A Truck That’s More Than Just a Literal Translation
AROUND 17 YEARS AGO, SANTIAGO TORRES JR. of Minco, Oklahoma, was 16 years old and working on his first custom truck. He ordered a custom license plate, “NL SUELO,” which stood for “enel suelo” in Spanish or “on the floor” in English. The plate is about more than just the literal translation of the phrase, however. For Santiago, “en el suelo” is about creating a vehicle that stood head and shoulders above the rest, something that would leave its viewers on the floor. Even though that first truck was neat, as were the next few that wore the same license plate, it wasn’t until Santiago decided to go hard on a build that the name truly meant something.
There is another way to take the phrase, obviously, and that’s literally, so let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: Santiago’s ’02 Silverado isn’t body-dropped, which might cause people to question whether or not “on the floor” is an apt description for the truck. But it does lay frame—hard—so, the plate checks out. He could have gone the extra mile, and he seriously considered the option, but ultimately, he decided to prioritize another mod over the body drop, and frankly, we think it was the right decision.
The 1999-2007 Chevys aren’t classics yet, but enough of them have been customized throughout the years that Santiago wanted to do something different with the body style. With that in mind, one of his goals for the build was to lay it out on 26s and add a Tahoe front clip. Both of those things have been done before, sure, but Santiago’s focus was on execution. Anyone can buy a Tahoe clip and bolt it on, but then the bedsides look like garbage. They’ve got the bodyline and fender arches of the Silverado, not the flare of the Tahoe. Santiago remedied that by grafting the Tahoe fenders into the bedsides so that they matched. Now the truck tucked even more of those 26-inch Intro Dakotas, and that was perfect.
BEING EN EL SUELO ISN’T JUST ABOUT LAYING OUT YOUR TRUCK, IT’S ABOUT LEAVING THE COMPETITION FLOORED.”
But now there was the question of the body drop. When you bolt one of those Tahoe front clips onto a truck that lays frame, the front bumper sits right on the ground too. If you decide to go the extra 2-plus inches it takes to put the rockers down, you’ll get a few options: Cut up the stock Tahoe bumper so that you’re somewhere in the middle of the fog lights, or fabricate a new bumper from scratch. Santiago considered both of those options and decided to keep it as-is. After all, laying frame on 26s isn’t an easy feat, and doing so with the Tahoe clip made it all that much sweeter. Going hard also means taking a look at everything in-depth, which is what he did with the rest of the truck. He considered shaving everything—door handles, tailgate, taillights, etc.— but he wanted to keep it clean. Instead, the tailgate handle and gas door went, with a smooth roll pan on the back to tighten things up. The entire truck was straightened out perfectly and painted a killer DuPont Blue Metallic, which accents the Tahoe parts perfectly. If anybody goes hard on the paint, it’s Santiago.
The interior is also a work of art. Done by Eli’s Easy Trim and Audio Extremist, the resulting panels and trim combine to create a simple, yet clean look. The door panels, for example, were modified to eliminate the bottom pocket and give him more room for speakers in the doors. The center console holds a pair of 8-inch subs, but it’s also functional and carries his switch panel and a pair of cup holders.
Another neat touch is the stereo. Everything but the head unit is made by Digital Design, a decision that Santiago made because they’re based in Oklahoma, just like him. The resulting system looks good and sounds even better. Everything is wrapped and stitched with leather and suede, bringing together the entire package nicely.
The truck has been done for a bit now, and Santiago drives it whenever possible. He’s a busy guy, after all. His son is four, and he has twin daughters that soak up all of his attention. And when he’s not with them he’s working at the restaurant he founded, Nachito’s Mexican American Grill in Minco, Oklahoma. He’s a third-generation restauranteur, so he works hard at keeping things going. Needless to say, he’s juggling a lot, so the truck isn’t always fi rst priority. But he drives it to shows whenever possible. There is a future for the truck, of course, but whether or not Santiago keeps it or sells it is still up in the air. Should he decide to pass it on to another owner, you can be sure that he’s keeping that license plate so he can put it on his next truck. After all, being en el suelo isn’t just about laying out your truck, it’s about leaving the competition floored. ST