Just less than two years ago, Jimmy Boykin stopped wrenching on cookie cutter, race-style compact cars and turned his attentions toward custom trucks. After having a customer sell a clean Hardbody to him, he began building an incredible example of a custom mini-truck for himself. Today, that truck is insane! To fully understand just how much work went into this truck in a year and a half, you have to be able to see it in person. By crawling around the truck and taking it all in, you are able to fully appreciate the lengths Jimmy and his shop AutoWerks went through to build such a ride. Because most of us aren't planning on visiting Columbus, Georgia, anytime soon, we have a load of photos and plenty of dialogue to lay it all out for you. So kick back and check this bad mutha' out!
MT: How did you get involved with trucks in the first place?Jimmy: I just decided I wanted to buy one. Right now, I've only been involved with minis for about a year and a half.
MT: So you're just getting started then, huh? Were you involved with custom vehicles before now?Jimmy: Yeah, I owned a shop, but I mainly worked on rice cars.
MT: What's the name of your current shop?Jimmy: It's called AutoWerks and it's located in Columbus, Georgia.
MT: How long have you had AutoWerks?Jimmy: Almost three years now.
MT: Is this your first truck?Jimmy: Yes it is.
MT: How did you find it?Jimmy: I bought it from a customer of mine who wanted to get rid of it. It was real nice from the get-go, with low mileage. Looking back, though, I should have gone out and bought a $200 junker and started with that.
MT: Why do you say that? You don't think it's better to start with a nice truck?Jimmy: No, it's not that. At this point, nothing on the truck is the same. Once we made the commitment to convert the front end to a Frontier, we started doing all kinds of bodywork to it, too.
MT: What did you do to the body?Jimmy: After the front end was converted, we shaved the door handles, rooflines, taillights, gas door, and wiper cowl, and then we welded the tailgate shut. We also eliminated the A/C and heater, cleaned up the firewall, and installed the new engine.
MT: Care to tell us about the engine you put into your truck?Jimmy: There's now an '85 Mazda RX-7 1.1L, dual-rotor motor in the truck.
MT: How did you make the rotary engine work? What transmission is in the truck now?Jimmy: We used an '81 Mazda RX-7 tranny with a Dacco converter and hooked it all up to a B&M Pro shifter with linkages that we had to modify to make it work. B&B Driveline in Columbus made the tranny work with my rearend with a custom driveshaft.
MT: Why did you go with the rotary engine in the first place?Jimmy: I bought one from a buddy of mine for $600. The price was right and it's a cool modification. It's tiny, has only three moving parts, and a real distinctive sound. I added a Holley 450 carburetor and had an intake custom made, thanks to my friend Robert Smith.
MT: So you're still using your original rearend then, right?Jimmy: Yeah. The '94 rearend is still under the truck, but it has been narrowed and fitted with disc brakes from a Jeep Grand Cherokee and has Chevy Caprice calipers with custom mounting brackets.
MT: Holy crap, that's awesome! Let's go back to the beginning for a moment. When you started on the truck, what did you want the truck to be? A driver? A show truck? What?Jimmy: I just thought it would be cool to have something with airbags installed on it. We added the 'bags and I were happy with that. Then we wanted to change the wheels to five-lug so we could have a bigger selection of wheels.
MT: And then you were happy, and left it alone, right? (Laughs)Jimmy: Uh, no. We put 18s on it and the paintjob was still good, so we body-dropped the truck. We were always doing something else to the truck, and this was the next thing.
MT: Moving on, tell us about the suspension on your truck.Jimmy: It has 2,500-pound Firestone 'bags, DJM lower control arms, and Chassis Tech spindles in front and 2,800-pound 'bags in the rear. The air system is setup with Parker 1/2-inch valves and 3/8-inch stainless steel lines. I wanted the smaller lines to slow it down a bit , so I don't slam it into the ground accidentally.
MT: Tell us more about the setup, would you?Jimmy: The suspension setup was done so the truck will lay frame, even with a 20-inch wheel. The rear suspension setup was built using Chassis Engineering ladder bars with a diagonal link. The rear of the truck will get stupid high, like 16 inches of lift in the rear. I run low pressure in the 'bags, only like 10 psi at ride height.
MT: Tell us about the front end on the truck. Was that a lot of work?Jimmy: I had already heard about Jimmy Graham's front end, and I had noticed for sometime that there were similarities between the Frontier and my truck. I realized this big time when a customer of mine parked his truck in front of my shop. I got out there with a tape measure and realized it would work. Now, everything from the firewall forward is from a '00 Frontier, except for the corners of the fenders where the bodyline is. I destroyed a perfectly good paintjob to make that front end happen.
MT: What was done to the interior?Jimmy: The factory dash was smoothed, then fiberglassed and fitted with Auto Meter gauges. I added a B&M Pro Shifter, and then re-covered the factory seats without the headrests. I have diamond-plate floor mats and door panel inserts. The stereo is a Clarion CD player with Clarion speakers and an MA Audio 6.8-inch monitor. I steer it with a Momo steering wheel.
MT: Who is responsible for the paint on your truck?Jimmy: The paint was done at my shop, AutoWerks. William Boswell was the artist on the truck. It has 45 colors in it and we spent about 160 hours on the paint. I had a lot of ideas that I wanted incorporated into the scheme, like the bubbles that run down the passenger side, the checkered flag, and the long-tipped tribal flames. After that, we started filling in the rest. I helped William tape it and sprayed all of the base colors myself.
MT: How long has it taken to get the truck to where it is today?Jimmy: I've been working on the truck now for about a year and a half.
MT: Is there anything else you'd like to do to the truck?Jimmy: We're definitely going to go back and duplicate the graphics under the hood.
MT: How often do you drive the truck?Jimmy: I was driving it every day, but I'm starting to get paranoid about taking it out for any other reasons than special occasions.
MT: Last question. What is the biggest award you've received from showing your truck?Jimmy: Getting the cover of Mini Truckin'! Need I say more?
MT: Thanks, bro, you have a great-looking truck!Jimmy: No problem. Thanks.
The LowdownWheels/Tires 20x8.5-inch Hp Onyx wheels with 245/35ZR20 Nitto tires
Suspension Airbagged at AutoWerks using 2500-and 2600-pound Firestone airbags. Up front, Chassis Tech spindles were used, along with Toxic shocks and DJM lower control arms. Once the firewall was tubbed, the truck lays frame with up to a 20-inch wheel/tire combo. In the rear, a Chassis Engineering ladder bar setup was used, along with a diagonal Panhard-style link.
Chassis The truck's frame was made to allow a huge wheel and tire to sit within its confines by a notch built by Robert Smith and installed by Jimmy Boykin. In the bed, through a custom sheetmetal bed floor, the crossmember has been cut out of plate steel in the shape of tribal flames.
Engine/transmission Equipped with an '85 1.1L Mazda RX-7 rotary engine and a '91 Mazda RX-7 transmission. The engine was painted using Harlequin paint for show appeal. The truck's exhaust is composed of 2-1/2-inch tubing that's downsized to 2-inch, and uses a polished stainless steel Magnaflow Muffler. Columbus Custom Exhaust built the truck's exhaust system, but Robert Smith made the truck's custom exhaust tips.
Interior Smoothing and painting made a huge difference in the truck's stock dash. A set of Auto Meter gauges was installed for simple readout of the truck's running statistics. Original bucket seats were reupholstered without their headrests to clean up the interior even more, and with a bit of color bought in from the exterior graphics, a very clean interior was created. Sound comes from an Alpine head unit, and an MA Audio monitor resides center stage in the dash.
Body Modifications '00 Nissan Frontier front end with shaved everything, including the rooflines in the truck's cab. The only thing we can think of that wasn't shaved is the truck's bodyline and even that was modified to make the Frontier front end work with the Hardbody doors and bed of the truck. The rear of the Nissan has been outfitted with LED taillights and turn signals for a stealthy look.
Paint/Graphics Painted at AutoWerks. Forty-five different hues of House of Kolors paint were used to paint the truck. In all, the truck's wicked paint scheme took about 160 hours.
Special Thanks To: John Gamache from PTAP for helping with all accessories, wheels, tires, and airbag parts; William Boswell for his never-faltering talent and dedication to the shop; Robert Battle for helping with the engine swap and helping to run the shop; Robert Smith for all his crazy fabricated parts; Mike Mock at the Parker Store who helped with all the stainless air lines and Parker Gold valves; Ant Prater, who cleared the truck at 3 a.m. Thursday before NOPI, even though he had to work the next day at 7 a.m.; Robert Cunningham, who Jimmy tricked into wiring up the truck with the Painless wiring harness; Steve Boykin (Jimmy's father), who helped Jimmy buy the truck because of the potential he saw in AutoWerks and in Jimmy; and Mack Folds, Tommy Miller, Justin Shepard, and Jimmy's wife Shannon and daughter Alley for having to deal with never seeing Jimmy because he's home late and up early everyday.