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."
Four years later, Travis had read a few stories about some builds being pumped out by The Little Shop of Horrors. He was impressed, to say the least, and decided to pick up the phone and talk to owner Eric Saliba about trying to modify the stock frame to fit the upgraded wheels. The two decided that building a scratch-built frame would ultimately be the best solution, especially since the 18/20 combo was a little outdated at this point as far as pushing the envelope was concerned. In just over 12 months, Travis had a true custom chassis that would easily accept the big V-8 and an even larger set of wheels.
With the Ranger really showing signs of progress, Travis’ soon-to-be wife gave him a four-month deadline to get it finished and driveable so they could ride in it instead of a lame limo on their big day. In that time, Travis and his small army of recruits made the seemingly impossible, possible. The day before the wedding, Travis was still putting in some last-minute work, but he got it handled. “The truck was finally ‘completed’, and the best day of my life was accompanied by a truck that has been with me for almost all of my life.” Now, how’s that for a happy ending?
Owner: Travis Dennison
Ride: 1989 Ford Ranger
Hometown: Delaware, OH
Wheels: 20x8 Bonspeed Clutch (front) / 22x12 (rear)
Tires: 245/35ZR20 Dunlop SP Sport 9000 (front) / 285 / 30ZR22 (rear)
Suspension Front: ’92 Toyota pickup stock spindles
Suspension Rear: LSOH triangulated three-link
Control Arms: Scratch-built by LSOH
Shocks: Chassis Tech
Compressor(s): Air Zenith OB2
Air/Hydro Accessories: Accuair E-Level system
Frame Mods: Front to rear custom 2x5 square-tube frame
Brakes: Wilwood front six-piston calipers, rear four-piston calipers
Misc.: LSOH 16-gallon fuel cell, frame suspension and components powdercoated silver
Performed By: Little Shop of Horrors, Duffee Powdercoating, and owner
Shaved: Door handles, cowl panel vents, antennae, emblems, mirrors, stake pockets, driprails, gas door, taillights, tailgate, firewall
Bodydrop: 4 ¾-inch traditional
Body Mods: Sheetmetal bed moved forward 1 1/2 inches
Bolt-ons: 2 ¼-inch fiberglass cowl hood
Performed By: Jody Hall, owner
Brand & Colors: House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl Metallic
Misc.: Flames painted with House of Kolor Pearl White
Performed By: Marek Horcic of Shark’s Customs
Seats: ’99 Saturn SC2 seats covered in suede and ostrich
Dash: ’98 Ford Explorer fiberglassed, smoothed, and painted
Gauges: Classic Instruments
Misc.: Billet Specialties steering wheel, window cranks, pedal covers, Bentley-style carpet
Performed By: 2001 Auto Upholstery, A-Tec Upholstery, Wil Shaffer, owner
Head Unit: Pioneer DEH-P7600MP
Mids & Highs: Alpine Type-S
Subwoofers: Two Kicker X-XPL
Amplifiers: Kicker ZR-460 and ZR-360
Misc.: Custom fiberglass enclosure
Performed By: Owner, Wil Shaffer
Engine: ’95 Ford Mustang 5.0L High-Output V-8
Header/Exhaust: BBK headers, MagnaFlow exhaust
Transmission: Tremec TKO 500 five-speed
Rearend Type: ’99 Ford Explorer narrowed 12 inches
Misc.: Painless Performance wiring, Powermaster alternator, chrome valve covers
Performed By: Ron Hurlow, LSOH, Jon Curry, owner
Special Thanks From Owner
“To everyone who has assisted in any way with the build of my dream truck. I owe a huge amount of gratitude to Jon Curry, who was by my side during the four-month thrash session, Eric Saliba, Marek Horcic, Wil Shaffer, Ron Hurlow, Terry Genre, Cecil Bowers, Travis Parks for selling me the truck, Lindsay Curry, Shelly Hurlow, and my awesome wife, Rachel. Without her overwhelming love and support, the truck would never have been completed.