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.
MT: That's rad. I guess that's what enabled you to move the bed closer to the cab. It looks like it's never rubbed.
Gabe: Yeah, I couldn't have closed up the gap between the bed and the cab without the chassis being so stiff. Most people don't notice that.
MT: That's why they pay me next to nothing here, because I notice all the cool and minute details. Tell me about the body and paintwork on your truck. Who made it look so clean?
Gabe: I turned to my friend Boomer for perfect-quality bodywork and paintwork.
MT: I think that next to the 'cage, the interior is my favorite part of your truck. What have you got going on inside of the cab?
Gabe: Well, the seats are mounted off of the rollcage, of course, and I built the dash out of aluminum. I have a monitor in the center console and a Sony PlayStation 2 behind the seats. On the passenger side, there is a JL Audio 10-inch sub mounted into a custom enclosure, upside-down, underneath the dash. There are also speakers in custom kick panels and in the doors. The Aura amplifier is mounted in the floor in front of the passenger seat.
MT:- I see an empty space in the dash for another Auto Meter gauge. That wouldn't be reserved for a boost gauge, would it?
Gabe: Yeah, I'm building another 22R motor for this truck, and it's going to be turbo'd. I wish I had it done already.
MT: You know, it takes a ton of cajones to cut the floor completely out of your truck and expect to have the bed sides line up straight with the cab and have everything mounted securely. You've accomplished that feat rather well. I dig the graphics that run on the inside of the bed panels.
Gabe: Thanks, man. It wasn't that hard to do because the rollcage offered so many places to mount the body.
MT: The club you roll with, IMG (Intense Motoring Group), is mainly an import car club. How do you fit into the picture with your mini?
Gabe: They are all my friends. We were friends first and then started the club. There are only about 15 of us, and it's not like you can just join with a nice ride. You have to be our friend first. Back when imports started getting hot and all my friends built Civics and CRXs, I wanted to be different, so I decided to build a mini. A few times, when people gave me a hard time, I thought about switching, but I didn't.
MT: I'm glad you didn't. We need more people out there that have the guts to build trucks that can't be pigeon-holed as either a show truck or a race truck. You've done it perfectly. You could be like the ambassador between the racers and the mini-truckers. Not that the two groups are at war or anything, it just seems like a lot of guys think that they can only go to an import show or a mini-truck show and not both. I give you a ton of respect for gettin' over in both scenes.
MT: Well, we are running out of space here. Is there anyone you'd like to give a shout out to?
Gabe: Thanks to my good friend and mentor Mark Newhan of Bull's Eye Industry, who inspired me to be the best fabricator possible. I'd like to thank Tim Maguire from Racer X for allowing me to use his shop. I'd also like to thank Kevin Lessard, Jason and Timothy Koch, and Roger from AEBS. Also my cousin Brian, aka Tenacious B, John Cooley from Alumi Craft, Eugen Abad, and Team IMG for its support.
Chassis/Suspension A full-tube rollcage built out of 1-1/2 x 0.95-inch mild steel by Gabe connects the frame and the custom-built suspension. An off-road-style four-link with urethane bushing ends locates the rearend, and Firestone 2500 'bags are mounted off of the link bars in a mechanical advantage-style setup. Koni double-adjustable shocks damp the rear suspension. Gabe also fabbed mounts for a 7/8-inch Stock Car Products sway bar. The front suspension consists of another pair of Firestone 'bags mounted to custom-built control arms and frame mounts. Gabe built the A- and H-arms to eliminate negative camber throughout the suspension travel. Another pair of Koni shocks is cantilever-actuated by pushrods that are mounted to the lower H-arms with Heim joints. One-half-inch lines, a 5-gallon air tank, and electric valves make up the rest of the air suspension. Bob Gall of R.W. Little Company in San Diego powdercoated the entire chassis in crush silver and the suspension and motor parts in candy blue.
Engine/Drivetrain The engine compartment is as clean as it gets. You could eat lunch off of the painted, polished, and powdercoated 22R motor. Gabe built a smooth fan shroud out of aluminum and relocated an Optima Red Top battery to the bed. The motor also features a TRD camshaft, an Injen intake, a Downy off-road race header, an MSD 6AL ignition, and NGK spark plugs and wires. Power on demand comes from a two-stage NOS fogger system plumbed into the intake. A larger radiator out of a V-6-model truck keeps things cool.
Wheels/Tires 18x7-1/2-inch KMC Porn Star rims are stuffed into P215/35R18 Nitto NT550 rubber bands. The wheels have a 42mm offset and are mounted with 1/4-inch spacers. The bearing dust covers for the front rotors had to be removed to allow the center caps to be installed on the wheels.
Body Mods Gabe installed a full 4Runner front end from a '95-model Toyota. The hood is a fiberglass piece built for Baja trucks. Gabe entrusted his friend Boomer to straighten out the body of his Toy and cover it completely in shiny goodness. Boomer shaved the doors, the antenna, the fuel door, and the tailgate and spent hours making the fiberglass hood straight. Gabe also cut the bed floor out to save weight and mounted the bed to the rollcage so that it could be disassembled in three pieces whenever he wanted. He also built the trick wheeltubs and mounted everything with Dzeus fasteners.
Custom Paint/Graphics Boomer based the truck in brilliant blue and ran the graphics inside the bed, on the backside of the cab, and into the interior and the doorjambs.
Interior Upgraded items include Sparco seating, five-point harnesses, and a MOMO quick-release steering wheel. Gabe fabbed the dash out of aluminum and installed the Auto Meter Phantom gauges. His friend, James Stewart, built the custom door panel and the center console and installed the complete audio/video system.
Audio/Video System James Stewart installed a Pioneer DEH-P7200 CD head unit and Aura mids and tweets in the kick panels and the doors. The underdash sub is a 10-inch JL Audio and the amp is from Aura.