If you're a fan of old school, west coast gangsta rap, you'd recognize that the titles of this story are plays on classic N.W.A. tracks. Please don't sue us Dre, we're merely taking a minute to reminisce with this month's cover truck owner, Chris Caruso, about the influences that have played a part in building what many simply refer to as "the hip-hop truck".
"Music is the bond that brings this all together. From heavy metal bands like Slayer to DJ Magic Mike (the real Magic Mike) and Ice Cube", comments Chris of the true inspiration behind his Toyota build. "The paint tells a story of a time when self expression came in so many forms from skateboarding, freestyle BMX, graffiti, and above all for me, bass music." Although Chris is listing off the things that shaped his youth, he didn't forget to mention the driving source of that has fueled the last 23 years—his life experience through the progression of custom minitrucks. "I picked up my first issue of Mini Truckin' off a magazine rack at a local grocery store in 1989. So much has happened since then, brick cell phones turned into iPhones, chrome fender trim and radical ground effects and static drops are now ‘bags and bodydrops, and double diamond dancing beds went to … well, I'm still waiting for dancing beds to come back into fashion."
Now, this truck could've been finished a long time ago, but Chris joined the Navy in 1992, got married, started a family, and building a magazine worthy truck proved to be the least important thing on the priority list at times. "Bouncing around from San Diego, California, to Atsugi, Japan, Corpus Christi, Texas, and back to California, all in the name of Uncle Sam, making progress, or even thinking of it, became out of reach." Luckily, Chris held onto his truck as well as a decades-long dream to one-day see his build through. "Over the years of being a loyal reader of this magazine, I've seen trends come and go, watched who was building the best, and teamed up with them and took my style and morphed others' from the past and I got what you see here—my representation of the OG streets. I built this truck true to the roots of the old style."
And after any long journey, one can't help but glance in the rearview and take in the view of the ground that's been covered. And Chris is the type of guy who knows where he's headed, and is well aware of where he's come from. "I can't take credit for what you see here. It took a lot of dedicated people and shops around Southern California to make it happen. At times, I wish I was able to do all this myself, but if I did the bodywork and paint myself, well let's just say you wouldn't be reading this right now. Now that this dream is coming to end so to speak, I have one word to pass down to the next generation—respect. Respect yourself, your ride, the ride parked next to you, and the people and clubs you spend time with across the country. This lifestyle will be here for years to come if you master that.
Owner: Chris Caruso
Ride: 1998 Toyota Tacoma
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Wheels: 18x7.5 DeCorsa Polaris
Tires: 215/35/18 Nexen
Suspension Front: AIM spindle spacers, Firestone 'bags
Suspension Rear: Four-link, Firestone 'bags, '92 Toyota rearend
Control Arms: Sectioned arms
Compressor(s): Dual Viair 480s
Air/Hydro Accessories: 5-gallon airbrushed tank, Firestone manifold block
Misc.: Rear-mount lift pivot arms
Performed By: Nate Alexander and Max Fish of Bio Kustumz
Door handles, hood squirters, front corner lights, tailgate, factory gas door, and antenna
3½-inch traditional by Nate Alexander
Full-function, removable Targa top, sheetmetal bed and notch cover, front inner fender wells, custom Grant Kustoms metal bumper, molded front headlight fillers to front fenders, flared bedsides, reinforced 4x4 fenders, molded Scott's Hot Rods gas door
Clear headlights, 50/50 tails, powdercoated billet grille, Stockland big window camper
Targa top by Joe "Leafeater" McCluckey of Rigid Customs and Marley Marvelous of 1313 Designs, bodywork by Danny A. and Mike E., sheetmetal and other work by Nate Alexander and Painter Shak
Brand & Colors:
PPG '01 Nissan Frontier Desert Brown, Silver, and Black for pinstriping
300 hours of Candy Root Beer airbrush detailing
Mike E. and Matt Hutchenson of Sik Creations
Prelude buckets wrapped in black suede and vinyl
Fiberglass with custom vents
AIM spray can steering wheel, fiberglass center console, speaker pods, arm rests
Adam "Handmade" Radovich of Exterme Audo and Kustoms, paint by Matt Hutchenson of Sik Creations, steering wheel design by Devin and Eric Hubbard
Mids & Highs:
Three 12-inch Memphis Audio M-Class
Memphis Audio M-Class
9.5- and 10.4-inch Nesa monitors
Adam "Handmade" Radovich of Extreme Audio and Kustoms
Custom to clear emissions
'92 Toyota rearend to clear bed fenders by Max Fish of Bio Kustumz
Heavily modified plenum to lower engine 3½ inches to clear stock hood
: 170-amp alternator, batter moved to bed
Mark Blakely and Aaron Gardner of SCD Fabrication, and Extreme Audio and Kustoms
Special Thanks From Owner
"Thanks to my wife of 19 years, Raquel, my daughters Kelly and Eden for sacrificing so I could make this dream come true, Texas Minis, Shane and Dolly from Kulture for the push, Marley of Xtreme Lowz, Joe Bernardo, Juan and Maria Trevino, Richard Lopez, Extreme Audio, Aaron Gardner and Mark Blakely of SCD, Nate Alexander, Max Fish, the Odle family, Hope and Angelo for the storage space during my many deployments, and lastly to Omar, Suzy, and Miss Mena. To the US Navy, thanks for keeping me deployed during most of the build and making me miss all the shows I wanted to go to. Once I retire, catch me on the streets bumping Eazy E."