What is it going to be?

I cannot speak for the rest of the team, but normally when I set out to make something, I have an overall concept in mind, even an image of what the end product will look like. In this case, we had a “mutant vehicle” as the end goal with no overall design concept. We did have some ideas about the vehicle’s requirements:

  • Hold 10 – 12 people including the driver
  • Be compelling at day and night
  • Have a nice 12v car audio sound system (not a PA)

So, this has been a backwards process for me. Initially we thought it would be a moving platform for art. We could perhaps build a something that rotates to build a zoetrope  or disco mirror tube on (and maybe one day, we’ll do that).

Over time we’ve been looking and researching. We ran across Dekatora, the amazing Japanese truck culture that has a lot of chrome, lights, murals, and stylish interiors. Then a few of us also expressed an affinity for the art nouveau and art deco movements and saw that as a potential style influence. The more we thought on this, something began to emerge.

We’re from Texas. Texas is known for steers. So let’s build an art deco bull with an homage to Dekatora…

And DECOTORO was conceived.

Now to get to the specifics of making this thing look like a bull. And a logo so we can start producing cool swag.

Maintenance Phase Complete!

In as much as maintenance is ever complete…

Our maintenance phase is complete! We have:

  • Changed the brake pads, brake shoes, and bled the brakes
  • Changed engine oil and filter
  • Flushed the radiator and replaced the coolant
  • Replaced the transmission oil radiator
  • Replaced spark plugs and plug wires
  • Replaced the air filter
  • Put in a new belt fit for no AC compressor
  • Replaced the tensioner pulley assembly

After pulling the entire dashboard, steering column, and the interior side of the wiring harness, we had many concerns about being able to start the truck again. We scheduled an all hands and gave it our best shot and after an hour of referencing wiring schematics, plugging stuff in, and taking some guesses, we started the truck. It runs nicely!

Now to complete the upgrade phase. Next steps are redoing the new cockpit. Steering, shifter, and seats.

Bought Racing Seats!

Labor day was a big day for the mutant vehicle.

  • We got the front and rear suspension finished.
  • Put the tires and wheels back on the vehicle and back on the ground.
  • Replaced plugs and plug wires.
  • Bought racing seats and lap belts with airline latches.

If you have not been to a Summit Racing Equipment retail location, you really owe yourself a visit. SO VERY COOL!

Begin Suspension Upgrades

The truck suspension needs new bushings all around. Rather than replace the bushings in the front, we chose to replace the upper and lower control arms. For the suspension the total replacement, addition, and upgrade part list is:

  • Upper control arms (replace for new bushings)
  • Coil springs (slight load upgrade)
  • Lower control arm (replace for new bushings)
  • Front sway bar (replace for new bushings)
  • Front shocks (replace)
  • Rear flat spring bushings (replace)
  • Rear coil over shocks (upgrade)
  • Rear sway bar (addition; normally only in 4×4 models)
  • Helper springs (addition)

Note: Initially we thought we would airbag the suspension to increase it’s load capacity. After considering the price of buying and maintaining airbags, we decided to try the aforementioned upgrades first.

Strip it!

Our premise in building this mutant vehicle is this to take the base vehicle,  remove as much as possible to get its weight down, upgrade the suspension to expand its load capacity as high as possible without “lifting” the vehicle, and then create the mutation.

In one day we removed the seats, windshield, cab, air conditioning, dashboard, and steering column.

Start Your Engine!

On July 5, 2018 a team of five of us got together and decided to build a mutant vehicle. Initial requirement was that the base vehicle be towable on the existing tandem trailer that Jackhammr owns.

Vehicles considered were a Toyota pickup, Tacoma, 4Runner, Chevrolet S-10, Ford Ranger, and Jeep Cherokee.

After some debate about what makes a good small truck base to carry 10 – 12 people at 5 MPH, the following requirements were added:

  • 2 x 4, a four wheel drive vehicle is more parts and more maintenance and does not provide enough extra low end torque to make the extra maintenance worthwhile
  • Midsize pickup truck, a midsize truck provides a towable yet load-bearing base to work with. An equivalent SUV could be acceptable, however a pickup truck body will be easier to separate and mutate.
  • Xtra cab, any extra cab, double cab or long bed options will provide a longer wheelbase to work with. The Ford Ranger extra cab wheelbase goes up to 125.6”.
  • Maximum 200,000 miles, the expected life of most of the small to midsize truck engines is about 300,000 miles. A vehicle having less than 200,000 miles would be ideal.
  • Automatic transmission, given that most of the usage will be at 5 – 20 MPH with frequent stops at a high load capacity, an automatic transmission will be easier to drive and will not be a risk of burning up a clutch due to usage and load.

We also determined the initial upgrades we would need to make:

  • Air Bag Suspension, add air bag suspension to increase cargo capacity of the base vehicle.
  • Convert Air Conditioning Compressor to Air Compressor, to fill suspension air bags, etc.
  • Smaller Wheels, decrease the wheel size to increase low end torque and slightly lower the vehicle.
  • Electric Radiator Fan, as the vehicle will be used almost always at lower speeds.
  • High Output Alternator, for 12v audio system and other 12v DC powered items..