Licensed To Ill: Historically Accurate 80s Custom Minitruck Hits Race Track, Has the Boom

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

For several years in the middle part of the 1980s, lowered minitrucks with pastel graphics and booming sound systems were extremely popular. Then, without warning, just about every last one of them disappeared. Where did they go? We can’t say, but we’re pleased to announce that Team Licensed To Ill has brought the custom minitruck back… and thrashed it all weekend at the Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons.

Team captain Jesse Cortez grew up in Hayward, California, one of the main epicenters of minitruck madness back in the 1980s, and he has long wanted to do an homage to/parody of the trucks he remembered from the streets of his youth.

The opportunity came when he inherited this S10, which had received a Chevrolet 283 V8 swap in 1983 or so and had been sitting in a garage ever since that time; Jesse’s uncle had planned to make it into a drag truck, but never quite finished the project. There’s no way in hell a 1981 truck with a 1962 V8 engine would ever pass a California emissions test, so the race track was the logical destination.

The team left the engine alone, but they decided to throw a rebuild on the TH350 transmission. Other than driving it up and down the driveway, and one time around the block, the truck hadn’t been driven since Reagan’s first term. The real priority, obviously, was getting the Haywardian 1980s look correct. How about that white Grant steering wheel and pink safety harness?

Nearly the entire $500 LeMons-mandated budget went into the sound system, which added 120 pounds but was totally worth it. 24 Hours of LeMons HQ donated the amplifier from the original Ghost Ride The Whip boombox.

He roll! San Francisco Bay Area residents old enough to remember the mid-1980s ought to recognize those radio-station bumper stickers.

Of course, you can’t have an 80s minitruck with a big sound system without Tigra and Bunny! Jesse’s girlfriend, Bunny Pistol, was happy to be Bunny D for the race.

They like the cars, the cars that go boom!

The team even bribed the LeMons Supreme Court by having “Bunny D” dye my facial hair pink, for enhanced gravitas.

Gravitas indeed.

The Licensed To Ill S10 wasn’t particularly fast around Infineon Raceway (its best lap time of 2:29 was about 15 seconds off the quicker entries), but it turned out to be miraculously reliable for a truck that had spent more than 25 years sitting in a garage, powered by an engine type notorious for LeMons failure. No major mechanical problems all weekend!

Winner of the Most Fantastic Yank Tank trophy. Congratulations, Team Licensed To Ill!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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8 of 17 comments
  • DougD DougD on Apr 04, 2011

    Love the parody factor of the splotches AND the pink zig-zag stripe. But wait a second, isn't there some little rule about $500 in LeMons racing? Rust free S-10? Good running 283? Rebuilt TH-350? Isn't each of those items worth at least $500? And then they still had almost $500 to spend on the sound system? I'm no expert, but they should have had so many penalty laps that they wouldn't have made it above zero all weekend. Oh wait, the Bunny bribe. Never Mind... Well done on all counts.

    • See 3 previous
    • DougD DougD on Apr 07, 2011

      @whatwouldjessedo True enough, looks like a good time. I read the rules (which I'd recommend to anyone, why can't all small print be like that?) and looks like radios are driver comfort items and exempt from the $500. So with a little extension the sky is the limit for the stereo.

  • JMII JMII on Apr 04, 2011

    I'd called out this truck in the previous post as soon as saw the pics... the taped tail-lights and heart beat graphics are CLASSIC '80s mini-truck - I just LOVE it. Back in those days I installed stereos and hooked up many mini-trucks with insane systems. Oddly most were imports with the Mazda B2200 being the best example. "DJTragicMike"... HAHA, funny, very funny. Also did everyone catch the 808 reference with the truck's racing number? They really did think of everything on this ride!

    • See 1 previous
    • Whatwouldjessedo Whatwouldjessedo on Apr 05, 2011

      Big ups to anyone who gets the 808 reference!

  • Dartdude They need to rebrand the models, The standard model should be Wagoneer and long version should be Grand Wagoneer. There should offer the Ram Rev powertrain in these
  • Irvingklaws Seems more like they're adopting Honda styling queues. Now if they would just adopt their reliability...
  • FreedMike "Obsidian Edition."Oooooh, obsidian is really, really hard stuff.
  • John The awesome Infiniti G series saved this company 20 years ago, but they are right back on track to obsolescence. (yawn)
  • Teddyc73 White with black wheels, I'm so sick of. Or dull grey and black wheels. Just stop.