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Explosive Masterpiece Of The Month Fires Them Up

By: Elizabeth Larson
Courtesy of Mobile Electronics Magazine, June 2001

Abt Electronics in Chicago was the obvious dealer of choice for Sony Mobile Electronics when looking for a store to team up with on a demo vehicle featuring their Xplod products. With 16 years of experience, Abt installation manager Neil Riffer was handed the role of project manager, to be assisted by Abt's mobile electronics manager Gregg Schwartz. The demo vehicle: a 2000 Chevy S-10 extended cab.

Riffer and Schwartz spent a few weeks diagramming every aspect of the installation including a second electrical system to handle the added load. Then "we began by attacking the job from three fronts," recalls Schwartz: Installer Todd Fisher with the damping material, Riffer with all the major wiring and security, and Schwartz with the auxiliary fuse/ relay panel.

Residential Cable Can Withstand Abuse of Under-Truck InstallationFisher placed two layers of high-density CascadeVB2 on the floor pan and doors and three layers on the ceiling, followed by an additional layer of VB3 on the floor pan and doors and three layers on the ceiling, followed by an additional layer of VB3 on the floor to mask road noise. Riffer built an auxiliary fusebox with 12 fuses under the hood to protect all the security system's circuits. Joined to the stock fusebox, the two were then concealed and protected under a single cover, He also removed the dash to install the vehicle's Clifford security system and run harnesses for the A/V equipment.

Schwartz removed the third rear seat to allow that corner of the vehicle to house the fuse/relay distribution center, strobe light module, and Sony XDP-4000X digital processor. "We needed a way to run all of the wires and cables from the distribution center without huge lumps under the carpeting," says Schwartz, "so we decided to use Ultratight watertight flexible conduit under the vehicle for all the main wire runs." Normally used for underground residential purposes, Ultratight "is durable enough to withstand the abuse of being under the truck." Riffer installed custom grommets to insulate the cables from chafing at termination points. Additional wiring and cable included ZN 5.0 signal cables, ZN 10.0 speaker wires, and Power Stream power cable - all from StreetWires - with a StreetWires battery replacing the factory battery.

Riffer then modified the dash to house a DVD player, the XVM-750 7.5-inch monitor, and the CDX-C90 receiver. "With a little sanding, some texture paint, and a finish coat of color-matched paint, this dash looked better than if it was done by the factory," he says.

Riffer then began modifying the vehicle's third door, outfitting it with a Sony Playstation and SonyXVM-6100 six-inch monitor "so the kids could play games when the truck was on our showroom floor." The Playstation had to be modified to make the controller plugs accessible once he mounted the game vertically in the re-manufactured door.

White Lexan and Flames Carry the Exterior Theme

To continue the outer flame theme inside the vehicle, Riffer literally traced one of the flames from the custom exterior paint job as the shape for the doors' speaker panel, where he installed 8-inch midbass drivers to complement separates in the modified kick panels. To accommodate the left kickpod, Riffer had to cut and reweld the parking brake. White lexan was chosen for all trim panels to offset the explosive red of the Sony equipment. The sub enclosure, Schwartz's next project, had to be large enough for four XS-L1260G subwoofers, yet small enough for the Chevy's foreshortened truck bed. Once completed, the enclosure occupied about two-thirds of the truck bed, with the four subs firing into the vehicle. He painted the back in colors shifting from white, yellow, and orange to red.

Motorized Amp Rack, Capacitor Arch add "Wow!" Factor

Meanwhile, Riffer was hard to work designing a rack to lift eight Xplod XM552HX amplifiers in the truck bed. "The most unique aspect of the whole rack is Neil's use of the X logo to support the amplifiers vertically," says Schwartz. "The clear plexi is subtle, but it made the Xplod theme come alive."

Schwartz added that "the design of the whole bed is quite modular and was built with service in mind." To tie the whole bed together, he built a cover with flame-shaped windows over the enclosure, finished in the torch-red color of the truck. So what do Abt's customers think of this explosive demo vehicle? Says Schwartz: "It thrills everyone from the hardened audiophile critic to the bass boomers!"

An MDX-65 six-disc MD changer was installed in the dash panel which one housed the passenger-side airbag. The Sony XT-40V TV tuner was hidden under the passenger seat. Riffer modified the doors to house the Xplod XS-L830 eight-inch midbass drivers. Using fiberglass, he rebuilt each door's bottom half, and then moved on to customize kick panels for the XS-HF78 component speakers.

*System Cosmetics*

The Abt team turned to Godfather Custom in Atlanta, GA., for the long list of exterior parts they wanted to add their run-of-the-mill factory model, including a steel cowl hood, front air dam, street scene mirrors, taillight and marker light lenses, a rear roll pan, shaved-handled tailgate kit, a white instrument cluster panel, polished aluminum front grill, and a fiberglass tonneau cover for the bed.

"We also decided that a change in suspension was in order," says Abt installation manger Neil Riffer. "Our chassis drop included the usual suspects: Belltech drop spindles, three-inch lowered rear springs, three-inch drop blocks for the rear leaf springs, new shocks for lowered suspension, and 18-inch polished rims, Our twist to the suspension was an air bladder kit, which allows the truck to adjust its height from two inches off the ground to normal driving height."

Then came the paint job. "Our plan was to go from a factory white finish to a retro flame paint job reminiscent of the 1950s," says the store's mobile electronics manger Gregg Schwartz. After searching numerous magazines for inspiration, they found a featured vehicle with almost what they wanted. They took the story to a nearby shop, Skiks Bike Refinishing.

"Andy Skiks' paint work is extremely artistic and has been featured in numerous bike magazines, "says Schwartz. "We asked him if he could apply his techniques to our truck. He looked over the article, made a few suggestions, and gave us a quote. Six weeks later, the trucks exterior was on fire."

Riffer used a large circle guide on a hand router to shape and build a custom capacitor arch out of aluminum. Operation of the motorized amp rack / capacitor arch is controlled by worm-drive motors on each side and limit switches. Riffer installed the fuses for the amp rack controls and the neon on the truck bed's passenger side (right). A key switch protects against unauthorized use of the rack - a necessary precaution for a floor demo vehicle.

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