Jeff Wright’s love of trucks isn’t anything new. He grew up working on vehicles with his father; it was how they spent their time. However, when Wright was old enough to drive, he had one thing in mind — making his first vehicle taller. His initial truck, a Blazer, was the first one he decided he needed to lift and put on bigger tires.
“He taught me how to work on trucks, but he never got why I needed them lifted,” he says about his dad. “He thought I was crazy.”
Things haven’t changed much for Wright, who jacked up his 2001 Dodge Ram pretty much the instant he bought it. Wright is on his second Ram. He says he likes the model because they are easy to work on, and he likes the way they look. He drove all the way to Wisconsin about five years ago to pick up his truck because it had lower miles.
“I looked on all of them (car sales websites) until I found the truck I wanted,” Wright says. Though the location didn’t matter when going to get the truck, the color did. He says he’s always been partial to a black exterior. But after owning a white car for several years, his love for the darker color was cemented.
“When you clean a black car, it stands out a lot, and white is just white,” he laughs.
Before the 2001 Dodge Ram, Wright had a 1997 of the same model and color. When he looked for a new one, he found that 2001 was the last year Dodge made the specific body style he wanted. The newer models have lower bumpers and other changes that Wright just doesn’t feel work well with his style.
Wright has done most of the work on the truck himself. He put the lift on and does most of the general maintenance and repairs. He says if it is something that is going to be time consuming, he usually takes it in just for the sake of saving himself the trouble.
Since purchasing the truck, he’s had to replace nearly the entire exterior including the hood, fender and passenger side. The interior, however — tan leather — is all original.
The truck, which has been lifted by 3 inches, is now all black, including the bumpers, wheels and grill. It has seen its ups and downs. Just a few years ago, when Pleasant Hill was pummeled by a hailstorm, Wright’s truck was sitting outside at a friend’s house and sustained substantial damage. Then, about a year after that, a deer hit him while he was driving. Yes, Wright insists, the deer hit him.
“It actually ran out of the woods and hit the passenger side door,” Wright says.
Now that he has his truck how he wants it, most of the work done on it is upkeep. So the only thing left is to drive it. He would, however, raise it a bit more — if he could.
“If it gets any higher it won’t fit in the garage. Must be my age that I really want it to go in the garage,” Wright laughs. “I don’t want to scrape windows.”
He put all this effort into his truck, not only because he likes how it looks, but because he likes to be different.
“I had an ordinary car, and it drove me crazy,” Wright says. “I’ve always wanted something that was mine.”
Wright says he’s content with a single truck, but his friend Eric Waltman isn’t quite ready to settle for just one yet.
Waltman, like Wright, started wanting to lift and alter his trucks as soon as he could drive. Watlman’s trucks, though, aren’t just for driving. His trucks are very nice work trucks.
“It doesn’t hang around if it isn’t working,” he says.
As for his trucks, he owns a gray 2007 Dodge Ram and a white half-ton 2011 Chevy Silverado. Waltman says he never buys his trucks brand new.
During the winter months, the Dodge Ram has a snow removal blade attached that Waltman uses to scrape his driveway as well as those of properties he owns. In the summer, the blade comes off, and a bully bar with lights goes in its place.
Waltman says the bully bar is more than just aesthetics; it also will protect his grill in case of a vehicle/deer collision. Unless, of course, the deer hits the truck head on, as happened with Wright’s truck.
The truck has a 6-inch lift on it, new 37-inch tires and a Retrax cover on the back. Waltman put the lift on himself, as he does with most of the work on his vehicles. This project, however, taught him a very valuable lesson: always make sure that the lift isn’t higher than the garage door.
Unfortunately, Waltman had to spend a day and a half cutting the header out of his garage door after when he realized his newly raised truck couldn’t get out of the garage.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” he laughs.
As for the Silverado, Waltman drives that on a daily basis for his business. The back is filled with tools and what he needs for everyday work. One thing he confesses to messing up on this truck was thinking he could add spray liner himself. He did a great job, except he didn’t realize he shouldn’t have added liner to the edge of the truck bed. The thick lining makes closing the bed of his truck a bit tricky sometimes.
He’s also added Chevy emblems, a 4-inch lift and 35-inch tires.
“When you lift them and have the big wheels on them, they’re not affordable to drive around,” Waltman says.
It isn’t just the gas money that Waltman says can get him in trouble with his trucks. Not too long ago, he was at a client’s house and parked near a 6-foot basketball hoop. As he was leaving, he backed out under the hoop. The hoop broke the brake light above the back window and scratched the roof of his truck.
“You look around you when you’re backing up,” he laughs. “You don’t think to look up.”
Both Wright and Waltman grew up working on trucks and are passing their passion on to their kids, making the hobby a true family affair.
Wright’s son, Cole, isn’t driving yet, but Wright says he’s already eyeing vehicles and trying to convince Dad to get him a lifted truck as well.
Waltman’s son, Michael, unfortunately totaled his first truck (which had been his dad’s) in an accident several years ago. He was coming around a curve and lost control, flipping the vehicle. Luckily no one was hurt in the accident, but Michael now has an older and less expensive Chevy S10 ZR2.
The Waltmans worked together to do some upgrades on the S10, including a light bar, new tires and a push bar on it.
“It’s always fun doing something you both like to do,” Michael says of doing the upgrades with his dad.
Michael has big plans for his next vehicle. He’s hoping to buy a 1500 Dodge Ram, something similar to what his dad has, and add a 6-inch lift to it.
“Every time we see a truck (Michael) says ‘Dad, wouldn’t it be cool to do this or do that?’ ” Waltman laughs. “ ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘It would.’ ”