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1994 Mazda B4000 - Resilience

Posted in Features on February 1, 2013
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Setbacks and success seem like polar opposites, but there are times when one can lead to the other. Keith Minnicks can tell you all about it. A self-described adrenaline junkie and extreme sports enthusiast, Keith was part of the amateur motocross circuit in Nevada and Arizona. When he wasn’t on his dirt bike, he was usually selling motorcycles at a Las Vegas dealership where he worked. “I was the number one salesman for several months in a row,” Keith relates. “I loved talking to people, and I had a deep passion for what I was talking about.”

Everything changed in 2004. Keith and some of his friends headed to the Glamis Dunes, determined to make the President’s Day holiday one of the best weekends in their collective lives. Before that trip, most Glamis visits were taken on non-holiday weekends to avoid the crowds.

Keith and company got to Glamis, set up camp, and bought the safety flags needed to ride in the dunes. Keith decided a wheelie down Sand Highway was in order. Midway through, he collided with a yellow sand rail, a classic case of buggy vs. bike. True to form, the bike and its rider lost the match. “I flew into the rollcage like a rag doll, end over end,” he told us. “I landed with my body facing up and my head facing down into the sand, not breathing.” A fellow Glamis-goer who happened to be a firefighter sprang into action. The firefighter opened Keith’s airway and got him breathing again, but Keith had sustained massive internal injuries and needed full-service medical help, stat. He was airlifted to a Palm Springs hospital.

Keith’s Ranger is well-built and capable, but that’s not what sets it apart. The most unique feature is the story behind the driver.

There’s not enough room here for a detailed account of Keith’s ordeal, but the lowlights are that he lost the use of his left arm, lost more than 30 pounds of muscle mass, broke every vertebra in his neck, suffered a severed aorta, and sustained nerve damage. And you thought you had a bad day. …

It was a setback of Titanic proportions. With a battered body and a shattered wallet, Keith had to decide what to do with his new situation. There were plenty of reasons to wallow in self-pity and quit on life, but he decided to fight the uphill battle. Weapons of choice? Books and a truck.

Throwing himself into school, Keith studied hard, ultimately graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He’s part of the class of 2012.

As for the truck, it’s a ’94 Mazda B4000: a rebadged Ford Ranger. Originally a casual project, Keith’s competitive nature led him down the racing path. As it sits now, Keith and his father have done the bulk of the fabrication. Friends often join in when it’s time for race prep. The bumper-to-bumper rollcage is mostly DOM steel, with some chromoly and mild steel mixed in where appropriate. Keith drives using both feet and one arm; the co-driver handles shifting duties.

We’ll refrain from cooking metaphors while describing the rear suspension. The F.A.S.T. overlay plate for the rear shock mounts was produced at a local laser-cutting shop and is one of the few items on the rollcage that was not built in the garage. A F.A.S.T. upper wishbone link combines with GMR lower links and Sway-A-Way dampers. FK rod ends are used exclusively on this truck.

After such a setback, success is something Keith had to fight hard to get. It’s safe to say he’s found it. “I no longer wish for the life I had before,” he reveals. “I am happy and have a strong education and a will to do anything. I am beginning to fill my life with fun again, like it was before I got hurt. I may not be able to enjoy dirt bikes anymore, but I can still enjoy high speeds through the desert.”

A Ford small-block V-8 is a popular choice, but the 4.0 SOHC V-6 is almost as powerful and it’s easier to fit in the compact Ranger chassis. Keith and his dad did most of the ’cage work you see here. This is a garage-built truck, proving that determination and some key fabrication tools are sometimes all you need. It didn’t hurt that Keith’s dad is also a master carpenter. Keith calls his efforts F.A.S.T. Fabrication and F.A.S.T. Racing. There are big plans for the future.

Every now and again, life seems to knock each of us down. We can let setbacks define us, or we can get up and fight for success. Resilience is the key.

PhotosView Slideshow

Vehicle: 1994 Mazda B4000
Owner/hometown: Keith Minnicks/Irvine, CA
Engine: Ford SOHC 4.0 V-6 with JBA headers, K&N air filter, custom air filter housing
Transmission: Ford C-4 built by Dana Sniff Racing Transmissions
Front suspension: Equal-length I-beams using Dana 44 housing ends, Sway-A-Way coilovers, bypass shocks and bumpstops, and FK rod ends.
Steering: Howe-built steering box and ram assist. Strapped, usable travel: 20 inches.
Rear suspension: Three-link using GMR lower links and a F.A.S.T. Fabrication upper wishbone. FK rod ends. Sway-A-Way coilovers, bypass shocks, and bumpstops. Strapped, usable travel: 28 inches.
Ring and pinion: Yukon, usually a 6-to-1 ratio
Rear Differential: Yukon spool inside a Yukon nodular iron gear case
Tires: General Grabber, 35x12.50R17
Wheels/backspacing: Raceline Monster beadlocks, 17x9.5 w/4-inch backspacing

How’s this for jumping back into life?
PhotosView Slideshow

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