It may be a "stock" truck, but there's a lot of expensive stuff under the hood...
We actually got the truck about nine weeks before the race, which in the world of custom fabrication is right on time! Needless to say, our work was cut out for us. As it would turn out, we spent every single day of that nine weeks working until the wee hours in order to complete the project on time.
The first day was pretty fun as we all reaffirmed our love with the plasma cutter and the Sawzall. After we had removed just about everything from the truck that wasn't absolutely necessary, the next step was to fabricate the rear structure of the cage. This would serve to stiffen and strengthen the frame as well as serve as the mounting point for the 3.5-inch Fox bypass shocks. In order to maximize the damping effect of the shocks, we located them as far outboard as possible by putting the lower shock mount directly over the custom Deaver leaf packs. We used all straight tubes and doubler plates to create a rear cage that was ultrastrong but still lightweight. It was often difficult to force ourselves not to overengineer the rear of the truck, and things sometimes devolved into a scene from American Chopper. Tolerances were very tight because the top of the shock cannot protrude above the bedside, nor can it be mounted too low or the shock body will hit the frame. Eventually, we got the geometry right with just enough metal and just the right angles to keep the rear end together and under control.
Once the bed cage was complete, it was time to install the fuel cell. Unlike many trucks that sink the cell behind the axle, we decided to locate ours immediately behind the cab. We wanted it close to the center of mass, so that handling characteristics would change as little as possible while the fuel burned down during the race. We tucked the fuel pump, filters, and regulator under the bed on the left framerail and plumbed it all with AN fittings and push-lock hose. We installed dual Optima YellowTop batteries in the bed and wired them in series through a cutoff switch to the main electrical buss in the cab. We've never had a flat while racing Toyos, so we opted for a single spare tire that we mounted horizontally in the bed with a simple spinner.
As per SCORE rules, we retained the stock dash but removed all panels that could potentially fly off during the race, including the glovebox. We initially left quite a bit of the stock dash components in place, but after our first test session a large panel wound up in the driver's lap during a particularly rough section and we were forced to adjust our definition of what could possibly fly off! We reinforced the plastic foundation behind the dash with steel gussets and installed trick gauges and marine-grade switches.
We used programmable gauges from Nordskog that allowed us to control big, red idiot lights, a feature that later proved to be invaluable during testing, prerunning, and in the race itself. Focusing on gauges when you're getting violently tossed around can be difficult, and those warning lights were just the ticket to focus our scan when needed. We used a RAM mount to locate the Lowrance GPS just above the gauges. Everything was laid out so that the codriver could easily navigate and monitor systems without having to look too far down in the cockpit and the driver could concentrate on driving. We reinforced the stock seat sliders and mounted MasterCraft Pro 4 racing seats. Then, we framed a center console to support the shifter and to provide a waterproof yet accessible mounting location for most of the electrical system. We then mounted the radio and Procomm intercom as well as the fresh-air pumpers for the drivers.