Gary Donkers was drawn to custom trucks at an early age, and when he was 16, he got his first vehicle—a black second-gen S-10. Within the first 3 months of owning the truck, he lowered it, and threw new wheels on it. Wanting to take his Dime further, Gary then shaved the handles/tailgate and repainted it. He got a job and saved every last penny he earned so he could afford to make real progress. But before that could happen, a streak of bad luck put his plans on hold for the foreseeable future. The first instance involved thieves attempting to steal it, leaving it with a broken window and badly damaged steering column. The second instance came in the form of a local shop that ended up lying and making empty promises that resulted in a great waste of Gary's time and money.
Instead of dwelling on the negatives, Gary saw this as a chance to make huge changes in his life. During the wait for his S-10 to be completed by a different trustworthy shop, Gary attended trade school for welding and fabrication. Although school kept him busy, he still found himself growing anxious to get back into a custom vehicle. He made an impulse decision to buy a Ranger that had already been "built", all the way from Tennessee. He made the 18-hour trek to purchase the truck, and spent the summer taking it to local shows without making any changes to it. After the first year, Gary made minor modifications, which included suiciding the doors and changing the color from red to black, but it was only a matter of time before he knew that a complete rebuild was necessary to make this Ranger is own. With the support of his family, friends, and fellow Acrophobia club members, he dove right into it the teardown without a second thought.
The timeline for the complete rebuild was 4½ months. Seems crazy, right? Without any sponsors, Gary depended strictly on his skills and help from anyone who was willing to donate their time. He was determined to get his truck finished in order to debut it at Megaspeed—an annual show that marks the season opener for all auto enthusiasts in Toronto.
The first step was to get the chassis on the frame table. The truck was bodydropped from the previous owner, but Gary decided to start fresh and build a custom frame to sharpen his skills. He was able to tweak it to fit the drivetrain for his brand new small-block motor, and was meticulous about the cab and body fitment. Ultimately disassembling the truck again was necessary to send the body and frame out for paint. Upon reassembly, the air management system and the wiring were finalized. The engine was dyno'd and tuned to specification, and last but not least the overhaul moved into the interior, where it was customized right down to the stereo and gauges.
At times, it seemed that the job was rushed. Gary felt severe pressure, dreading that he may not be ready by his deadline. He admits that there wasn't much time spent appreciating the help of his friends, nor was there time to have a social life. The only downtime he had was spent nervously awaiting the arrival of parts, spending countless nights in the shop fine tuning his work, and skimming social media to keep himself motivated.
When we asked Gary about his motivation he mentioned that Facebook and Instagram has really kept him focused from all the kind words he gets from friends and fellow enthusiasts. He touched briefly on some specific examples of mentors that he looks up to; "A few people that stick out in my mind is the work done by Little Shop. I'm always amazed by the work they do and the quality of their builds" In addition to them, Gary really looks up to Phil Fowler, whose graced the MT cover (January 2012) with his own Ranger. "He's a veteran in the scene. It's been motivating to talk to him on a few different occasions and to hear advice from someone who has built his own badass Ranger. He's proved that it's possible to attain high quality and functionality." Of course, Gary also mentioned that his close friend and club member Cory Hussey has also been a voice of motivation. "Cory's Colorado has set the bar for Canadian trucks, and proved that dedication really pays off. It makes me try to push myself every day to show the world what I'm capable of building."