Small Money Yields Big Results With Creativity

March 30th, 2011

Text and Photos by Chris Neprasch

Life is about connections and when it comes to building wild trucks with a dream list of parts, magazines have a lot of inside contacts at their disposal to make it happen. When they do roll out a new project, articles follow about installing all sorts of aftermarket products with one thing in common: They are the best of the best.  A few readers have enough extra cash to replicate a high-dollar magazine truck, but for those that consider any day you make more than you spent a good one although they are too far and few between, we present to you Budget Bowtie Build.

Budget Bowtie Build is about as real of a “Real World” truck as they come. The owner didn’t buy an 8-foot box on the 2006 Chevy to make extra room for a stroller, but he did opt for the crew cab because the backseat had enough space for car seats and multiple children during long road trips to the sand dunes. Basically, it was work truck for dad, occasional commuter for mom, taxi for both and hauler of the family’s toys come vacation time.

Playing such an important role meant anything done to the 2500HD needed to be done in a few spare hours here and there while ensuring it was operable come morning when it was time to work. Money wasn’t endless so there was a conservative budget in mind and we figured the more work we did ourselves, the farther we could stretch a dollar. The stuff we weren’t able to handle on our own, we approached differently than a traditional magazine truck.

We ended up with a pretty cool truck that turns heads around town. The truck didn’t spend a single day out of commission and was done for less than $9,000 for EVERYTHING. Considering some people pay that on a set of wheels, we couldn’t be happier with a slick daily cruiser putting down more than 400 horsepower to 20-inch Ultra Barons while maintaining reliability for towing polished off with a few items to make working a little bit easier. Here’s how we did it:

Matched Up

LMC Truck Lays The Groundwork For A New Look

The theme for Budget Bowtie Build was simplifying the exterior by making everything either black or white. The door handles and mirrors were black, which fit the theme, but the contrast on a white truck draws eyes straight to the door handles. By color-matching the pieces, it brings out the entire side of the truck along with its lines. The front also benefits with an entirely new look by shifting colors and getting rid of chrome. LMC Truck made the transformation a lot easier and less expensive courtesy of some replacement body parts.

One of the first questions we got during the build was how we expected to save money by purchasing body parts we already had. It sounds odd at first, yet we based the decision on some basic logic. First, paint and body takes a long time. There’s prep work, drying time, sanding, etc. Any shop good enough to produce results we would be happy with would need the truck for at least a few days. That would have meant either dropping a few hundred bucks on a truck rental or take three days off work. By having the second set of parts from LMC Truck, there was no need to rush L&G Enterprises.

The key to a long-lasting paintjob that looks good is a lot in the prep. LMC Truck manufacturers high-quality replacement parts and because they were brand new, it was straight to primer for all of the plastic parts with their never-before-painted surfaces. The factory door handles and mirrors happen to be textured and LMC Truck had the option of factory finish or smooth (less than $20 a pop for three of the four), so we also saved money in labor that way. Some shops are going to paint everything while it’s still on the truck; others might want to add in labor for installing and removing factory hardware, in which case also cuts costs.

Finally, the chrome on a 2500HD front bumper usually has to be stripped before it is painted for the best results. That process alone can cost more than a replacement bumper from LMC Truck that’s ready to be sprayed in sealer out of the box, an item that it sells on its website for about $120. Any dings or dents in the bumper is going to cost to have repaired as well and the new bumper was as straight as factory. Because the cost associated with painting the factory chrome bumper is enough to scare most people off, it will also add an extra uniqueness to Budget Bowtie.

Our parts bill at LMC Truck was less than $500. Not only did we assure long-term durability without any body shop downtime, there is enough of a market for the mirrors and front bumper to get back most of the money by selling off the factory takeoffs.


LMC Truck

(800) 562-8782

White Out

L&G Enterprises Applies The Paint

When L&G Enterprises in San Dimas, Calif. pops up in a magazine, it’s almost always in regards to one of its award-winning custom paint jobs. The body shop began decades ago with collision repair though and straightening bent cars is still a huge part of the company’s business. L&G Enterprises has actually done more repair work for some of the staff than they have wild airbrushing, so we headed there with a bed full of parts from LMC Truck.

Paint and bodywork is not forgiving and because blemishes are so noticeable, the novice is going to be happier with the end result by having professionals like L&G Enterprises take care of it. It was one part we wanted to at least try until the thought of ruining $500 worth of parts came up. When L&G Enterprises let us know everything was done, the first glance at our perfectly painted, white bumper, handles and mirrors reassured us we made the right decision.

Theresa Contreras pretty much grew up in a paint booth and now she runs L&G Enterprises, the family business. For those really wanting to try to paint on your own, she shared this advice:

1)     Know what type of material you are working with.

a.     Be aware of what type of material you are painting so that you follow the proper steps.

b.     Bare metal, primed metal, textured plastic, smooth polyurethane plastic, fiberglass, etc.

2)     A good paint job is always in the prep work & area.

a.     Be sure the part is thoroughly cleaned and sanded so the paint will adhere to all areas.

b.     For cleaning, Mineral spirits or ting are a good degreaser and works on almost anything.

c.      For sanding, proper type and grit of sand paper, grey(fine) or red(medium) scotchbrite can be used.

d.     If there was body work (bondo) done to any area, then this area should be primered first and then sanded.

e.     Be sure your work area and guns are clean as well.  This will give you the best outcome in the end.  A dirty work area or dirty gun = dirty paint job.

3)     Primer and/or sealer are a must.

a.     If it is a brand new part you start with that came primered, then you just need to seal it.  Use a sealer close to the color on the grayscale.  This will ensure that your paint Is the proper color once applied.

b.     If you have textured plastic, then this would need to get a good coat of a poly primer to cover up the texture, then thoroughly sand the primer, clean, and seal it.

4)     Be knowledgeable about your paint and clear coat.

a.     With the internet now, you can pretty much find any technical information you need about the paint you are using.  Tips on how to spray it properly, how to mix it, etc.  Use this resource!  Most of the time it is written on the can itself, but that is not always the case.  We prefer to use certain paints in our shop, but we often find ourselves spraying paint for all different paint companies.  We still have great end results because we follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

5)     Know how to fix your flaws.

a.     Really??  Yep!  No one is perfect, but understanding how to make the finished product look that way takes just a little more attention. Paint is a time sensitive process.  If you just sprayed your base coat and a huge piece of dirt just landed in it.  You must WAIT until the base coat is dry, sand the area, then respray it.

b.     What about if you find a piece of dirt in the clear coat?  Well  that’s where color sanding and buffing come into play.  Almost all paint will have the “orange peel” texture in it after you paint it.  Color sanding and buffing it will give you a show quality piece.

c.      The same applies for a single stage paint.  Wait until the entire area has dried and respray it.


L&G Enterprises

(909) 599-2203

Ultra Sets Off The Package

Budget Bowtie Gets 20-Inch Rollers

Picking the right wheel has a huge influence on the finished looks of a truck. Diameter, offset and width are only a few of the important decisions to consider in addition to the style. Wheels can also get pricey, especially when diameter hits 20 inches and above. Our search for the perfect set of rollers ended with Ultra Wheel and its new 20×9 Baron.

Ultra Wheel’s Baron is a counter pressure-cast wheel with a black finish that fit Budget Bowtie’s theme. The 20×9 wheel can be had for less than $200 a piece with some bargain hunting and landing a set of stylish 20-inch wheels for less than $800 for the set is a score. It was a combination of a few things that steered us toward the Ultra Wheel Baron.

The line between where a black wheel starts and the tire ends can make a wheel seem smaller if there is nothing to separate the two visually. Sections of the lip on the Baron have been diamond-cut the sprayed with a clear coat for a natural finish. That lighter color creates a border where the wheel stops to fully show all 20 inches off. The Baron also has a sharper, defined rim that squares off. Spokes that extend all the way to the corner can make a wheel look bigger, yet the advantage of  stopping the design earlier and creating a definite sharp rim to the wheel allows a deeper dish, helping the wheel appear even wider.

Serving as the clincher, Ultra Wheel has the 20×9 eight-lug GM Baron in a regular offset and low offset. If clearance allows for a lower offset wheel like in Budget Bowtie’s case, going that route moves the tire and wheel out farther from the truck, making both appear wider from the sides and angles. We were limited in tire height and width, although the owner previously installed a leveling kit so we could run the low offset wheel with minimal trimming. We topped it off with the optional black center cap.


Ultra Wheel

(800) 321-4456

Upgraded Nitto Rubber

The Terra Grappler All Terrain Offers Numerous Advantages

Any time you change wheel diameters, a new set of tires is a must. In the case of Budget Bowtie, the old tires weren’t bad although there was plenty of room for improvement. We picked up a set of 305/55/R20 Terra Grappler All-Terrain tires from Nitto and the tire carries an E Load Range rating, so towing will not be compromised. The female owner of Budget Bowtie summed it up when within 15 minutes of riding in the truck post-makeover, she asked, “What did you do to make it so much quieter and smoother?”

Going for a mud terrain is a knee-jerk reaction for someone wanting the toughest looking tire possible. We resisted that temptation to generate the exact kind of reaction we first received. The tread on the Terra Grappler is remarkably quiet during daily driving though the tread doesn’t sacrifice much on testosterone while doing an effective job keeping traction during heavy rain. That same storm allowed for some time in the mud where traction was better-than-average for an AT. The treads cleaned off quickly back on the open road, too.

Like Budget Bowtie, the Nitto Terra Grappler All Terrain is an all-around performer headlined by competence in a wide variety of conditions while looks good and riding like a dream. We admittedly weren’t expecting as dramatic a change in ride quality as we did, especially given the limited sidewall provided by the 35-inch tire/20-inch wheel combination. The price was also spot-on with the entire build, giving big-buck performance with a competitive price.


Nitto Tire

(714) 252-0007

Custom Truck Shop

(909) 599-2228

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One Response to “Small Money Yields Big Results With Creativity”

  1. ARMYEOD says:

    Is there anyway someone could tell me the offset that was used on this truck? Im stationed in Afghanistan right now and resources are kinda limited for me, I have a stock 05 D-max that i would like to put these same wheels on with a leveling kit, Im just not sure of the Offset. Any help would be nice.

    Spc Pennington

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