MT: Hi, Mike. How was the drive to Cali' for your photo shoot in Costa Mesa?
Mike: Well, we had a total of six breakdowns, some rain, a dust storm, and barely got to the studio with an hour to clean the truck. Other than that, it was mostly uneventful.
MT: Oh crap, dude, I'd say you're lucky to be alive. But we're glad that you and your son Michael made the trip out from Texas to spend a few hours making your truck famous. Do you regret anything about the drive out here?
Mike: I guess my biggest regret is that we were 15 minutes from the beautiful Pacific Ocean and never saw it. However, the scenery at the shoot made up for that.
MT: Was the cab a standard cab to begin with?
Mike: Yes, it was a regular cab. All I used from the original cab was the windshield frame. I added about a 1-1/2-feet to the length so I could have back seats.
MT: How long did it take you to cut off the roof? Was this the truck you intended to build when you made the initial cuts to the standard cab B-mini parts?
Mike: I had originally intended to build a full-time convertible Mazda with four seats and a lot of mods, but I wanted to hand-fabricate everything from the frame to the actual body. I cut out the windshield area on the cab, I made a skeleton for the outer bodyskin to weld to, and put the windshield on at a very laid-back angle.
MT: So, what did you do first in your grand scheme to begin this behemoth task? Other than sit back and squint really hard at the pile of parts you brought home from the wrecking yard?
Mike: Well, actually the first thing I did was start building the frame from 2x4x3/16-inch boxed steel tubing. I did that before I bought the parts to start the truck with. Then, with the parts, I first stripped all six of the doorskins and cut the bed sides off the bed. The cab took a whole lot more planning, and I cut it up slowly over a few days to keep the glass frame in its original shape.
MT: With that much skinning needed throughout the truck (since it doesn't have any doors), I figured that you had found a way to make sections of a perfect Mazda bed side by now. You said you built a skeleton of the outer skin first. I bet that looked pretty crazy before you began to lay sheetmetal over it, huh?
Mike: I wish I had just gone out and had someone bend me some sides with the Mazda bodyline already there. It certainly would have saved me a ton of time in welding and body filler. The skeleton was shaped just like a Mazda side, and the braces were at the locations where the Mazda bodyline is, which helped me to line up the sheetmetal doorskins. I used the bed as the jig for the width and the body lines.
MT: That sounds really involved, but interesting. You said you built the upper and lower control arms? Can you build them for any mini-truck?
Mike: Well, yes, any truck I can make a jig for. I have done several sets for Nissans, Mazdas, Toyotas, and I have even done a flamed set for a Mitsubishi. I'm about to make a jig for a late-model S-10 and I have orders for a few for Tacos. I use four-link-style bushings, either Energy Suspension style or the ones you find in TCI and Pete and Jakes kits --whatever the customer wants is fine. The plate where the balljoint bolts up is also up to them. I've done flames, tribal designs, ovals; all kinds of stuff.
MT: Want to build us a set for use in a tech article? I can pretty much guarantee that there will be about 500 or more mini-truckers pounding on your door to build them some for their rides, too. How would someone get in touch with you to build them a set of arms?
Mike: I would be honored to build a set for a project truck. I love to make parts from scratch and make unique parts that you don't see every day at a truck show. Anyone who wants a set of hand-fabbed upper or lower control arms can e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call my voicemail and leave a name and number at (972) 271-8740.
MT: That would rock. Now, back to the 'Sled. How long have you been working on it?
Mike: I started building the frame in 1998, after a few months of planning; it didn't take long to get the itch back after selling my last Mazda in 1997.
MT: Have you seen your old Mazda in the past few years?
Mike: I've seen it at Texas Heat Wave a couple times. It was in primer, but the bodywork was still holding up. That four-cylinder was groaning going up those mountain hills in the desert when we went to 'Splash!
MT: I'd have to say that this truck is the most involved piece of master craftsmanship I've seen to-date, Mike. In saying that, I think that you've become an unsung hero of our pastime. Is there anything about building your truck that you found more difficult than other projects you've ever done?
Mike: The actual bodywork was the most difficult. All of the sheetmetal came from wrecked trucks. I knew I was going to weld it all on, so it didn't matter that the parts were a bit bent. I got anxious while I was welding and in no time the sides were welded up, but they were also warped from front to back. Getting it all even close to straight took up most of the time that went into this truck. The rear section of the body was also really hard to fab. I never planned it this way from the start, but after seeing the same molded rear sections on many trucks, I wanted something different for my own truck.
MT: Is there anything else you like to add or anyone you'd like to thank on your project?
Mike: Well, I think my next ride will be something more conventional, but I have to finish this one first. I would like to thank all my friends for their many hours out at the BYC (Barnyard Customs) shop. They are: Brian Simpson, Michael Howard, David Collins, Joe White, and my son Michael. I also got a lot of advice from Mike Mauldin at Sachse Rod Shop.
MT: OK, I think its time to let the work speak for itself. Thanks for your time, Mike. I appreciate all that you went through to build and bring the truck out so Mini Truckin' could show the world your incredible creation.
Mike: You're welcome. I hope I can finish this thing and drive it at some shows soon. You're also welcome to ride in the back seat or the trunk (laughs).
MT:It'd be an honor. But do you think I can have a pillow for my gargantuan head while I'm in the trunk? It sounds nice and comfy. God knows there's enough room in there.
Mike: Anything you like, man, and thanks for the chance to show off all of my work.
MT: You're welcome, brother.