Every now and then a 4x4 comes along that steps the sport up a notch, some because of their ingenuity, some because of their technical advancements, and some because the craftsmanship is more than a few steps beyond the art. Clifton Slay, proprietor of Poison Spyder Customs, built his latest tube car on his company Web site, www.spydercustoms.com, with each step seeming just a bit more over the top than the one prior. We had Clifton on the phone before this monster rolled from PSC's Denver shop and told him we wanted first dibs on featuring it, especially if it lived up to our expectations in real life. Did it ever.
The idea behind the chassis' that Poison Spyder's crew of master fabricators build is that they are not designed to win a rockcrawling world championship or race down the Baja peninsula. Instead the goal is to be a comfortable, capable trail machine, where the driver and passengers can spend hours exploring the gnarliest tracks around.
This latest creation, christened Suicide Sally is based on a Poison Spyder five-seat Bruiser chassis but every nook and cranny has some over-the-top details that push the envelope of extravagant, especially in a trail buggy.
The interior is where Clifton and his fiance AJ spend their time, so of course it had to be comfortable as well as stylin'. The heated (yes, heated) seats are custom upholstered Mastercraft Sportsman buckets up front and a wide bench in the rear. Both come equipped with four-point safety harnesses. The dash houses Auto Meter's gauges and hides a Premier Power welder and swing-away grab handle for the co-driver. As an added step, Sally is outfitted with inner and outer body panels for a cleaner look and a hiding place for the numerous wires around the chassis. The steering wheel is polished aluminum with a leather wrap, the throttle and brake pedals are from Lokar, and don't miss the polished aluminum fire extinguisher and pistol-grip levers running to a polished Atlas 3.8 transfer case. The tranny is a modified TH-475 originally designated for a heavy motorhome. Gears are selected via a Lokar shifter with a skull shaped knob, of course. Did you expect one shaped like a kitten?
Engine: GM Ramjet 502 with 200-shot nitrous, polished intake and brackets
Transmission: Heavily modified Turbo 475
Transfer Case: Atlas wih 3.8 reduction
Front Axle: Dynatrac ProRock, rev cut, 40-spline Detroit Lockers, 4:88 R&P, 40-spline shafts & outer stubs with 1480 CTM axle joints
Rear Axle: Dynatrac ProRock, reverse cut, 40-spline Detroit Lockers, 4:88, 40-spline Superior shafts, disc brakes
Wheels & Tires: Weld Cheyenne 16x12, OMF bead locks, 46-inch Mickey Thompson
Suspension: Sway-A-Way 16-inch-stroke coilovers with Hypercoil coils, nickel-plated and polished bodies with purple anodized components, Sway-A-Way nitrogen bumpstops with polished and purple anodized components
Every rig has a story behind it so when it was all said and done, feature editor Fred Williams e-mailed Clifton Slay some questions about his ride.
Fred Why did you build it?
Clifton The puppies (Chinook & Kii) are getting older and cannot run the trails like they use to, so I needed a buggy that could accommodate the pups on the trails so they could ride. I also felt that the family tube car is the next big trend in rockcrawling. Additionally I wanted to create a machine from our community that raised the level in detail and refinements that was previously only prominent in the hot-rod world.
Fred How long did it take?
Clifton Five months of actual build time.We built Sally until it was ready to start, then disassembled it. Then painted, powdercoated, and had the exhaust ceramic coated. Then reassembled. This adds two months, so total build time: seven months.
Fred What was the goal?
Clifton To build a family rockcrawler that was the pinnacle in style with the off-roadability to do the most difficult of trails.
Fred Why build it the way you did?
Clifton Big-block for shear power and wow factor. Kept it low, wide, and long for stability, good road characteristics and the ability to climb terrain that short wheelbases could not.
Fred Where do you like to wheel it?
Clifton Anywhere that is not too muddy. We had the best time in her at the Superlift Off Road park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Big wet rocky climbs that enabled us to utilize Sally's best attributes: power, clearance, and wheelbase.
Fred Any other tidbits you would like to add to the story?
Clifton One thing the readers may not know is that the term "tube car" was coined by Fred and his friends during a Pabst Blue Ribbon night in a seedy Denver Bar, but Webster's has failed to implement this new mainstream lingo into its modern text. Nonetheless Fred still uses it daily. Also Fred and I like to label our machines with pet names [such as Sally, Petunia, Bruiser, and Clampy-F.W.], although endearing to us; this practice is viewed by our peers as dated and silly. Of course some people refer to Fred as "Uncle Freddy." I prefer "Crazy Uncle Freddy."
Fred Thanks, Clifton.