Tomorrow’s techs take center stage
Independence, Mo.—Customizers, fabricators, racers, and aftermarket companies come together each year to the world’s center stage of the SEMA Show, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, in Las Vegas, to showcase their talents and latest products for classic hot rods and the latest models from the showroom floor. And this year, North Kansas City high school students get to help in one of the SEMA Show truck builds.
“Lo Tech,” a 2017 Ford F-150 SuperCrew EcoBoost 4x4 pickup, is a joint-effort project by truck accessories retailer and installer Chux Trux, with three Kansas City-area locations: Independence, Kansas City, Mo., and Olathe, Kan., and North Kansas City Schools’ Automotive Technology program. The project will debut at Truck Hero’s SEMA Show booth.
“SEMA is the top of the crown. If these students can add to their resume that they were able to play such a big role in a vehicle build that was in this show, that would set them apart from every other high school student I know,” said instructor Jack Stow.
Chux Trux Marketing Manager Chris Ripper first worked with Stow a couple of years ago on an internship program, and said the customer base has aged, with not as many enthusiasts in the 22-39 age bracket.
“So I thought if we can show these kids another path in the automotive aftermarket, as opposed to turning wrenches at the dealership, at least maybe it will open their eyes to some of this market,” he said. “And maybe we’ll get to hire one of them at some point.”
Ripper approached Stow with his idea for the project, prepared with a list of the parts — many provided to Chux Trux at a discount or at no charge in exchange for promotional consideration — that would be used, their installation instructions, and company installation videos, Stow said.
“Chris wants to grow this industry and he has a unique lens on what is happening. He sees future trends and knows what’s going to work and what won’t. That’s why when he approached me with this project, I knew we could do it.”
Ripper took the atypical approach of lowering, not lifting, a four-wheel drive pickup. He said it’s something of a trend, as enthusiasts look for different ways of customizing their rides. Highlights of the truck’s exterior include a custom taller grille from Striker Trucks (which incorporates a lowered front bumper), an RK Sport ram air hood, EGR cab spoiler, prototype tonneau cover from Extang, and custom in-house vinyl wrap.
Chassis modifications, to be undertaken at Stow’s program, include a Bell Tech lowering kit, Air Lift airbags, CalTracs traction bars, Hellwig anti-sway bars, PowerStop big brake kit, and 22-inch RS10 forged wheels from Niche Wheels wrapped in Toyo Proxes ST tires.
To lead the project, Stow has selected two seniors, young women who he believes are the best candidates to complete the project by deadline, he said.
“They are tasked not only with performing the installation of the components but with making videos of what the parts actually do and why they are being installed on the truck. This will be about what the part does, not how to install. That is our vision.”
At press time, Stow said he is working out funding, but it looks like he, three administrators, and six to eight students will be able to attend the SEMA Show for Student Career Day on Monday, and they will be with the truck for the opening of the show on Tuesday.
New technology means even accessories can be complicated
With 43 employees, Chux Trux is almost continually hiring, Ripper said, and the company looks for enthusiasts with outgoing personalities. With the company selling products from 700 manufacturers, “if each one has 12 products, the learning curve is steep,” Ripper said. But a formal training program has proven to get new-hires up to speed within 30 to 45 days, including an orientation for a few days that includes arriving an hour before the store opens to work with the store manager. The company also hosts frequent ongoing training for new vehicles and new products.
The company looks to accessory manufacturers for guidance for how accessory installations can negatively affect a vehicle, including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Even the seemingly simple installation of a trailer hitch wiring kit can require reflashing a vehicle’s computer, as Chux discovered on a recent Jeep installation it did for a dealer.
And to install a lift kit and oversize tires, some competitors negligently cut, disable, or remove the factory steel crash bars on newer F-150s, which are designed to deflect the tire outward in the event of a slight-offset crash.
“We have a way around it that doesn’t disable it,” Ripper said.
We’ll trim the fenders and bumpers; I don’t have any problem doing that. But we’re not going to disable a factory safety system.”