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  • Mail Truck - February 2008

Mail Truck - February 2008

Your Questions Answered

Bruce Caldwell
Feb 1, 2008
Contributors: Mike Finnegan
Photographers: Charlie Hayward
Photo 2/5   |   mail Truck ford Ranger Rendering
Sky Pilot
My '02 Ford Ranger two-wheel-drive Super Cab was badly vandalized. The seats were ripped with some sharp object (possibly a large knife), the dashpad was shredded, the tires were slashed, and profanities were scratched into the paint.
My insurance company totaled the truck, but since it still ran and drove fine, I bought it back from them. So, now i have this nasty-looking truck and a sizeable settlement check. in my state, when the insurance company totals a vehicle, it ends up with a salvage title because a total usually implies extensive damage. A salvage title puts a giant stink on resale value.
So, my idea is to make the truck usable without spending too much money on it and then drive it until it drops. i couldn't drive the truck in public with all of the obscene stuff that's scratched in the paint, and I didn't want to waste all the money it would cost to repaint it. So, i took a grinder and ground off the offensive words.
That's when it came to me that it would be cool to have a bare metal truck. i know that's been done, and i know it would be a constant battle with rust, but i was still searching for something trick and easy to do. i was watching a show about World War II fighter planes on the History Channel, and i thought, why not make the Ranger look like a fighter plane?
I like the concept, but i'm short on ideas about how to make it work without spending a lot of money. i'm saving most of the settlement money toward a new truck purchase. i'm writing you guys in hopes that your creative minds can help me. John Mallon
via e-mail
What better place to take some creative risks than on a truck that's essentially a freebie and one without any high resale expectations? We enjoy challenges like this, because if it works, great, but if it doesn't, hey, it's not our truck.
You're right about the challenges of a bare metal body. That's a huge amount of work and maintenance problems, although you could let surface rust happen and then grind it off periodically. We understand that you're trying to achieve the look of an unpainted airplane, but those planes were aluminum. You could go with an Army Olive Drab color, but that would look just like the name, drab.
If it were our truck, we'd find the least expensive paintjob in town. Forget about body prep, let them paint over any trim items and accept that the jambs are a different color.
Get a silver color that most resembles aluminum. Study photos of old fighter planes. Get an airbrush and silver or gray paint that's darker than the body color. Make or buy a template that has approximately 1/4- to 3/8-inch circles. Make straight grid lines with a pencil or chalk. Then, uniformly space the "rivets" so that from a distance your truck's body looks like riveted panels of aluminum.
Go to a sign company that makes computergenerated vinyl signs and see if they could replicate some of the miscellaneous writing that you see on a warplane. A cruder, less expensive solution would be to use letter stencils and spray paint.
We like the iconic shark-teeth design that some fighter planes sported. That's a simple enough design, so you could probably do it yourself. Make the red and white design emanate from the front wheelwells. if you wanted to spend some real money, you could have an airbrush artist render one of those pinup girl nose-art graphics on your truck's hood. By doing it on the hood, you could keep the hood when you off the truck. The hood would be super-cool garage art. An Air Force or U.S. Army insignia on the tailgate would be a nice touch.
Spun aluminum wheel covers would look good on your "fighter." Since the seats and dash were ruined, you could really strip the interior down to bare bones to make it more of a Spartan cockpit. Spray the door panels with silver vinyl dye. You could add a lot of real or dummy gauges, because planes always have a mass of instruments. Black gauges with white numbers and dials would look aircraft-like. Get an old leather fighter cap and you're ready for takeoff.
Blue Plate Special
I think license plates are an ugly but necessary evil. i'd like to do something different with the plates on my '01 GMC Sonoma. My state requires a front plate, but i've seen trucks and especially Corvettes that don't run front plates. i've also seen guys put their front plate on the dashboard. Is that legal?
My bumpers are blue like the truck, but our plates are mostly white. if i painted the plates the same as the bumpers they'd blend better. I've seen this done on street rods, but never on a truck. Could i do this? How about retractable plates? I've seen rear plate flip kits, but how could I do the front plate? I hope you can help me. Thanks a lot.
Pat Clark
via e-mail
You can do anything you want to your license plates, but how long you get away with it is a matter of conjecture. if your state requires a front plate, that means you need one. A plate on the dashboard isn't acceptable.
We've seen custom-painted plates, but they're not legal. Maybe a seldom-driven street rod can play the odds, but we don't think a daily-driven truck would fare as well. Most states have regulations along the lines of no modifications or additions to license plates.
Most hidden rear plates operate on a flip-up design. Trucks with rolled rear pans (without license plate recesses) that mount the plate at the bottom of the pan are the easiest ones to hide with a flip-up system. The challenge is properly lighting the plate.
There are lots of servomotors and related electronics used by customizers for items such as hidden video screens and stereo gear that could be adapted for hidden plates. Our suggestion is that you make the rest of your truck so sharp that no one cares about the plates.
Vital Figures
The models in your fine mag are almost as hot as the trucks, but what's with the postage-stamp photos? Why don't you include the models' measurements and contact information?Bill
via e-mail
How about if we include social secuirty numbers and tell you where the spare key is hidden? If it's any consolation, our measurements are 44-36-42. We like kittens, pink hearts, shopping, and cheerleading. Our turn-offs are stuck-up people, split ends, and cooties.
High And Cited
I really like the super-tall trucks you run in your fine magazine. I'd like to build a similar truck with my '98 Ford Expedition. if i could make my truck look like anything even close to that awesome yellow Excursion that was on page 144 of the nov. '07 issue, i'd be thrilled to death. i realize that it takes a tall stack of money to get a truck that high, but what i'm more concerned about is traffic tickets and equipment code hassles.
My driving record is far from perfect, and i'm trying to keep it as clean as possible, but i'm not ready for a Toyota Prius or a bus pass. i realize that the super-lifted trucks at shows are probably pretty much show-only trucks, but even so, how do these guys make it to a show without getting pulled over every other block?
Can you tell me how tall a tire I can run on the street, legally? Does headlight height matter? What about bumper height? Can the tires be out in the open, or do they have to have fenders or mud flaps? What if my truck is legal in my state, and i drive to another state, will it still be legal there? I really want a tall, tall truck, but i hate getting hassled. i would appreciate any information you can give me. Keep up, up, up the great work.
Brian McBride
via e-mail
As they say in the fine print at the bottom of weight loss ads, "Results not typical. individual results may vary." if the results aren't representative of the product, what are they advertising? What this means, besides the fact that we can't lose weight, is that vehicle codes vary greatly from state to state. Within each state, there can be added local regulations. local regulations are usually aimed at cruising, but equipment infractions are a big anti-cruising tool.
More important than possible local code variations is how stringently different jurisdictions enforce the laws. Some towns are known as "tall busters," and others have bad reps as ticket mills. You probably know the score in your area, but if you attend an out-of-state show, the situation could be radically different.
Forward Visionary
I've seen lots of club logos in rear wondows and sponsor banners at the top of windshields, but the logos in the center of the windshield on Scott Rupp's '64 Datsun, pages 36-39 of the Nov. '07 issue, was the first time I've ever seen them there. Is that legal?
Cory Emry
via e-mail

Legal? Probably not, but it got the painter and club a great plug in Sport Truck.
Photo 3/5   |   mail Truck high And Cited
Photo 4/5   |   mail Truck lifted Ford Excursion
It's been our experience that good behavior minimizes encounters with the man. Showing off, exhibition of speed, overly loud stereos, and so on just give an officer more reasons to scrutinize your truck.
To find definitive answers to your questions, you should study your state's vehicle codes. An internet search of topics such as Department of licensing or Vehicle Regulations should get you headed in the right direction. Most states have a master site or 800 numbers for additional information.
You could also contact the State Patrol. Most departments have a division that inspects vehicles from out of state or custombuilt vehicles before they can be licensed in that state.
In general, headlight heights, bumper heights, and whether or not tires are sufficiently covered are key vehicle code areas. The limits usually deal with the safety of other motorists. A bumper that lines up with the roof of another car doesn't provide much protection.
Photo 5/5   |   mail Truck sport Truck January 2006
Once you determine that your truck is legal- although teetering on the far edge of legal-it might not be a bad idea to copy the pertinent parts of the code and keep the info in your glovebox. if you are really cool, you'll check out the Jan. '06 issue of Sport Truck, in which we highlighted the anti-lift laws in all 50 states.
Not So Cool
The air conditioner in my '99 Dodge Durango has been getting less and less cold over the past year. How can I fix this? It's still better than plain old vent air but not like it was when I first got the truck.
Mike Elliott
via e-mail
This is a relatively common complaint with '98 and '99 Dodge Durangos. Most often the problem is with the air-conditioning evaporator. Replacing the evaporator should restore the A/C performance, but it would be a good idea to have a qualified air-conditioning shop check the whole system.
Got Something To Say?
E-mail your letters to mike.finnegan@, and we'll make you famous. Give your city a shout-out and include it in your e-mail.


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