This month, we've journeyed all the way to the United Kingdom to find the baddest B-series you're likely to find anywhere in the world. Using the talents of Ray Ramsay, the master fabricator from Christchurch, England, who built the truck, we got together with the person who actually owns and drives the truck daily, Mark L. Jenkins.
Without wasting any time, we're going to dive right into this month's cover mini that's been causing a stir throughout Southgate, England, a borough of London. Sadly, in England, most people don't understand the concept of lowering a vehicle, much less making one drag its doors. With enthusiasts such as Mark Jenkins and fabricator Ray Ramsay, soon the whole world will understand the sensation of getting goose bumps from performing a perfectly executed 40-mph drag through town.
MT: So, what was your first ride, Mark?
Mark: It was an '85 Vauxhall Astra (a kind of GM-based compact car). I was heavily into the dB drag racing and audio side of custom motorsports, but I wanted more room. I saw a few Mazda pickups at shows I went to and saw there was more room for subwoofers. Someone showed me a copy of Mini Truckin', and I realized that I wanted a lowered truck. So met up with Ray Ramsay from Rayvern Hydraulics.
MT: I guess you changed your mind about all those subwoofers pretty quick, huh?
Mark: Rayvern Hydraulics went to work and completely changed the truck in so many ways. It's unbelievable, actually. The first body-dropped truck I ever saw in person was sitting in Ray's shop in Christchurch. Seeing how low it was, I realized straightaway that I wanted to be even lower. The only way that Ray said I could do this was to cut off the rockers. I told him to get going on it.
MT: So let us know what was done to your truck, starting with the body.
Mark: First, the truck was body dropped 6 inches overall and the body was cut to about 3/4-inch from the doors.
MT: Holy crap. A Brit having his truck cut to the doors. Amazing. You could give our best custom addicts here a run for their money any day.
Mark: We realized that we had to get a set of Mazda 4x4 fenders that aren't available in England. We imported those from Japan and cut them off at the bottom and capped them. We also realized about this time that there was no airbag that would lift the truck high enough for driving because we had shortened the upper and control arms. Ray installed some of his incredible lifts for the frontend that will raise it 8 inches. MT: So tell us how the front suspension really works.
Mark:The front hydraulic cylinders are linked to another pair of hydraulic cylinders that are mounted horizontally between the rear framerails, and they have airbags attached to their ends. This setup gives me the speed of hydraulics, but I get the comfort that comes with airbags as a side benefit.
MT: And in the rear, the truck has a four-link, right?
Mark:Yes, but that's no kit back there. The whole setup was hand-fabricated by Ray Ramsay at Rayvern Hydraulics using 1-1/2 inches of O.D. seamless tubing.
MT: That's awesome, Mark. We're sure, once again, that Ray is going to be having people all over the world scratching their heads to figure out how the hell he made this system work. We still get people who pull out the June '01 issue of Mini Truckin' to see the wacky suspension on his old Astro van. Tell us a bit about the rear frame clip on your truck.
Mark:That was something that just evolved. I wanted a tilt bed and liked the tonneau cover look, but lifting the bed would show off an ugly undercarriage. I couldn't have that, so I had a whole new chassis section built for the rear. Rather than do it using box tubing, Ray did it using round tubing; it looks a million times better that way.
MT: How does the bed get its lift? And how many different ways does that mutha move?
Mark: It lifts both rearward and forward, and the bed will go vertically in both directions. The bed will also move about 3-1/2 feet vertically while it's in a horizontal position. This is done using a three-stage hydraulic bed setup -- also built by Ray -- using 1-inch tubing and three Rayvern Hydraulics hydraulic pumps.
MT: Wow, there's a whole lot more to this truck than you'd think. Can you give us an idea of the work that went into the body of the truck, besides the cuts made for the body drop?
Mark: The truck used to have a crappy plastic targa-top sunroof in it. The top was welded back into place, and a new roof skin was made wider so the truck wouldn't have rain gutters.
MT: Thanks for mentioning that. I didn't even notice. What else?
Mark: After the roof, the wiper panel was molded into the A-pillars of the cab and into the front fenders of the truck. I suppose after that Ray shaved the door handles, the indicators [turn signals], the locks, the cab vents, and he smoothed the back of the cab bulkhead [rear cab wall].
MT: There's a huge number of modifications to this thing. What else is done to it?
Mark: There's a lot of work done to the bed. First, we got a pair of Toyota Supra taillights and Ray installed them in a handbuilt steel roll pan. The bed itself was pieced together using 11 pieces of steel outer skin panels. The bed is an outer skin only, with a steel tonneau cover type top welded into place for a smooth look.
MT: That's what makes all the room available for Ray's wacky tubing creation underneath. I know there's more to this beast, give me some more.
Mark: Under the hood, the arch covers [engine shroud] were made from five pieces so that it can be removed to work on the engine. The phantom grille on the truck was handformed by Ray using hydraulic hard line. Next, the suspension...
MT: I thought that the engine shroud was all once piece. That's some more killer work. Jeez, and I thought this truck was nice. It's way beyond that. Ray can make diamonds out of horse droppings, no problem. Before we finish, tell me about your interior and stereo system.
Mark: The dash started out as a stock, righthand-drive dash. The gauge panel was 'glassed over and a Dakota Digital gauge panel was built into the center. There's no glovebox anymore; that's a subwoofer enclosure.
MT: Really? Where are the amps?
Mark: They're behind the seats mounted to tubing that matches the chassis tubing. The seats in the truck are Recaros that have been cut down to match the roof height and retrimmed using leather.
MT: I hate to cut this short, but I'm afraid we're going to have a hell of a time printing all of this. Thanks for having the finest Mazda I've ever seen built and allowing us to run it in Mini Truckin' magazine.
Mark: That's cool, I'm glad that Mini Truckin' was interested in my mini-truck. I'm really glad that I found that issue of Mini Truckin' almost two years ago and got in touch with Ray at Rayvern.