For the last 10 years, Carl Arft has been enjoying every aspect of custom trucks by going to shows and wishing that someday he'd have something cool of his own to showcase. While waiting, Carl stood in the background of the custom-truck world and took notes. Now, there's no mistaking it: Carl is at the forefront of his game. With the help of his father, Paul Arft, and the family business (PMA Motorsports), Carl built a Ford Ranger that's had enthusiasts gawking over every square inch of it for the past two years. During the 2004 show season, the Arfts brought the truck out to defend its Midwestern title as Top Dog with a few more surprises for the general mini-truckin' populous. The duo found that people loved the Ranger more now than they had first time it appeared on the show scene.

It's true that anyone can build a fine ride, if they put their mind to it. Between Carl and Paul, with twice the brainpower pushing this Ranger to become all they'd hoped for, they managed to take the truck from typical to stardom in about six month's time. The following is an account of how two men worked night and day to build what can be easily considered the finest and most well-constructed Ford Ranger we've seen thus far.

It all started when Carl Arft wanted - more than anything - to own a truck that would set the mini-truckin' world on its ear. Since he'd been around custom vehicles for most of his life (thanks to his dad), he knew he'd get a ton of support in his endevour from his parental units. True to form, Paul jumped into the project with both feet and his brain to help Carl create a truck that's every bit a work of art in form and function. First, they built a new chassis from the firewall rearward. Although the remnants of the original Ranger chassis were kept to simplify the mounting of the engine and transmission, they reworked most of it. The front suspension was swapped over to Mustang II components, which took care of the upper and lower control arms, as well as a way to properly 'bag the front suspension and keep the shocks mounted up front for a comfortable ride. All the wiring that resided in the engine bay was rerouted to the inside of the cab, making the underhood appearance that much cleaner.

Moving toward the rear of the truck, a new chassis was constructed of 2-inch-round steel tubing. Everything was preplanned to ensure that the chassis build went off without a hitch. Via the extensive talents of PMA Motorsports and the Arft father-and-son team, the suspension components used to fabricate the Ranger's new rear chassis and suspension were built in-house. After the chassis itself was built, a triangular-tube four-link was constructed, which was damped by the inclusion of cantilever-mounted Rancho RS9000 shocks. All the components needed to run the truck's air-suspension system were mounted cleanly in the rear chassis and with purpose. The finishing touches to the chassis included a custom fuel cell, matching paint, and polished stainless-steel lines that serve to transfer compressed air to the air tanks and 'bags. New brake fluid and fuel delivery lines were also added. All that was needed to finish off the construction was matching paint and reassembling the parts using all-stainless hardware and plenty of patience.

Next, the body received a full makeover. Everything was shaved smooth at the PMA Motorsport facility in Imlay City, Michigan. The bed was reworked until it no longer had a bed floor. It's now a mere shell of its former self and serves to keep the Ranger looking like a truck from the outside. On the inside, the bed acts as a casing for showing off the amazing amounts of work done to make the Ranger's chassis truly shine. When the body of the truck was finally ready for paint, Carl relied on the talents of the crew at Kustom Haus in Imlay City. The guys took the Ranger into the shop and repainted it using DuPont Vermillion Red. They didn't miss a single millimeter when it came to being picky about how the truck would look once it was buffed and reassembled.

Finally, the end of the buildup was in sight for the Arfts. They got the truck back from the paint shop and began the tedious task of nitpicking the reassembly. In the end, they couldn't find or see a thing that could be changed to make the truck any cleaner in its construction. So, what was left? The interior work. The truck was sent, along with a custom center console, to Shelby Auto Trim in Shelby, Michigan, to have the interior reworked. Since the whole truck was so amazingly well-built from the ground up, Carl decided that the interior should remain somewhat low-key. The crew at Shelby Auto Trim kept this in mind as they developed an interior that wouldn't be too much for the otherwise clean concept of the truck. What they came up with is almost factory in appearance, but every bit a showcase of what can be accomplished with a custom truck.

The Lowdown

Wheels/Tires 18x7-inch Intro Twisted Vista billet wheels with Kumho radial tires

Suspension Front: Mustang II spindles / custom upper and lower control arms / 'bags mounted between upper and lower control arm / relocated shock aft of control arms / stem-to-eye-mounted Rancho RS9000 shocks / rack-and-pinion steering; rear: triangulated four-link by PMA Motorsports / Rancho RS9000 shocks / polished stainless-steel brake lines / polished stainless-steel air delivery lines for suspension / Air Lift Extreme 'bags / smoothed and painted differential housing and axle tubes / cantilever rear shock mounts / dual chassis-mounted air tanks

Misc. Mods 15-gallon custom triangular fuel cell in polished aluminum / stainless-steel fuel tank plumbing / powdercoated driveshaft / painted lower valance / Wilwood disc brakes at each corner / tubbed from fenderwells using trailer fenders modified for use / custom chassis built from firewall rearward using 2-inch-round steel tubing

Body Mods Shaved door handles / shaved fuel door / shaved antenna / shaved emblems / shaved tailgate handle / custom PMA Motorsports molded steel roll pan with license-plate box and cutout for center-facing exhaust exit / removed inner bed floor and interior side panels completely / painted inner bedsides / custom bed mounts and support structure / 2-1/2-inch body drop by PMA Motorsports in Imlay City, Michigan / all bodywork by PMA Motorsports

Paint DuPont Vermillion Red with stacked skulls near rear fender openings by Kustom Haus in Dryden, Montana

Interior '02 Dodge Neon bucket seats (sans headrests) upholstered in dark gray / headliner and carpeting upholstered to match seats / interior upholstery by Shelby Auto Trim in Shelby, MIichigan/ U.S. Speedo stainless-steel gauge-cluster overlay / Billet Accessories Direct (BAD) one-off billet steering wheel / custom center console painted to match exterior / air pressure gauges and switches for suspension mounted in center console

Stereo Sony head unit / Sony amplifiers mounted behind seats / subwoofers mounted in upper rear center console / Power Acoustic DVD player / monitor molded into dash / Sony PlayStation2 mounted in center console / center console built by PMA Motorsports / wiring for stereo system by Bill Dozer in Arlington, Michigan

Engine/Performance Custom PMA Motorsports intake manifold / rerouted wiring under dash to further clean up the engine compartment / Optima battery relocated to chassis in bed area / custom polished-aluminum radiator / 2-1/2-inch PMA Motorsports exhaust with a Summit stainless-steel catalytic converter and muffler / ceramic-coated 2.3L Ford four-cylinder header

Special Thanks Crystal Frederick (Carl's fianc) / Aaron / Matt / JAS Steel / QC Coatings / Gentile's Collision / Exotic Coatings for powdercoating work / Bill Dozer (stereo) / BAD / Paul Arft and AirLift for their undying support and assistance in making the Ranger a reality

Miscellaneous Notes To date, the Ranger has won at just about every event it has been entered in. When the photos for this feature were shot, the Ranger had already garnered three Best of Show awards and a bunch of other specialty awards. Carl told us that he didn't sleep much, if at all, during the last two months of the truck's buildup. At that time, he was trying to make sure that the truck would make it to the Indy Import & Truck Bash in its first form in 2003. The completion of the truck is dedicated to the memory of Mark Brinker.

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