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❚Free­lancer and For­mer Staff Ed­i­tor Share His Street Trucks Ex­pe­ri­ence

Street Trucks - - CONTENTS - BY MIKE SELF

Free­lancer and For­mer Staff Ed­i­tor Shares His ‘Street Trucks’ Ex­pe­ri­ence

IT FEELS WEIRD TO WRITE ABOUT MY­SELF SINCE I’M USU­ALLY WRIT­ING ABOUT ALL OF YOU, BUT I WAS ASKED TO TELL YOU GUYS ABOUT MY HISTORY WITH “STREET TRUCKS,” SO HERE GOES! I’m ly­ing here with a sore back un­der­neath one of my lat­est projects, about to slip in a set of low­er­ing blocks. Then it hits me: This is how it all started for me— with a set of low­er­ing blocks, ly­ing un­der­neath a truck, al­beit mi­nus the sore back. The first time I did this I was 16, and I had just bought my first mini-truck after see­ing a lo­cal mini-truck club cruise up to the In-n-out down the street. I. HAD. TO. LOWER. MY. TRUCK. A quick trip to Pep Boys for some sup­plies and I was well on my way!

By the time I was through with high school, I had owned a cou­ple more mini-trucks and bought a new sec­ond-gen S-10 right after grad­u­at­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the dealer, it was the first one to be

sold in Cal­i­for­nia which, if true, is pretty cool. If not, I’ve been liv­ing a lie all th­ese years, so we’ll just pre­tend it’s true for now.

I was spend­ing as much time and money as pos­si­ble on all things truck, but at the same time I was try­ing to fig­ure out what I was go­ing to do for a ca­reer. One thing never, changed, though—what­ever it was, it had to in­volve wheels!

The short ver­sion is that I was on the path to be­com­ing a car de­signer by tak­ing night classes at Art­cen­ter Col­lege of De­sign in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, and was plan­ning on go­ing full-time once I got ac­cepted to the Trans­porta­tion De­sign pro­gram. I was way short on what I needed for tu­ition, even after get­ting a schol­ar­ship from Ford, so I switched gears to study­ing toy de­sign at Otis Col­lege of Art & De­sign. Hey, I could still de­sign toy trucks, right? Then, things got weird.

While on sum­mer break one year, I was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply for an as­so­ciate ed­i­tor po­si­tion at a now-de­funct com­pact truck magazine. Some­how, I got the gig (luck­ily, I was a mini-trucker, al­ready owned a cam­era and knew some­one on the in­side) and spent the next cou­ple of years learn­ing the ins and outs of the in­dus­try.

While work­ing there, news even­tu­ally got around about a new cus­tom truck mag that was in the works, and the re­ported staff was ba­si­cally the dream team of the truck pub­lish­ing world. Not too long after, I started see­ing some fa­mil­iar faces at shows that had been con­spic­u­ously ab­sent for a while. Steve Stil­well, Brian Mccormick and Court­ney Hal­low­ell were all of a sud­den every­where, it seemed, and they were all wear­ing clean white shirts with yel­low and blue “Street Trucks” lo­gos on them.

And be­fore I knew it, “Street Trucks” was every­where, and it was in­stantly the rad­dest rag around. More on that in a bit.

At one point, things got crazy at the mag I was at, so I be­gan plan­ning my es­cape. Not want­ing to leave any­one hang­ing, I qui­etly started ask­ing friends in the scene who might be the per­fect per­son to take my place. As luck would have it, a cou­ple of weeks later I was catch­ing up with some dude named Mike Fin­negan at Texas Heat Wave, and he men­tioned how he was mov­ing back to Cal­i­for­nia from New York and hoped to get some sort of magazine job. I had no doubt in my mind that he would be per­fect, so I told him that he should def­i­nitely ap­ply at the mag since a spot was about to open up. I turned in my no­tice as soon as I got back to Cal­i­for­nia. You’re wel­come, world. In all se­ri­ous­ness, it was ob­vi­ous from his pas­sion that he was go­ing to go on to great things, so I’m just glad I had the op­por­tu­nity to step out of his way!

And so I left to work at an­other pub­li­ca­tion, but it was an au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try busi­ness-to-busi­ness mag. Long story short, I was there for about a month. OK, the whole story is ac­tu­ally pretty short—it was bor­ing and was suck­ing the life out of me, so I did ev­ery­one in­volved a fa­vor and left to as­sume the role of shop man­ager at my buddy Jay Larossa’s shop, Sportruck Spe­cial­ties.

Work­ing with Jay was an amaz­ing time dur­ing an amaz­ing pe­riod in the truck in­dus­try, and

I’m eter­nally grate­ful for him ex­tend­ing the of­fer to get paid to hang out at his shop, but he knew I had some other stuff in the works. In fact, I had been bug­ging Steve, Brian and Court­ney to hire me so I could hang with the cool kids, and to my sur­prise they were all for it!

The only set­back was that, as a new magazine, they didn’t have the bud­get. Lit­tle did I know it, but they had hatched their own plan to make it hap­pen. On March 1, 2001, I started my first day at “Street Trucks” as the un­of­fi­cial fourth Beetle, and the first task at hand was to head off to San Diego with Court­ney and “Im­port Racer” ed­i­tor Paul Mor­ton to help shoot the job that would pay for my first year’s salary—a tri-fold ad for Arelli Wheels. Yes, that was an ex­pen­sive ad!

The years that fol­lowed were just as amaz­ing, and aside from get­ting to pho­to­graph and write about the coolest trucks and truck stuff on the planet, I got to work with my idols on a daily ba­sis. Hell, I got to go to lunch with them every day, which was some­how even cooler! And yup, I got to build some cool trucks with the help of many folks in the in­dus­try.

For some rea­son, though, I got burnt out after a few years and left in Au­gust of 2005. I still loved ev­ery­one I worked with, but an ex­tended break was in or­der. Look­ing back, I prob­a­bly just needed a va­ca­tion, but as the say­ing goes, “It is what it is.”

Not sure of which di­rec­tion I wanted to go in next, I de­cided that now was the time to try out what­ever I hap­pened to be in­ter­ested in. That meant own­ing a T-shirt com­pany, do­ing free­lance graphic de­sign and even pub­lish­ing a drift­ing magazine for a cou­ple of years with a cou­ple of bud­dies and my wife. All of th­ese things went hand-in-hand with mar­ket­ing, so I even­tu­ally took a po­si­tion at a huge on­line au­to­mo­tive parts re­tailer, where I cre­ated a new mar­ket­ing depart­ment. With so­cial me­dia gain­ing trac­tion, it was the per­fect time to grab an early foothold and start cre­at­ing video con­tent for the com­pany, which got a ton of trac­tion and got me some at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing some Youtube awards and new free­lance jobs.

Toot, toot!

And then some­thing amaz­ing hap­pened. A sim­ple “what’s up” on Face­book from for­mer “Street Trucks” ed­i­tor Kevin Aguilar in 2015 turned into a long phone con­ver­sa­tion and a lot of catch­ing up. Be­fore we hung up, I was back on board as a “Street Trucks” free­lancer, and I’ve felt like I’m back home ever since!

So yeah, it’s been a wild ride so far, but I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to be a part of “Street

Truck’s” ever-evolv­ing history for many more years to come!

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