TWENTY-TWO-INCH AMERICAN RACING WHEELS TUCK NICELY INTO THE RANGER’S FENDERS.

Twenty-two-inch american racing wheels tuck nicely into the ranger’s fenders.

Have you ever noticed how much you hear the word “No” when you’re low on dough? Money makes the world go ’round, and when you have none of it, well, you’re stuck going nowhere. You ain’t going any place just because you’ve got a pretty face (especially when you’re a lowly, scruffy mini-trucker), and when all your funds are tied up in a ground-up build, you’d better get used to the confines of your own home. Yes, it’s a self-inflicted condition, but it still sucks to be broke. Ramen noodles and mom’s home cookin’ that’s what building a show truck tastes like. Just ask Dustin Puzey. He knows.

He’s seen with his own green eyes how a stack of bills (C-notes) can magically turn into… a stack of bills (the Visa kind). Back in 2007, Dustin bought his Ranger for 2,000 bucks, a nominal investment considering what he’d end up spending during the seven-year build phase. But it’s all been money well spent considering he’s been hooked on trucks since he was 13. “My parents took us to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, when I was a kid, and it just so happens that the MiniTruckin’ Nats were going on the same time we were there. Seeing all those custom trucks driving around town was enough to sell me on wanting one for myself someday,” Dustin says about the experience that has contributed to his recent bank account drain.

BILL BYRD AND ROSS JOHNS OF SPECIALIZED STITCH CO. ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RANGER’S PLUSH SEATING, AND MARTY WARD OF MARSHALL’S SHOP CREATED THE CUSTOM SHEET METAL AND FIBERGLASS DASH.

Bill Byrd and Ross Johns of specialized stitch co. Are responsible for the ranger’s plush seating, and Marty ward of Marshall’s shop created the custom sheet metal and fiberglass dash.

Up until that point, and even after, Dustin has been drawn to street rods and muscle cars. This is apparent upon close inspection of his completed Ranger. From the Corvette Stingray-inspired hood to the shiny SBC motor planted under said hood, he was all about incorporating elements of speed into his first mini-truck project. Even down to the 1936 Ford taillights there are hints of Dustin’s roots peppered from front to back, inside and out. Some say that mini-truckers are just broke hot rodders, but Dustin didn’t skimp or cut corners when building his truck, that’s for sure. Any old man at a Goodguys show could definitely appreciate the craftsmanship and execution showcased on this “poor man’s” pickup.

Since this was Dustin’s first major build, things weren’t necessarily done in a linear order, but he’d be the first to admit that. The first thing he did was have Marty Ward at Marshall’s Shop fabricate a full one-off frame. Right off the bat, Dustin was swinging for the fences, but this was damn sure an expensive first swing to be taking on a project that would carry on for quite a few more years. “I learned a little bit of everything during this time,” Dustin says. “I tried to involve myself as much as I could, but even just watching the pros do their thing was a learning experience.” There were so many different stop-and-go stages along the way that it was difficult to really steamroll through the rest once something was completed. Every now and then there would be enough forward momentum to jump right into the next stage, but more often than not, this wasn’t the case. “The most important thing I learned was patience.” Dustin says, “If I wouldn’t have recognized that, I don’t think this truck would have gotten done, and it sure wouldn’t be to the caliber it is today.”

THE CUSTOM CENTER CONSOLE AND REAR SUB ENCLOSURE HAVE BEEN PERFECTLY FORM-FITTED TO THE FORD’S CAB SPACE.

The custom center console and rear sub enclosure have been perfectly form-fitted to the ford’s cab space.

“The most important thing I learned was patience. If I wouldn’t have recognized that, I don’t think this truck would have gotten done, and it sure wouldn’t be to the caliber it is today.”-Dustin Puzey

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THE CORVETTE STINGRAY-INSPIRED HOOD FLIPS UP AND EXPOSES THE SBC 350-CI MOTOR AND A TON OF SHINY DRESS-UP ACCESSORIES.

The corvette stingray-inspired hood flips up and exposes the SBC 350-CI motor and a ton of shiny dress-up accessories.

Truck Specs:
Owner
Dustin Puzey  2000 Ford Ranger Fithian, IL Balistik

Engine

  • Shop: Marshall’s Shop, Marty Ward
  • Chevy 350-ci small-block
  • Comp Cams camshaft
  •  Edelbrock intake
  • One-off ceramic-coated exhaust system with glasspack mufflers
  • Turbo 350 trans
  • Billet Specialties Trutrac serpentine system, valve covers, breather, air cleaner and plug wire holders
  • AFCO radiator

Suspension

  • Shop: Marshall’s, Shop Marty Ward
  • Handmade front air setup
  • One-off tubular control arms
  • Nissan Hardbody shocks
  • Custom rear 4-link
  • Full one-off frame
  • Two VIAIR compressors
  • Two 5-gallon chrome tanks
  • Mustang II brakes
  • Frame and suspension components powder coated

Wheels & Tires

  • 22-inch American Racing RTS 611
  • 265/30R22 tires

Body & Paint

  • Shop: Marshall’s Shop/Justin Mournout (paint)
  • Standox Red to match powder coating
  • Black Raptor bedliner
  • Everything shaved
  • Stock-floor body drop
  • Corvette Stingray-inspired hood
  • Sliding ragtop
  • 1936 Ford taillights
  • Right-hand drive
  • 4×4 bed
  • Modified front bumper
  • Custom bed floor
  • Custom sheet metal engine compartment

Interior

  • Shop: Bill Byrd and Ross Johns at Specialized Stitch Co./Marshall’s Shop, Marty Ward and Mike De Fronso
  • Cut down Mustang seats
  • Sheet metal and fiberglass dash
  • Auto Meter gauges
  • All interior pieces wrapped in red and black leather with suede headliner
  • Billet Specialties steering wheel
  • Shaved door handles• Stainless accents
  • Kenwood head unit
  • Image Dynamics mids and highs
  • Image Dynamics amps

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Moving things along quicker could’ve potentially put a tighter strain on Dustin’s cash flow too. Usually only the fellers with money to burn are able to get a truck like this done in double-quick time. There have been some celebrations along the scenic route, though. “There have been many ‘best’ parts about this experience,” Dustin says. “Seeing the frame completed, hearing the motor run for the first time, but nothing has compared since to seeing the truck fully painted and the interior finished.” Aside from things directly relating to the truck, Dustin has been enjoying the feedback that he gets when he’s out in it. “What gets me is having strangers come up to me and say, ‘nice truck.’ The people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned…I wouldn’t trade them for the world. This really is an awesome scene and I hope it continues to grow and progress.”

So what’s a few thousand dollars (or maybe even roughly 15 times that much)?

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THE 1936 FORD TAILLIGHTS ARE A TRICK TOUCH ON THE RANGER’S REAREND.

The 1936 Ford taillights are a trick touch on the ranger’s rearend.

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There’s always money to be made, and that’s what we’re all pretty much stuck worrying about for the rest of our lives anyway. Experience is what’s truly valuable while we’re on this spinning mound of rock and water, and there isn’t a price tag big enough that can be put on a year’s worth of good times. Even still, it’s never a bad idea to see what ma’s got cookin’ on the stove. ST

Special thanks from the owner: “This truck would not be what it is without Marty Ward, my parents for all the support and garage space, Steve P for the late nights in the shop, my club Balistik, my boy Mikey, Bill Byrd, Ross Johns, Justin Mournout, all the guys that were always there to help me move parts when I needed to, and to Visa, MasterCard, Discover and to everyone who said this truck would never be done—this is for you.”

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the May 2016 print issue of Street Trucks.