The year was 1997. Travis Denison was 16 years old. Having big dreams, and no income to speak of other than a few bucks of stashed lunch money, buying a vehicle just wasn't in the cards for him. Actually, he did own an '87 Chevy Berretta back in those days, but it left him stranded more often than not, so to count it as a reliable mode of transportation would simply be a joke. In fact, Travis had no idea what kind of car he would've wanted to buy even if he did have proper funding. But one day at his brother's girlfriend's house, Travis spotted a little truck in the driveway that would soon become his own, and end up becoming the center of a lifelong obsession.

That very truck happens to be the same one on these pages, but back then it was static dropped and sat on 15-inch Roadster 100-spoke wheels. He pestered the owner, whose name was also Travis, to sell him the truck every time he saw him, until one day he was given first dibs to buy it. After a trip to grandma's house and an afternoon spent begging, Travis had $3,000 bucks in his hand, and the truck was his the very next day. "I remember the exact date it became mine: September 17, 1997. To this day, I am still friends with him," Travis says, "and he tells me frequently how much he regrets selling the truck to me."

Life was good for Travis. He landed a part-time job, so he had a few dollars coming in, which he intended to put toward paint and new seats—his goal before graduation day. Unfortunately, his minimum-wage gig didn't quite deliver the cash he needed, but he did find his pockets loaded after his grad party. "With money burning a hole in my pocket, I called Jody Hall at The Drop Shop in Pikeville, Kentucky, for a bodydrop and analog 'bag system. The results were amazing, but after that my cash flow was low for a while, and the truck was frozen in that state for many years after. My Ranger was finally dragging body, and I was the coolest person in town—well, at least in my own mind."

But what Travis saw as cool, others in his small town considered strange and foreign. "During my college years, the Ranger didn't get out much. Bodydropped trucks didn't fit into the community filled with hillbillies and their lifted trucks. These guys decided they had the right to key it, spit tobacco on it, smash the windshield, pretty much destroy it bit by bit," Travis told us. While he was busy working toward his career in criminal justice, the truck was hidden away under a cover.

Once those weird years were over, Travis found himself working at a local sheriff's office with a steady income, and advanced skills in welding and fiberglass that he perfected with his pal, Wil Shaffer—the time to go blast at full speed on the truck had finally come. The '95 Mustang 5.0L engine with only 15,000 clicks on it was soon scavenged from a junkyard, paint finally made its way onto the truck, but after picking up a new set of 18/20 wheels, Travis realized that the frame work done six years prior just wouldn't work with the larger hoops. On top of that, the sheetmetal work in the bed he had paid for didn't come out the way he wanted. "I lost interest and realized I had gotten in way over my head."