Wreck Chaser

Sept. 1, 2011
Gary Doze took a smashed-up pickup and turned it into an attention-grabbing shop truck.

Gary Doze’s eye-popping ’90 Ford wrecker truck started life as a run-of-the-mill one-ton pickup.

His 10,000-square-foot body shop and wrecking company, TBS Inc., in the rural town of Liberal, Kan., picked the vehicle up a few years ago after it met a deer head-on. The accident crumpled the front end and bent the frame, which was too much damage for the owner, who never showed up to claim the vehicle.

Following Kansas law, Doze hung onto it for 30 days before putting it up for auction. Even though it sported a 30,000-mile 460-cubic-inch engine and a perfectly functioning four-speed automatic transmission, the truck garnered zero bids. So, Doze decided to use it to replace one of his worn-out wreckers.

“I thought, ‘Hey, this is a newer truck, it will look better, let’s make it a wrecker,” Doze says.

Taking on a custom project is nothing new for Doze, who has restored and customized numerous vehicles throughout his 35-year career.

His shop even painted a custom coffin for a former regular customer. And the shop builds most of its vehicles.

“We’re a little strange out here,” Doze says. “We build almost everything we have.”

First, Doze and his all-family staff (his wife and two sons) ditched the truck’s front end for a new one from a ’96 Ford, which required some frame modification. Then they got to work fabricating everything from the cab back.

They used exhaust piping to create a new bed frame and enclosed it almost entirely in polished aluminum tread plate. A retractable light bar was mounted behind the cab, a winch was added just above the rear axle and a short boom hides beneath the bed lid. LED brake lights were also installed.

The truck was painted bright yellow to match the rest of TBS Inc.’s fleet and the hood and bed door were sprayed black and covered with a mixture of tribal and realistic flames. The interior was pretty much left alone, aside from an overhead console that now houses the radio. A series of winch, light and other switches were mounted where the radio used to be.

Dual tires out back help ensure the truck can haul heavy loads, which it does on a regular basis. It’s a workhorse, sometimes running 800-mile round trips.

“We use ’em,” Doze says of his wreckers. “But we try to keep ’em nice.”

Best of all, most of the parts for the truck came from a friend for free and all of the roughly 150 hours of labor put into it were volunteer, so the project only cost about $4,000, Doze says. The once-disregarded truck gets plenty of attention around town, where it now serves on the other end of collision repair.

“It’s not a real fancy truck,” Doze says. “But it’s nice and clean and we get a lot of compliments on it.”

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