Virtual Reality

Jun 2, 2011

Let’s do a project vehicle. But let’s do it virtually. We’ll find a new truck, take a lot of photos of it from various angles and then call suppliers to “provide” product for us to “install” on the truck.

An ambitious idea and project, but not a monumental one. After all, no one’s knuckles would get scraped when a tool slipped while tightening a bolt; there’d be no bruising bumps to the forehead during any part of the installation; no heavy lifting; no pinched fingers; no wiring to run, connect and test; no searching for that needed part that was left in the package that somehow migrated away on its own; no worries about the wrong product coming in because it was ordered wrong or filled wrong; no looking for the tool that a co-worker took to use on another vehicle, then left for the day; no cursing.

The only tools needed would be graphics software applications to manipulate product photos and attach them to the F-150 using a wireless computer mouse and a few keyboard strokes.

Simple, straightforward, right?

The Restyling team of art director, graphic artist and editor met in early March to discuss the project’s viability: Can it be done as envisioned? How would it be done? How much time would be needed? What problems are foreseen and how do we overcome them? What exactly would be needed in the way of virtual parts for the virtual truck? Who on the team would do what? And so on.

And, oh, one more thing: After the parts are digitally installed for the print version of Restyling, can we animate this in any way online at restyling.com?

Line up the suppliers

Having all the ducks in a row was paramount to efficiently, expeditiously get what was needed to “build” the project truck.

Following the “build” team’s meeting came a discussion with the publisher to lay out the plan and select what suppliers to contact – virtually all of whom signed on board during the first phone conversation.

The project was moving forward.

Practically up the street from Restyling’s offices is Broomfield, Colo.-based Sill-TerHar Motors, a dealer that among its several vehicle offerings sells Ford pickups. A quick call to its owner led to a quick response from its sales management team, which led to a virtually-the-next-day-ready-for-use 2011 F-150 4×4 Supercrew, freshly detailed and available for Restyling’s art director and graphic artist to drive to a perfect outdoor spot near the dealership for a photo session.

Full-on frontal, rear and side photos. Three-quarter front, three-quarter rear angles. From street level. From above, atop a ladder. Doors open, doors closed. On the ground, beneath the truck, shooting suspension and exhaust systems. Interior seating and instrument panel. Even photos of the engine compartment, should we opt for any bolt-on accessories there.

Sure, the “parts” – the suppliers’ photos meant to match as closely as possible the angles of the truck photos we provided to each supplier – might arrive not exactly as planned (even though we thought the photos, the accompanying Ford dealer invoice information and instructions to the suppliers seemed direct and clear). That would be expected. But the unexpected would happen: photo angles off more than planned, sometimes at the opposite angle; digital images not large enough or of high-enough resolution; a supplier or two that would later opt out; photos arriving on time but without any description of the product; descriptions arriving but without photos; people whom we first contacted but no longer were our contacts; e-mail messages not received; and so on.

Making the work truck work

Some “parts,” just like in the real world, didn’t quite fit. Adjustments were made, some taking a few minutes, others taking an hour or more. No rubber mallets or heat guns were used, but our virtual project installer used her scaling, rotation, perspective, warping and skewing tools quite a bit.

It wouldn’t be perfect, but that’s not what we would be going for. That wasn’t our purpose. We simply wanted to show some of the many products and services restyling installers could do for their customers, be they fleet, dealer or individual client. And that is what we present here.

In all, 17 suppliers gave us 20 items to “install.” More, of course, could have been done, but 20 aftermarket items added to a new truck proved a strong start.

And, yes, no knuckles were scraped and no parts were damaged. But a few heads may have bumped, a few hands clamped into fists, a few hours of anxiety may have been logged, a few hours of overtime and weekend work may have been clocked, and perhaps a few curses possibly may have been muttered.

Still, this virtual project truck made it into this magazine issue and online at restyling.com by deadline.

Grille Guard & Winch: Designed to combine extra protection and added work strength, Irwindale, Calif. – based Westin Automotive Products offers its stainless steel Xtreme Push Bar grille guard with lighting mounting points, and its separate 12V T-Max OUTBACK EW 9500 winch with radio control and torque limiter. 6″ quartz halogen offroad lights (chrome or black housing available) also added.

Hood Light Bar: With a near-daylight light beam, Delta Tech Industries LLC, Ontario, Calif., provided its Delta H.I.D. Hood Light Bar. Constructed of machined billet aluminum mounting arms and plasma-cut, powder-coated steel crossbar. Vertical swivel for precision aiming. Has pre-wired H.I.D. “Internal Ballast” system; also available with xenon light source. H.I.D. model has triple internal ballast inside steel bar. Equipped with hard plastic covers. OEM harness, relay, switch, fuse.

Caliper CoversMGP Caliper Covers, Chula Vista, Calif., manufactures a bolt-on accessory to add color, style and distinction to the vehicle. Benefits include reduction of brake dust and caliper heat reduction. Uses stainless steel fastening system that does not require any drilling, tapping or adhesives. Typical installation time is approximately 1 hour from start to finish.

Hood: Dual Scoop Functional Ram Air Hood from Suncoast Creations, Bradenton, Fla., has a fully integrated ram air channel internal to hood (no extra bolt on channels required; interfaces to stock air box or order optional cold-air intake (use K&N E-0945 or equiv. for air filter). Available with optional heat extractor vents for cooler engine and engine compartment temperatures. Uses stock mounting hardware without need for new brackets or special struts. Comes in a white gel-coat finish ready for prep.

Door Handle Covers: These triple-chrome-plated door handle covers come courtesy of Coast to Coast International, Tampa, Fla. Chrome-plated ABS covers require no tools and offer easy installation.

Tires & Wheels: The Dick Cepek Radial F-C II tire features a hybrid tread pattern that specifically designed for handling response on all terrains, including mud, and has tread depth for longer wear. Construction and uniformity allow for higher mileage and a smooth ride on the street. Self-cleaning tread lugs with “stone kickers,” siped tread lugs and “side biters” to offer sidewall protection and better traction. The Dick Cepek DC-2 aluminum wheel is built especially for today’s trucks, SUVs and 4X4s. Features a gloss, black machined finish with a layer of UV clear-coat. Available in  40+ fitments.

Fender Flares: Stampede Products, of Camanche, Iowa, fender flares, model 8522, this one in black (seven camo patterns available, too), has self-tapping screws, mounting brackets and U-clips that use standard, available tools.

Graphics: The “Surge” graphic from Restylers’ Choice, Cincinnati, in gold combination colors: white, autumn gold metallic, light, doeskin metallic, black metallic. Measures 5-1/2″ x 82-1/4″

Toolbox: Model 127 saddle box from Weather Guard, Crystal Lake, Ill., is a full-size diamond-tread aluminum unit, with 11.3 cu. ft. of storage. Weighs 84 lbs. Dimensions: 18-1/2″ (H); 20-1/4″ (W); 71-1/2″ (L). Clear-coat, powder-coat finishes. “Easy Find” organization includes adjustable metal tray, removable parts bin and level holder. Attachment points offer users the ability to safeguard tools and supplies by running a cable and lock to the truck box for extra protection.

Running Boards: To make entrance and exit into today’s higher-ground-clearance trucks easier, running boards, such as the Matrix series from ATS Design, Cerritos, Calif., provide an interchangeable front reveal strip available in four finishes: chrome; powder-coated black; anodized silver; and painted with color-matched end caps. All ATS painted product is done in house, utilizing the X-rite computer-aided color verification system. These running boards have a full non-slip rubber pad and wide step area and are constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum. They are ready to install right out of the box; bracket kit is sold separately. U.S.-made.

Mud Flaps: Accessories, such as the Classic Series Mud Flaps from Owens Products Inc., Sturgis, Mich., come in all aluminum, designed for light-duty trucks and vans, and are available in several sizes and finishes. Rectangular mud flaps come in diamond tread and bright extruded; mooncut available in diamond tread, extruded bright or extruded black. Classic Series rubber 12″ x 18″ mud flaps feature universal brackets for flexibility of installation on the vehicle. These heavy-duty mud flaps are available with diamond tread aluminum or stainless steel plates.

Tonneau: Retractable hard tonneau from Truck Covers USA, San Diego, this one shown on a Ford F-150 Raptor. The American Roll Cover uses double-wall construction of lightweight aluminum able to support plus-500 lbs. Finished with textured powder coating. Flex-tube water-draining system. Locking mechanism. Retractable cover is tension-driven and has an automatic stop-and-lock point every 12″.

Cargo Bed Slide: Medford, Ore.-based Takit / BedSlide provides its BEDSLIDE 1000, to access cargo and equipment. Designed for traditional pickups and vans. Load capacity of 1,000 lbs. (evenly distributed). Cam bearings for smooth rolling. Full-width grab bar with dual pin latching handle. Locking positions every 12″. Perimeter side rails. Integrated sidetracks with four adjustable tie-downs and easily removable containment walls.

Exhaust: This complete cat back rear-exit dual performance exhaust system from MBRP Inc., Huntsville, Ont., features mirror-polished T304 stainless steel tips. Installs with common hand tools. Delivers a rich, mellow exhaust note. Can improve fuel economy by 1-2 mpg as it boosts torque and horsepower.

Interior Trim: While several premium, custom and limited edition leather interiors are available for this truck, the Ford-logoed custom interior (inset) was chosen by Katzkin Leather. Here the interior two rows of seating and trim are in the Lapis color scheme. Replacement upholstery pieces for all of the seating, include armrest, headrest and door panel pieces that are applicable to the specific vehicle pattern.

Rearview Mirror Navigation SystemMito Corp., Elkhart, Ind., supplied its Gentex OEM rearview mirror designed to serve as a module for such electronic content as navigation in 3.3″ digital screen. When navigation not in use, mirror function is normal. Backup-camera ready. Auto-dimming. Compass and Homelink functions also available.

Springs & Coils: Self-adjusting suspension stabilizers and coils from SuperSprings, Carpinteria, Calif. Springs (below, center) are engineered for vehicles with leaf-spring rear suspension systems to provide extra load capacity and additional vehicle handling control, without significantly affecting the unloaded ride. These springs install directly above the vehicle’s rear leaf springs to work in parallel with existing suspension system and “kick-in” as needed. Progressive-rate Coil SumoSprings (below, right) specifically for 1/2-ton pickups with front coil spring suspension systems. Designed specifically for vehicles equipped with snow plows, replacement heavy-duty bumpers or heavy winches. Slide between rungs of factory coil springs. Uses microcellular foam material that will compress up to 80% of its original height and has full memory rebound.