Before any of you get your torsions all twisted, take the blinders off and see this truck for what it really is: a rolling work of technological art. Don't be quick to judge this truck as some raced-out truck instead of a true custom mini. This truck is shaved, 'bagged, linked, custom-painted, and features more cutting-edge suspension technology than anything else we've covered in a long time. Since jumping into the driver seat and burning through a few corners in this bad boy, we can honestly say this truck handles and rides like it's not on 'bags and looks every bit the part of a real mini. This turned into one of the longest and best cover shoots we've had in a while. Originally, we were going to shoot a phat burnout cover of Gabe's Toy' at a local dragstrip, but when the weather didn't cooperate, we switched to the studio. Gabe only lives about two hours from the studio, but by the time we got him lost and he picked up his new wheels and had them mounted, we ended up in the studio at about 6 p.m. on a Friday night. We finished shooting around midnight and everyone was exhausted. Here is what we talked about during the eight hours we got to hang out.
MT: Hey man, thanks for coming out on such short notice. It was a last minute deal, but I knew your truck would be perfect for the cover of our performance issue.
Gabe: No, thank you, man. This is cool.
MT: I totally dig the fact that I haven't seen your truck before and most people have never laid eyes on it.
Gabe: Well, I've owned it for eight years, and I've worked on it for the last six.I only got it running and began cruising it last month.
MT: Here is what I'm totally blown away by: You look really young and yet you fabricated nearly everything yourself. Who taught you, and where do you work?
Gabe: My mentor, Mark Newhan, introduced me to the fabrication of race cars and prerunners. I work for Alumi Craft High-Performance Sand Cars. It's a shop that builds long-travel off-road buggies. I have a shop that I'm opening up on the side where I'll be building custom tube 'cages and chassis fabrication for peoples' rides.
MT: I don't know if our readers will be able to see it in the photos, but your entire suspension system is built off of the rollcage, and the rollcage is fully welded and goes through the cab of the truck. How were you able to powerdercoat the chassis with the rollcage running through the cab like that?
Gabe: I built that cage about five years ago; I'm much better at building them now. What I did was build the 'cage with the bed and the front sheetmetal off of the truck. I welded the 'cage through and to the cab, then sent the frame and the cab out for powdercoating. The cab got a bit warped because of the heat during the powdercoating process, but it wasn't too bad. I knew my painter, Boomer, would be able to handle that.
MT: I love trick suspensions, and yours has to be one of the best I've ever seen on a mini. What have you got goin' on in there?
Gabe: Well, the back is 'bagged with a triangulated four-link. The front of the four-link mounts off of the cage, and the Koni shocks do, too. I also C-notched the frame and fabricated mounts for a 7/8-inch Stock Car Products sway bar. The 20-gallon fuel cell came from my friend's off-road truck. Up front, I made my own tube control arms, and I made cantilever mounts off of the 'cage for another pair of Koni adjustable shocks. By cantilever-mounting the shocks, I was able to keep them upright so they would work correctly. I always see minis with shocks mounted at weird angles, and that never works very well. I also made custom mounts for the 'bags and a 1-1/4-inch sway bar. There is also a bar that ties the front suspension together in front of the motor like a strut tower bar in a car. The chassis is super stiff with this set up and handles really well.