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Everyone has their own vision of what their dream vehicle should look like. Along with every mental snapshot comes a list of reasons why it will look a certain way. Kate Simpson of Pontiac, Illinois, can relate. She is fresh off a high that only comes from wrapping up a once-in-a-lifetime project. “Once” may be a bit of an understatement; she watched her husband Mike do a full build when he pieced together his killer C-10. The power couple is not unfamiliar with what goes into putting together a show-quality vehicle. This time was a little more exciting for Kate because the Toyota is all hers. After seeing just how happy she is with the outcome, it’s highly probable that this won’t be her last stab at molding a vehicle to match the one she sees in her dreams. 

“I built the truck because I wanted to have something that was mine to enjoy and cruise around in,” Kate says. She goes on to admit, “I wanted something of my own so I wouldn’t always get stuck riding in the passenger seat of my husband’s C-10.” Luckily, Mike was all-in to get her started and to help out along the way. “It was great to have him there from beginning to end, as he taught me so much along the way. Our relationship grew stronger from the bond of sharing this adventure. This was also the only way I was going to get one of the parking spots in the garage, so that was cool too.” 

When Kate began to search for a truck, she set a few ground rules. The first was a set of good bones, something that already had a solid suspension she could build the rest of her truck around. “I really wanted something that I could finish in a somewhat short amount of time. It’s hard to believe that we were able to accomplish this truck in seven months. Did I mention that I’m impatient?” Kate tracked down a red Toyota that had already been ’bagged and body-dropped. All it needed was a little TLC to meet her criteria. “I promised my husband that I all wanted to do was to fix a couple of spots on the body and maybe upgrade a few things to make it fit me a little better, and the truck would be good to go. Yeah, things snowballed rather quickly.” 

Kate started by peeling off the old spray-in bedliner since it was a total mess, and had it redone, which sounds easy enough. “The whole thing went surprisingly well, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to move on to make sure the truck was going to end up being a reliable driver.” With everyday performance a top priority, the 22RE was pulled for inspection by friend Kenny King. Since the engine had been pulled, they seized the opportunity to paint the engine bay. And while the crew was slaving away in the general vicinity, a full transmission service seemed like the right thing to do. Before Kate knew it, she had Mike’s blessing to gut the cab for a full refurbish, including the OG bench seat, which was reworked and wrapped in premium materials. Oh yeah, they even pulled the cab and bed from the frame in order to go through the suspension setup and prep the entire chassis and components for paint. “’If you’re going to do something, you gotta do it right’ is what Mike has always said. I think in some way I was testing him to see how much he would actually stand behind those words. Turns out, he wanted the best for this truck just as much as I did.” 

With all the detailed work that was going down, Kate still wasn’t at the point where she was ready to stop and be content with the truck. Even though it had been pushed into a galaxy far beyond where she had initially planned to go, something wasn’t quite right. John Wargo of The Custom Shop had been painting some parts and pieces of the Toyota, and Kate ran the idea past him of laying down some loud, old school mini-truckin’ graphics with tons of color and attitude. Obviously, he was into the proposal. “John somehow pulled the images out of my mind during a quick 20-minute conversation. I showed him a couple reference photos, but he somehow already knew exactly what I wanted the graphics to look like.” 


Before John started his paint wizardry, Kate had to prep the truck for its big moment in the paint booth. Mike sprayed Mazda True Red, and introduced his girl to a process in painting that she would soon come to despise. “I did learn how to scuff paint with Scotch-Brite pads. It was by far the worst job of the entire build. I would roll my eyes every time he would tell me to scuff this or that. He kept reassuring me that it was the most important step because it lays the foundation for the rest of the paint job.” The two dropped the truck off with John the week before they left town for Texas to hit Lone Star Throwdown. The plan was to spend a solid weekend at the show to soak up some final inspiration while the Toyota was back home being treated to a skin full of fresh coloring. “John sent a video while we were away to give us a peek at the graphics without any of the shadowing done. I teared up instantly. As soon as we got home from Texas we went to get the truck, and it was even better than I had imagined it would be. Of course, the water works started all over again while we were in the paint booth admiring what John had done for us.” 

When everything was all said and done, Kate’s “quick” rehab project turned into an absolute dream come true for her. It’s got upgraded disc brakes all around, a new Air Lift system, new trim pieces and exhaust, a fully customized interior and a new set of tires—but no wheels. The plan was to debut the truck at Battle In Bama, and the only missing parts were the Racelines. Just days before they planned to hit the road, the wheels were delivered and mounted immediately. “Just like that, the truck was back on the street again and completely redone, and all mine to enjoy. I cruised her around for a day to make sure everything was up to par for the grand unveiling. The journey to this point has been amazing, and I have a ton of people to thank for all their help and support along the way.” 

Truck Specs
Kate and Mike Simpson
1992 Toyota Pickup
Pontiac, IL
Relaxed Atmosphere 

Shop: King Racing Engines
Assembled by Mike Simpson
1992 22RE 2.4L four cylinder
1992 Factory five-speed transmission
Block deburred
Smoothed and painted intake manifold
Custom exhaust system
SPAL cooling fans
Spectre air cleaner
Chrome valve covers 

Chassis & Suspension
Tubular upper arms, modified lowers
Rear 2-link ’bag-on-bar setup
Slam Specialties ’bags
KYB shocks
Little Shop MFG front and rear disc brake conversions 

Wheels & Tires
18×7 Raceline Charger wheels, polished finish
215/35R18 Sumitomo HTR Z III tires 

Body & Paint
Shop: John Wargo at The Custom Shop in Flanagan, IL
PPG paint, 25+ different colors
3.5-inch body drop
Toyota 4Runner front bumper, billet grille and headlights
Welded roll pan and tailgate
Shaved door handles, gas filler and antenna
Raptor bedliner
Painted air tanks, frame and suspension components 

Interior & Stereo
Shop: The Custom Shop and Kate’s Kustoms (owner)
Reshaped factory bench seat
Leather, vinyl and suede material
Billet Specialties steering wheel
Painted dash
Air Lift Performance 3H/3P controller
AutoLoc seatbelts
ACC carpet
Suede headliner
Factory gauges
Billed handles
Factory AC
Pioneer head unit
Alpine Type R speakers, Type R shallow-mount subwoofer, amplifiers
Fat Mat sound deadener
Stinger wiring 


John Wargo of The Custom Shop brought back the essence of old school with the loud and proud paint scheme. Go ahead and try to count all of the colors, we’ll wait.

All of the necessary elements of a clean and simple interior are represented in the Toyota’s cab space.  

Eighteen-inch Raceline Charger wheels are all the statement this truck needs to make in the billet accessory department.

The bed has been outfitted with a color-matched Raptor spray liner and dual air tanks that sport the same mesmerizing graphics found on the Toyota’s skin.