There is always that truck that stands out in your mind as the truck that got you into minis or that moved you forward into building something cool. For many of us that truck is one that hung on our bedroom wall as a teen. You would go to bed with the truck, have dreams about it then wake up to it the next morning. For me, one of these love affairs was with Joe Fontanilla's '83 Toyota, "Raw Deal". A truck that would hold just as much influence to me today as it did when I was riding a skateboard to school. I had a love for this truck well before I would own a few of these body style trucks.
After posting a few photos of Raw Deal on my Facebook page, a friend sent me a link to who he thought was Mr. Fontanilla. After a bit of lurking and a few messages, I got a welcoming phone call from Joe. Who would have thought? The guy who owned the truck in which I had a damn shrine in my bedroom would be buzzing my phone one evening twenty-some-odd years later.
Joe had many good stories surrounding the truck. Joe tells me that Raw Deal got its name from Joe's club members. Before the truck took on its extensive makeover, it fell short from taking home awards leaving members telling Joe that he got a "raw deal". Joe, being the easygoing guy that he was (and still is), would shrug it off. The scissor lift diamond tilt bed would also lend a cool story as well as a history lesson. It was the genius idea of the Lopez brothers who would later become the owners of the world renowned Red's Hydraulics. Raw Deal was built at the forefront of their success being that the hydraulic bed setup would be built in a shack-like single car garage. Speaking of hydraulics, the truck's suspension was never adjustable. He wanted it to always be reliable and drivable. One look at how low the front valance is to the ground makes you stop and think, Some guys were hardcore to drive around that low to the ground without being able to lift it with the flip of a switch. The most astounding part of Joe's story is that Raw Deal is alive and well, and in immaculate condition. It sits at his home and still gets regular maintenance. I sure hope Joe takes my advice and gets it out to a show very soon!
When sharing this story and photos with my Mom a couple of weeks ago, before I had the chance to say it, she actually mentioned that the truck looked like the one that I had plastered on my bedroom wall. When I was 16, my parents purchased me a used mid-'80s Mazda 626. After driving it a few months, my parents made the mistake of putting the car in my name and leaving me with the title in an envelope. A few months later, I sold the car without my parents consent and purchased an '83 Toyota truck. You see, driving a car in the early to mid-'90s just wasn't cool. My Dad flipped his lid. I told him at some point that "I'm gonna have a truck like this!" Well, I did, twenty some odd years later. I debuted my retro-built '83 Toyota the same month that I would speak to the guy that pushed me this direction.
As the ol' saying goes: Everything comes full circle. If this isn't full circle then it must be a square. Sometimes we have to look back to look forward. Until next time, keep your roots firmly planted to the ground—flat on the ground.