Mike Baldwin might be a little bit young for a midlife crisis, but at the age of 33, he’s reliving his high school days, this time with much more style and a truck that his younger self would never have come close to even imagining. Mike grew up in San Diego where the tradition of 2nd Street cruising in El Cajon has a long history with the hottest trucks and hot rods rolling the strip. Mike and his family attended these events regularly, and it formed his passion for custom cars and trucks at a young age. In the early ‘90s, the next generation of gearheads was coming up and mini-trucks were their hot rods. When Mike was in high school mini-trucks were plentiful, filling the parking lot from fence to fence. Mike quickly decided what his vehicle choice would be. His father gifted the family work truck to him, an ‘87 Mitsubishi Mighty Max, and it quickly turned into a custom project.
While cruising the inherited ’87 Mitsu around his high school parking lot and around sunny San Diego, the motors in Mike’s tape deck were working overtime to wear out his copy of the classic dub reggae album “Skidip” by Eek-A-Mouse. This memory is one of the fondest Mike has, and it fuels his automotive passion to this day. When Mike got a little older, he sold off the Mitsu, even though, in his opinion, he’d never actually completed it. Of course, he customized other vehicles, including a Mazda B2200, an Astro van and most recently a VW Passat wagon. The need to customize the wagon led to Mike meeting Jeremy Rice of Tre5 Customs in Arizona. Mike wanted the VW on juice and Jeremy was the man to do it. A few years later, the two were looking at old photos from river runs and truck shows past when they came across a picture of Mike’s first vehicle, the Mitsu. The need to relive his high school days took hold and the two began formulating a plan to build a highly detailed mini that would drop jaws across the scene.
As with many minis, the first step was to lay the rockers flat on the pavement. Jeremy Rice at Tre5 Customs in Phoenix brought the Mitsu in and created the custom box tubing back half and Z’d the front clip 1 ½ inches. A 1992 Toyota rearend was used with a rear disc brake conversion. A chrome-moly 3-link was crafted in order to allow the mini to travel thanks to the juice provided by a full Hydroholic setup and a slew of Kinetik HC1800 batteries. The two-pump, four-dump Hydroholic setup is complete with accumulators for ride quality. For the rear a pair of cantilever bars was created off a pivot for the 8-inch cylinders. Up front, 2-inch AIM drop spindles with converted five-lug Toyota hubs were mated to narrowed custom control arms. The frame was then taken over to Fusion Powercoating to finish things off. Stainless line was run from front to rear, and the rolling chassis was set up with 20 x 7.5-inch Velocity wheels and 225/30/20 Falken tires. Jeremy swapped out the motor for a later model that was rebuilt to run like a top. Of course, before the freshened-up motor was dropped in, everything that could be painted was, and everything else saw some polishing time and chrome plating. A custom intake tube was handcrafted to connect to a sheet metal airbox molded into the inner fender. A full MagnaFlow exhaust system was done by Craig at ATD to finish things off before moving on to the body.
Jeremy had channeled the floor 2 ½ inches to get the rockers on the ground, and then he got to smoothing out the cab and bed by shaving everything in sight. A Grant Kustoms combo skin was molded in out back and AVS door poppers were added to keep things in functioning order. Jeremy covered the bed in sheet metal, surrounding the detailed suspension work before the bed was sprayed with Al’s Bed Liner. Airizona Artworks kept things classy. The crew sprayed the truck in House of Kolor Orion Silver with added flake and a set of black and red graphics that flow inside and out with some subtle airbrushing to set things off. The final step in the build was the interior handled by The Interior Shop and Creative Audio Works. Creative Audio Works made the custom door panels and subwoofer enclosures with an insane amount of detail and incorporated the paint scheme into the door panel shaping. A full Rockford Fosgate system was installed, including a 12-inch subwoofer and a set of 6.5-inch components powered by a pair of amplifiers. The panels and a set of Mazda MX6 bucket seats were wrapped in black and silver vinyl and suede at The Interior Shop. A Momo steering wheel and a few other accessories finished things off.
The Mitsu boggled minds at every show it attended thanks to the innovative work and clean detailing. Mike now has the mini that his younger self could only covet. He would like to thank Jeremy at Tre5 Customs, Aaron at Hydroholics, Erik with Kinetik, Jimmy at Airizona Artworks, Todd at The Interior Shop, Rick from Creative Audio Works, Greg at Rockford Fosgate, Jason with AVS, Mike and Andy from All Day Fab, the Surface DVD kiddos and of course his family, including his wife Rhonda and daughters Ava and Emra.