Rusty Kern, from Winterville, North Carolina, has been involved with mini-trucks since about age 15, or roughly half his life. His first S-10, purchased when he was 16, started it all. And although he has tinkered with 4x4s, SUVs, and sport compacts, he was not content until he returned to his mini-truckin' roots. His bone-stock '93 S-10 was purchased about two years ago, and he kept it that way almost a complete day before he started the customizing process. The initial plan was to freshen the paint job and update the rims. As he attended more and more car shows, however, more custom opportunities suggested themselves. As a result, things got turned around, because most of the major custom modifications happened after the new Electric Blue paint job. Thankfully, none of the changes caused a single scratch, although the build did require some extra time. He describes the adventure as an enjoyable learning experience in which he picked up lots of pointers about engines, suspension, and most of all, the sequence of paint jobs!

Lots of work was done to the body before Scott at Buster Hardee's Body Shop in Greenville, North Carolina, sprayed the DuPont Electric Blue paint job. The truck was updated with a Goodmark steel cowl induction hood, Trenz Phantom billet grille, and Stylin' Concepts chrome bumper with foglights. Keeping things smooth and clean, the wipers were eliminated, the antenna frenched, the emblems and moldings removed, and the tribal flame sideview mirrors from Arlan Ness installed in a custom chrome panel on the doors. The Checkmate flush-mount tonneau cover added aerodynamics to the body, along with the molded-in Godfather Customs rear pan and relocated tailgate handle. Altezza-style euro taillights completed the changes. Rusty chose Foose Speedster rims (20x8.5 all around) with Hankook Ventus rubber (255/35ZR20) to get the truck rolling.

Good looks are one thing, but power is quite another. The original tired engine in the S-10 had to go, and Rusty replaced it with a 350 V-8 crate motor from Chevrolet. Motor mounts from Advanced Adapters relocated the engine rearward slightly while still allowing adequate clearance between the engine and firewall. The new motor is a screamer, running a Holley 650, Edelbrock Performer intake with matching Edelbrock valve covers and air cleaner, Vortech heads, Comp Cam, roller rockers, forged pistons, and ceramic-coated headers from Hedman Hedders. The combination produces a tire-shredding 380 hp. The new Turbo 350 automatic transmits the power through a shortened driveshaft to the 3.73 gears in a limited slip differential. Work in the engine room included removing the inner fender panels for clearance, shaving most of the firewall, and adding mini-tubs created from trailer fenders to the firewall, allowing clearance for the 20-inch rims. The brake master cylinder was chromed, and braided steel hoses keep everything flowing smoothly. Special thanks to Smitty and Timmy from Rice Auto in Ayden, North Carolina, who did the swap.

Since you can't be cool if your profile's not hot, air suspension was next on the list. Because of the custom paint, the first step was removing the complete front clip and the bed, then storing them carefully to keep them scratch-free. Chris Echols from Backyard Kustoms in Ayden, North Carolina, accomplished the task, using Air Ride Technology upper and lower control arms, along with notched tie rods and DJM dropped spindles, to ensure the front wheels have plenty of clearance. Toxic Shocks and Slam Specialties bags were added to all four corners, with the bags pressurized by twin chrome five-gallon reserve tanks and a pair of 450 Viair compressors, controlled by Square D pressure switches. Chassis mods in the back began with cutting the bed floor to allow clearance for the huge 8-inch C-notch. The three-link bars and wishbone from Suicide Doors were powdercoated candy blue prior to installation, and the team also powdercoated the Chevy pumpkin to match. Trailer fenders were installed to keep the Line-X-coated bed clean.

Stereo is always an essential, and the Wild Dime boasts a Panasonic CD head unit, sending signal to the Infinity Kappa 4x6 mids and highs in the dash, and 4x10s in the rear. Bass comes from the three Infinity Bass Link 10-inch subs, designed for full, rich bass in compact settings. Mounted behind the seats, the setup employs a single 10-inch sub with a pair of matching passive radiators. Alton at Mobile Millennium in Greenville, North Carolina, did a smooth job, squeezing in the sounds.

While owning a cool custom truck may have been his first wish, the completed truck actually granted two others. Rusty has grown up with many of the members of Animated Attractions, one of North Carolina's oldest clubs. He has always admired their vehicles and what they do with the show scene. Now that he has a vehicle of this caliber, he decided it was time to join and he has become one of their newest members. What's his third wish? One of Rusty's lifelong goals was to build a truck with quality high enough to make it as a Mini Truckin' magazine feature. He sends very special thanks to Mini Truckin' magazine for producing such an awesome source of inspiration. "If it wasn't for you, I might not have taken it this far." Special thanks also go to Rusty's father, Donald, who has been active with hot rods since before Rusty was born and spent many late nights working on the truck with his son.