"Build it, don't buy it," is a common theme that permeates the off-road world. Guess what? It's also the philosophy behind the popular Discovery Channel show Monster Garage. West Coast Choppers' Jesse James and his team use their talents to transform ordinary vehicles into machines with a whole new purpose. What began as a school bus is metallically morphed into an amphibious yellow non-submarine. What was a production Ford Mustang is now a mean, green, grass-munching machine. The off-road connection? The same techniques and talents that create Monster Garage's oft-bizarre four-wheeled creations can help budding fabricators build better, more capable off-road trucks.
Rather than recreate Monster episodes in greater detail, How to Customize Damn Near Anything takes a more general approach. Each chapter highlights a different aspect of building a custom vehicle. The book usually uses a hot rod project as a backdrop, but the same fast, reliable small-block Chevy mill that engine builder Jim Richardson details in Chapter Two can be slipped into a prerunner, mud bogger, or Class Eight desert truck just as easily. Advice about superchargers and turbochargers? It's in there, too. Richardson doesn't just tell readers how to create a potent, long-lasting Bow Tie powerplant; he gives sage advice about cam grinds, buying a used motor block, intake manifold selection, and Magnaflux inspection along the way.
Tim Remus takes the helm of the next few chapters, illustrating front and rear suspension principles, the proper way to build a brake system, and sheds light on the ins and outs of what holds a vehicle together - fasteners. Again, the same principles that make for a great-handling street rod hold true for off-road driving, albeit with gobs more suspension travel.
Master welder and author Richard Finch was called upon to share his area of expertise. Finch's welding skills have held together many cars and airplanes, so he knows a few things about making strong, pretty welds. Finch explains the advantages and disadvantages of several welding processes, as well as the techniques used to weld successfully. Wondering if a TIG or MIG machine is right for you? Finch gives the custom builder the information needed to make the choice.
Dennis Parks takes the baton next. Hot rodders love clean, almost-looks-wet paintjobs, and off-roaders need durability. Parks explains how to prep your rig for paint, how to select colors, and finally, how to fog on your project's new hue.
Craig Fraser shares secrets for laying down graphics, from mild to genuinely twisted, on top of the basecoat. Skulls? Flames? Ripped metal and brains? No problem. Graphics are limited only by the imagination and impatience.
Dennis Parks wraps up the book with instructions about automotive detailing. While some of us don't mind driving thrashed trucks that almost look abandoned, others need their off-road trucks for commuting, business, and impressing romantic interests. Dual-duty trucks need the detailing that Parks shows readers how to do.
With a barrage of photos, easily understood writing, and a broad scope, How to Customize Damn Near Anything belongs in the library of every budding fabricator. We'd never substitute this book for in-depth volumes about its several topics - it's not intended to be an all-inclusive textbook. Instead, we'll grab it when we need basic, clear information about an automotive customization subject that we're not an expert in. If "build it, don't buy it" is your mantra, you need this book.