifcustom.com - Chopped more trucks than anyone we know of
www.krylon.com - Do you even have to ask?
www.lokar.com - Retro aluminum accessories for your interior
www.mooneyes.com - For all your retro accessory needs
www.naugahyde.com - The makers of Zodiac glitter vinyl; search "Zodiac" on the main page
www.socalspeedshop.com - The original, a veritable candy store of hot-rod parts and culture
www.wheelvintiques.com - Manufacturer of old-school wheels as well as larger billet versions: 20-inch smoothies, rallies, or Lakesters - just plain sick
www.yearwood.com - They have everything, including LED nostalgia taillight replacements
Google: George Barris, Daryl Starbird, Carl Casper, Bill Cushenberry, AMT model car, The Alexander Brothers, Rick Dore, and John D'Augustino
Movies: American Graffiti, Hot Rod 1950, Devil on Wheels, Fast and Furious (the original 1954 version), and Hollywood Knights

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