Chucky Ray’s Rusty Taco Frame

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“America used to be the DIY capital of the world. I wanted to get back to that.”

And so the months-long, budget-blowing, mind-numbing, head-scratching, community-supported overhaul of a truck began for Chucky Ray, one of our advanced painters and a rigging foreman. 

Picture it: October 2019. Chucky set out to buy a compact pickup. He settled on a base model two-wheel drive 2001 Toyota Tacoma—“bought from a scumbag in Bay Ridge,” he makes sure to note. It was part of the last generation of tiny pickups, before every truck on the road became a bloated behemoth too swollen to maneuver city streets.

Chucky was ready to cut his teeth on auto mechanics, a good thing considering there was a big-ass problem with his new whip. The previous owner was thoughtful enough to fill the frame with spray foam and then cover it with paint (because how else is one to address corrosive rot in a vehicle?). When Chucky brought the car to a local mechanic for inspection—something he admits he should have done before purchasing—the hydraulic jack crushed through the frame as it lifted the truck. 

Needless to say, this fine-tuned automobile did not pass inspection and the questions about what to do began to mount.

“A rotting frame is a common problem for these trucks, so there’s plenty of repair information out there. I found a YouTube time-lapse of a professional mechanic swapping a truck’s frame. The video was 15 minutes long and the process looked super-easy. That was in January,” Chucky lamented during our conversation this past summer.

For most urban dwellers, “Where the hell do I overhaul an entire truck?” usually crosses their minds at a juncture like this. For Chucky, a wise man gainfully employed by Colossal Media, he barely had time to consider the question. 1109 Metropolitan Avenue, our can’t-miss-it Brooklyn production shop, was at his disposal. The waterfront property (what, Newtown Creek isn’t good enough for you?) is packed with scaffolding and hoisting equipment, and conveniently located near Pumps, the self-described “local topless bar keeping those Williamsburg hipsters in check…”

“I got the blessing to disassemble my truck at the shop, which, because of our line of work, is kinda perfect for something like this,” Chucky recalled.

Chucky made it happen. I would have set the truck on fire and set up a Revel account after a week.

Matt Wright, Head of Production

“First step was unbolting the bed and cab from the frame and disconnecting wire harnesses, hydraulic and gas lines so I could hoist the cab up off the chassis and suspend it from a steel beam. This was definitely some point-of-no-return shit. 

The night the cab was taken off, my friend and fellow painter, Darius, was in the shop with me until 4a, using our block and tackle system to hoist the cab up into the rafters by hand. Luckily, I had the next day off, but Darius had to paint a wall at 7a. He’s a good friend.

Second step was taking out the rear axle, driveshaft, and random bits from the frame. I pulled the motor and transmission off the frame using a Zmac (a motor used in certain kinds of rigging) suspended from a Baker scaffold. From there I was able to drag what was left of the old rusty frame out into the yard, and in its place I put my new shiny frame, acquired from a nice junkyard man in North Carolina for $1,000. He did, however, fail to notify me about the missing front bumper tabs, so my front bumper only has two of four bolts. Should be fine.”

And today that truck is complete, ripping around Brooklyn in all its elbow-greased glory. “It will probably be a perpetual project,” Chucky reflects, but he knows he’s got help.

“I had zero experience in auto mechanics before this, and I did a lot of research but I really couldn’t have done this without the Colossal crew.” Late nights, early mornings, quick lunch breaks, even quicker coffee breaks… Chucky’s walldog brothers and sisters came through every step of the way to lend their skills to this unknown trade. There were rusted lines and torn-up wires and delivery delays and junkyard offers—oh, and that whole pandemic thing—but together they pulled through.

“Definite highlight was seeing Chucky listen to me and the crew explain what we would do to fix the truck without losing his cool. Even strangers and friends walked in with “helpful” advice and no mechanical experience,” remembers Matt Wright, Head of Production, with a laugh. 

Painter Pauly Cvikevich was with Chucky when he bought the Tacoma, and he was there when it was tested for quality assurance: “Once it was together we ripped a burnout and said, ‘Welp, it must be good to drive.’”

It will probably be a perpetual project considering I put it back together myself, but it’s getting me around town, which is incredible.

Chucky Ray, Advanced Painter, Rigging Foreman

And maybe after all this you’re wondering, who cares? Why dedicate 872 words to a random story about a guy who did some repairs to his truck? Not exactly headline-grabbing, click-baiting, paradigm-shifting journalism.

Well, for starters, I gotta write something. And of all the things to write about, at all the times to write something, this simple story of Chucky and his truck calls to mind the quiet, noble values that make us—all of us—great. The resilience of the American spirit, the endurance of craftsmanship, the transformative power of community. Values to care about until the very end.

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