First impressions
Sprucing up the look of your truck can do more than turn heads, it can be a smart business move

By Suzanne Stempinski
field editor

First impressions are the most important ones – especially when you’re trying to land a new client or a new job. That’s why the phrase “dress for success” is more than just a worn out cliché.

It’s one thing to ditch the work clothes when talking to prospective clients, but don’t stop there. They’re going to be looking at your truck as well. A clean, attractive truck tells a client that you are all business and can be trusted to take care of business.

Problem is, when truckers start talking about sprucing up the look of their trucks, you can almost see the money stacking up in front of you. It doesn’t have to be that way.

You can enhance your truck’s appearance without wrecking your wallet. While chrome shops do a brisk business in accessories and shiny stuff, there are plenty of options for dressing up your truck – both inside and out – that don’t cost a fortune and are more about ingenuity than digging deep into your pockets.

Let’s start with the obvious – keeping it clean. There’s absolutely no point in throwing a load of chrome and stainless paint or accessories on a truck that doesn’t get a regular bath. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. Clean is more than just running it through a truck wash periodically.

You should keep handy a bucket, sponges, an old toothbrush for getting in those nooks and crannies, streak-free glass cleaner and non-alcohol-based vinyl dressing. That’s just for the inside. For the outside, you’ll need degreaser, bug and tar remover, wax, polish, tire foam or dressing, a couple more sponges and some rags.

You’ll also need some persistence and elbow grease. No matter what any polish company representative promises, there isn’t a product out there that will give you the kind of deep shine you’re looking for without some effort. In fact, you might want to get your truck’s aluminum professionally polished once or twice a year – then maintaining that shine by hand will be much easier.

OK, your truck is looking much better – plain but sparkling inside and out. Now what? Figure out what your theme is going to be. Are you into horses, eagles, motorcycles, race cars, football or have you got a color scheme in mind? Be consistent – don’t mix horses and football unless you’re a Denver Bronco’s fan.

In addition to accessorizing your truck with chrome, stainless steel or chromed plastic, consider paint, specifically automotive paint – the kind used for bumpers. It can do wonders for door panels, your dash, even your floor.

Check out trucks like Chris Lewis’ “New Identity” or Pat Eilen’s “Iron Outlaw.” The use of paint on the interior can give your truck a totally updated look. Paint the underside of your visor while you’re at it. Paint your windshield wiper brackets. Paint your fiberglass fenders. Is your frame black? Invest in several cans of black spray paint. They cost less than $1 each. Use them to touch up your frame where paint peels. But clean off the rusty stuff with a wire brush first. Paint directly on top of rust and it is is guaranteed to peel – right away.

If hiring an artist or pinstriper is not for you, you can do your own pinstriping with a steady hand and rolls of pinstriping tape available at discount stores or automotive supply stores. Or, better yet, order the stuff on the Internet and you may be able to save more money.

Accenting the lines on your truck will require patience and some trial and error, but a little enhancement can go a long way. Are you doing a pin stripe in a straight line with a curl at one end? Repeat that pattern on other parts of your truck – maybe on the dash, door panel or underside of your visor.

Inside your truck, match the curtains and bedding. If you don’t know how to sew, check out bedding coordinates at that big box store while you’re picking up your paint and tire foam. Or, when you’re parked behind a factory outlet mall, head inside. Or, again, let your online fingers do the walking.

Take that theme and color scheme and carry it under your hood as well as into your cab. Buy rolls of wire loom – it’s cheaper that way. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors with coordinating cable ties to hold it in place. If your color combination is blue and green, you can use your green ties on blue loom and vice versa.

Aside from all the obvious places, you can put it around the shifter in your cab, your pedal brackets – if it’s narrow. Once you get started, you’ll find plenty of places. Again, you can find it at truck stops, chrome shops or online. One thing – if you buy the “chrome” wire loom – be careful. The finish is painted on, so pressure washing will strip the chrome finish right off.

Getting your truck looking good isn’t really about money – it’s about pride. Keeping it that way is about persistence.

Suzanne Stempinski may be reached at wheelz624@aol.com.