Art Trucks

Did you know that I’m an award winning duct tape artist? No? well it’s a classic story of a teenager with a rusty truck and role of duct tape that got carried away.

The Universe giveth as stopped to let someone walk by in the Target parking lot and they turned out to be Tim Nyberg, co-author of a series of duct tape books. He connected me with Manco duck tape company, who then hosted a duct taped car competition similar to their duct tape prom contest.

Thus, the DragonRacer was born, a half-dragon, half-racecar, complete with chrome duct tape detailing, a bowling trophy hood ornament, and megaphone.

KARE 11 news even did a piece about it and I’ll be eternally embarrassed by the duct tape underwear photo that my roommate kindly shared with them.

I even got to meet Red Green at one of his movie premieres. He signed my truck and called it ugly, a proud day.

That’s Ugly

Red Green

Here we are now, 20 years later and I have a new truck. Too new for me to feel comfortable putting duct tape on or even bumper stickers

one of my favorite stickers was that of an old TV with a gun shot hole and the words “Kill and fuck your television”. Given to me by an old guy from Nevada that turns pop and beer cans into intricate sculptures. We were both in the Minneapolis Uptown Art Car parade and he had a strong disdain for artists that take themselves too seriously. Strong Edward Abbey vibes. I wish I still had that sticker. Appropriate for the parent pickup line at school?

Truck Toppers

I needed a tall topper for my truck to keep my daughter’s wheelchair safe from the elements. Wow those things are expensive. Even used ones were asking for $1k+

Art project!

My dad helped me think through the fabrication process and high school geometry really paid off. I wanted it to have sloped sides with a large door that swings up.

The giant sides became canvases and I decided make each a theme that reflected my two kids. My Neighbor Totoro and Minecraft.

With totoro I wanted to add wood discs and rough sawn boards cut from the woods around our cabin. Windows cut from traced logs and then decals of Totoro and soot sprites scattered around.

The Minecraft side was planned out with a 2″ grid with windows cut out to be caves and vinyl cut decals added later one.

Totoro side of the topper

The topper was completed and installed in the Fall. It was a rush to complete before bad weather hit so I couldn’t get the decorative pieces added and it went a year as a gray geometric box with oddly shaped windows. Gear heads and Veterans would ask me if it was in the forces or if it’s some sort of tactical piece of equipment.

“nope, I just wanted to make my own topper and that’s a minecraft themed design”

Always Learning

In my rush to finish the topper I went to the big box hardware store to get paint. I was told oil based paint would be best, but to my surprise the store only had latex. I wanted to just get it done so I bought that and started painting.

That was a mistake

Over the winter the paint started to crack as the wood expanded from temperature and humidity changes.

The following summer I took the topper and sanded it back down to the wood. While researching tear-drop trailers (another future side-project 😉 I discovered “poor man’s fiberglass”. Canvas glued on with wood glue and then multiple coats and sandings of oil-based paint. This gives it a hard, waterproof shell that is more impact resistant than wood and a paint alone. The process was pretty fun and will take some practice to master, but I’m happy with the results. After a few coats there was still a slight canvas texture that I liked and decided to leave.

At this time I reworked the door. The first version was all wood – heavy and over engineered. The new door has a foam core that’s covered with poorman’s fiberglass (PMF) and the reinforced with aluminum L-angle pieces that connect to the gas struts that hold the door up.

This worked, but some issues I need to resolve in the next version.

  1. It’s not that strong. The angle pieces aren’t strong enough, and the PMD didn’t add any bending strength to the foam core. The result is the door bends as I open and close it.
  2. The gas struts are too strong. After a summer they are bending the aluminum brackets and require a lot of force to close.
  3. Make it one latch. Right now it’s two locking latches, I want to have one for ease of use

Version 3

Since building this topper I learned about pop up camper truck toppers. I want to expand the topper over the cab and add a hinge and removable bed platform to allow me to sleep up there on shorter camping trips. This will allow me to still fit my daughter’s wheelchair and use it as a full camping rig.

There are a lot of interesting designs people have been coming up with during the pandemic camping boom. Ideally I would rebuild the whole thing from aluminum and foam. Push the sides out for a little more room and add the bed popup over the cab.