1992 Mazda B2200
Freaks Of Nature
Building up a truck from stock takes a ton of work, but building a truck that has already been featured in a magazine but has seen better days can sometimes take even more.
Ron Penwell from Louisville, Kentucky, came across this 1992 Mazda and knew instantly that he had to have it and that he had to change it up to make it his own. Little did he know at the time that a bodydrop would turn into what you see here. When the work was started, it just kept growing as he added things to the list and found things that needed fixing. The list grew to a new paintjob, wheels, interior, suicide doors, and so on. Wanting to keep the truck as clean as it once was in its previous life, Ron knew he needed to send it to a shop that was fully capable, so it was taken to the crew at Smith Chassis & Metalworks. To give you the inside scoop of the build process, we'll turn it over to Josh Jenkins from Smith Chassis & Metalworks.
"The truck was brought to us in January of 2007. Ron Penwell drove it from California to Louisville, right after Resolutions. The truck had blown a 'bag and needed a lot of repair work. It was in total disarray and needed a full rebuild, so the decision was made to do a stock-floor bodydrop and have the truck put back together and ready to go for Layd Out at the Park 2007. Upon rebuilding the truck we thought that if we were going this far, we might as well get deeper, larger-diameter wheels for the rear. That spun into the three-year project you see before you. Nick Crouch of Surface Art was contacted to have a rendering done, and we drew up a sketch of how we wanted the truck's paint design to look. Four or five days later, he sent back a rendering that fit what we were after perfectly.
To start, the truck was completely disassembled down to the bare frame, and the rear 3/4 of the frame was cut off and scrapped. That's when Brandon Smith and I began building a 3/4 chassis out of 2x3 box tubing. Upon completion of the main framerails the question was: Do we just make a run-of-the-mill truck and hang a triangulated four-link on it and call it a day or add some flavor to it and do a custom cantilever rear suspension? No less than an hour later a design was drawn up by Brandon and we were on the phone with the laser cutter. Upon receiving the parts, Brandon spent some time grinding, welding, and smoothing the cantilever pieces to get them ready for powdercoat. The rearend had old link tabs that were held on with bubble gum, gorilla glue, and a couple of tack welds followed by an inch of body filler. It took every bit of five hours to clean, fill-weld, grind, and smooth the rearend. A beefy Smith Chassis 1.5-inch DOM tube four-link was then installed, with the upper link bars intended to take the brunt of the force of the cantilever. The cantilever system uses a pair of Slam Specialties RE-6 'bags, which, when inflated, the system pushes down on the upper link bars, making for a clean yet custom "Goldberg" device. A call was then made to Richard at Wheel Nation to get a pair of 20x10 Billet Specialties slc75s with a 4.25-inch backspacing for the rear of the truck. While those were on order, Brandon Smith and James Vance went to work on the front suspension and installed a Smith Chassis torsion-style front bracket kit along with Slam Specialties RE-6 'bags. While he was there (which became the theme of this build), Brandon triangulated the lower control arm to get rid of the strut rod.
While the cab was on the body cart, James Vance installed the two inner front fenderwells that were cut to fit around the factory brake booster and master cylinder. The factory heater holes were also shaved, and a Transtar sprayable coating was used on the firewall and inner wheeltubs to protect everything from flying debris. During this time, we had a 1963 Impala wagon come in to have some good parts removed from it before it went to the crusher. We proceeded to cut the dash out of it to use in the Mazda. Brandon Smith and Tradd Burn sectioned the dash 3 inches through the glovebox area and then welded and smoothed the dash in the truck. Ron came in and said, 'Hell, if we have to repaint it let's also suicide the doors.' So, Brandon and Tradd got back to work to suicide both doors. We had a set of Grant pillar fillers on hand, so we trimmed and welded them on the truck for good measure. The bed had had a lot of previous work done to it, but we cut out all the old work and were able to start with basically a shell. Brandon got out the slip roller and started rolling rear wheeltubs that extend from the rear of the bed forward and around the wheel. With the help of James Vance and myself, the front of the bed was then capped off and two angled pieces that angle inward and follow the contour of the tubs were welded in. A rear hinged lid was also fabbed up to create a trunk space that would house the air ride, battery, and fuel cell.
The overall body of the truck was in decent condition when it showed up to the shop. The handles, tailgate, taillights, and gas door had already been shaved, and a rollpan was added. The body line was also flattened out to change the overall look of the exterior. The truck still needed something in the back end, so Brandon and I frenched some '39 Ford LED taillights in the rear. Once everything was ready, the bed and cab were sent to Roger Turner at Affordable Collision where they spent about 6 months getting prepped for paint, during which time Brandon painted the frame, transmission, and rearend True Blue Pearl, and the upper and lower control arms, four-link bars, and cantilever pieces were powdercoated a metallic silver. The truck was then jammed and put back together-including the '98-newer Ranger headlights with the new grille and 4Runner bumper and valance-to take to Havoc in 2008.
After the Havoc show, the truck was put back in the paint shop where it awaited its turn for the final paint. Roger Turner sprayed the base of Orion Silver with microflake and True Blue Pearl, and then Ray Jarrel of Louisville, Kentucky, airbrushed the chrome trim then hand-turned inside the graphic. During this time, the truck was bouncing around between Gary and Rob's tint and upholstery shop in Louisville and Smith Chassis & Metalworks for the finishing touches. Derrick Williams and Brandon designed and built the console for the truck that houses the window switches as well as rocker switches for the air ride and had the upholstery shop wrap it in gray leather and blue suede. Mazda 626 bucket seats, the headliner, door panels, and trim panels were also wrapped in gray leather and blue suede while an OEM-style gray carpet was laid down. The rear suspension was taken off one final time for a cleaning and for some touch-up thanks to Josh Akin and Josh Slucher. Once everything was buttoned up, the truck was carefully reassembled.
And that's how a bodydrop can turn into a full three-year buildup. Everyone at Smith Chassis & Metalworks would like to thank Ron Penwell for giving us creative freedom on the truck."
Now that you have the inside scoop directly from the builders, check out the Lowdown for any extra tidbits you might need for your next build.
18x8 Billet Specialties SLC75 (front) / 20x10 (rear)
215/35ZR18 Hankook (front) / 255/35ZR20 (rear)
Suspension Type: Smith Chassis & Metalworks air setup
Suspension (front): Smith Chassis & Metalworks torsion bracket set,
Suspension (rear): Four-link rear suspension with hand-built cantilever system that pushes the upper link bars to raise the truck
Control Arms: Triangulated lower control arms to eliminate strut rod
Spindles: Drop spindles
Valves: Eight 3/8-inch SMC valves from the Gauge Store
Compressors: Two Viair 480s
Air Line: 3/8-inch front
Frame Mods: 3/4 frame from firewall back using 2x3 box tubing
Gas Tank: 10-gallon Speedway fuel cell
Detail Work: Powdercoat, paint, and chrome
Performed By: Smith Chassis & Metalworks
Door handles, wiper cowl, B-pillars, gas door, taillights, upper bodyline, tailgate welded shut
'98 Ford Ranger headlights, Toyota 4Runner bumper and valance
Frenched '39 Ford LED taillights
Yep, both doors
Smith Chassis & Metalworks
Brand & Colors: HOK Orion Silver with silver flake, HOK True Blue Pearl
Style: Two-tone with airbrushed chrome trim and silver engine turning
Airbrushing: Ray Jarrell
Performed By: Roger Turner at Affordable Collision and Brandon Smith
Mazda 626 buckets
Gray leather and blue suede
Narrowed '63 Impala
Custom-built to follow the contour of the dash and blend into the subwoofer enclosure between the seats
New gray carpet
Gary & Rob's Upholstery and Smith Chassis & Metalworks
Head Unit: 7-inch flip-out TV
Mids & Highs: Kicker 6.5-inch components and 5.25-inch midrange
Amplifier for Mids & Highs: Soundstream
Subwoofers: 8-inch Kicker
Amplifier for Subwoofer: Kicker
Performed By: Smith Chassis & Metalworks
Chrome valve cover, chrome air cleaner, painted engine block and transmission
Aluminum radiator and Weber Carb
Smith Chassis & Metalworks
Special Thanks From Owner:
"Mini Truckin' magazine for the inspiration and support, Lance at Viair, Hankook tires, Nick and Tim at Slam Specialties, Richard at Wheel Nation, Tradd Burn, James 'Flames' Vance, Josh Akin, Josh 'Coat Hanger' Slucher, and Dan for painting the grille emblem at the last minute."