Remodel

Thank You For Helping

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin

From Left to Right: Me, Brandon, Lorie, J, Austin, Justin

It doesn’t seem real. None of it. This was such a wild project from start to finish, and now that it’s over, we’ve finished, but wish we could start again. This wasn’t just a build. There was so much love and emotion in this from everyone involved. Our blog has viewers from over 60 countries, and we received donations from all over the place. Everyone that contributed anything helped give the project life support.

I can’t begin to express to you how much doing this meant to me. (So much emotion.) The group I’m about to thank worked tirelessly and without ego. As much stress and pressure as we were under at the end, and as hot as it was, and as late as it was every time we got together, there was never any bickering, infighting, or ego. This is an amazing team, and their heart can’t be matched.

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Brandon Wheeler, owner of HotWired Car Audio in Jonesboro Arkansas, THANK YOU. Your team didn’t just under promise, over deliver… you saved the project. I’m forever indebted to you guys for your hard work. People like you are EXACTLY what the world needs more of. I asked for very little from you at the start, and I asked for something nearly impossible at the end. Each time you didn’t just come through, you exceeded expectations with an unmatched level of quality and professionalism.

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie Beth, bunk and interior designer, and all around hard worker. THANK YOU. I recruited you for this because I knew you were a brilliant furniture maker, artist, and loyal fan of the band. I challenged you to do something no one had ever done before and you delivered. You drove countless hours, slept in your car, in the ambulance, and in sleazy motels while working around the clock on numerous occasions to pull this off. You were able to design and build our bunk set up from seven hours away with measurements and photos mostly taken over the phone. Your amazing attitude and work ethic will take you far in life, wherever you decide to go. You’ll always have a special place in my heart because I don’t think another person exists that would make the sacrifices you made to see this through.

Austin and Justin working hard

Austin and Justin working hard

Austin Kelley, diesel mechanic and fabricator, THANK YOU. Several people contacted me about doing the job I asked you to do. I chose you because of your training and I could tell by Facebook stalking you what kind of person you were. You showed up and busted your butt for us. You gelled with our group perfectly, and you had the same passion for this project the rest of us did. At the end, per J’s request for a gauge, you pulled the gauge we needed out of your own car and professionally installed it in minutes. Everything about that sums up what you brought to this project.

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Justin Letson, carpenter, THANK YOU. You finished gutting Pandora’s Box for us, and built any and everything we asked you to. Your attention to detail is why this project looks as good as it does. The trim pieces and other details you added to the fundamental components you built really make her look first class.

Jackie Yee Grau, the legal team, THANK YOU. You’re such a positive and intelligent inspiration and a great friend to everyone. Every challenge we threw at you from local ordinance laws to blog editing you delivered quickly on. Thanks for representing me against the Jackson shop going forward. (And for those reading this, she was secretly included in our group photo by Lorie Beth. Lorie’s is holding a card from Jackie in her left hand in the group shot.)

Anonymous donor from the East Coast- THANK YOU. This project would not have happened without your donation. The transmission alone was more than the budget we had to start with. It’s tough to count on people to do what they say they’re going to do, you certainly did just that.

Anonymous donor from the Northeastern US- THANK YOU. I loved the inspirational stories about HURT you shared with me. You didn’t just deliver on the bedding, you delivered six fold, and got us EXACTLY what we were asking for.

Rickie Lindsey, hardworking support, THANK YOU. I shared with J the video of you and me tearing apart the driver’s side wall. You busted your butt doing the grunt work on this project on numerous occasions, and your work largely went unheralded in blog posts. I promise you, I do NOT group you with the shop in Jackson, and I apologize my frustrations with their management frequently seemed to filter its way back to you. You’re a good guy, and you have the work ethic to go as far in life as you want to go.

Trevor Arnold, lead mechanic to start the project, THANK YOU. Seriously, THANK YOU. This project would have ended up being done at a technical college if you hadn’t agreed to take it on. But since you did, I was able to assemble an amazing team and spend my summer working on such a cool and unique project. You were put in really bad places at the end by your boss, and I apologize you had to be the middle man at times, and deal with the frustration from both sides. You’re a gifted mechanic, and that’s why I chose you for this project. Hone your skills and grow your career.

Rose Haley, graphic design, THANK YOU. You did a great job with your artwork and designs. You drove hours out of your way to work on this, and stuck around to meet me, and never got the chance to. Thanks for your contributions to this project.

Donnie Tipton, hardworking nice guy, THANK YOU. I don’t think I’d ever met you until the last hours of our time with Pandora’s Box, but you showed up with an awesome work ethic and energy. You busted your butt for us when we really needed it. THANK YOU.

Barry Martin and Jessica Yarbro at Sign Design Graphics, graphic design, THANK YOU. I don’t know anyone else who would put vinyl on for free at 3:00 am. Your artwork really helped make the exterior look good.

Josh Fischer, Antoine Nihart, Jessie Henry, James Merritt, and Adam Morris… THANK YOU. You guys supported us in a variety of different ways and rolls. You guys frequently came at crazy hours with no notice, and helped make this happen for us. You guys are all great friends.

Karla Fisher, editor and blog street teamer, THANK YOU. You’ve been a good friend to me for years, and your editing skills and feedback came in handy throughout this project. Thanks for continuously promoting the blog on your Facebook page and in all the other ways you helped me.

Cain LaVelle, Pete Tellez, Brad Covey, Chad Hardin, and anyone else that donated gear and equipment. (IF I’m leaving your name off, please shoot me a quick message and I will edit this.) Thank you! This blog was titled Life Support, and you guys gave us the exact support we needed to help make this possible.

The rest of the HotWired Crew I didn’t name… THANK YOU guys for all your support. We tore your shop up, and you responded by buying us food, letting us use your tools, and be in your way. Thank you.

THANK YOU to every last person that read this blog. You guys kept us on track, and kept everyone motivated. You guys were awesome support.

I hope I’m not leaving anyone off this list. There were so many people that helped in so many ways.

Finally I want to thank J Loren.

What it took to build him, wasn't enough to kill him.

What it took to build him, wasn’t enough to kill him.

Your music has been an inspiration to countless people from around the world. The trust and faith you put in me to deliver this for you was greatly appreciated. You handled a really negative looking situation at the end beautifully. I hope you’re able to get exactly what you need out of Pandora’s Box, and I hope she truly serves you well. Somehow you find your way into some of the most bizarre moments of my life, and you’ve become a true friend through those experiences. THANK YOU.

 

Thank you to everyone that read this until the end, you were my support… until the rapture should come to meet us.

Bo

Bo

What It Took To Build Her Was Almost Enough to Kill Her (And Us) Part 1: Stonewalled in Jackson

This is what was left of the transmission after 280,000 miles

This is what was left of the transmission after 280,000 miles

On August 5th, I made the last blog post that ended with a live status update of Trevor and Pandora’s Box stuck on I40. It was a light hearted post because we were in really good shape. The ambulance only needed another day or two’s worth of interior work. The Jackson crew told me their part would only take two days. J was planning on coming August 15th. We were in great shape to not only be finished early, but to be able to do significant road testing to work out the quirks and bugs that are sure to show up on a one off build of a 23 year old vehicle with 280,000 miles on it.

This little relay almost burned everything up. It was stuck ‘on’ and gave constant power to the transmission, frying everything around it.

And… we were basically on budget. Which is vital when you’re working with other people’s money. J decided to book a flight for August 22nd to give us an extra week just in case things ran behind.

Then everything just fell apart for me.

Planning the transmission work was the hardest part of this entire project. I know countless mechanics and car dealers across the country; this was the most critical part of the project. We had to find a shop that had the proper equipment to do this job, and I wanted to find a place that had experience doing the kind of custom transmission a project like ours required. The shop in Jackson, TN seemed to be the perfect fit. They came recommended to us, I knew a mechanic that worked there, and they specialized in upgrading light and medium duty diesels. I asked them for a quote and was told there would be no way to give a quote without tearing into the transmission and figuring out what needed to be repaired or replaced first. I felt like that was fair, so I let them know our MAXIMUM budget. I asked them to do it as cheaply as possible and explained that we didn’t need overkill, we just needed a transmission that was designed for hauling the weight we needed to haul, daily, across the country.

Part of my day job is recognizing fraud in automobile dealerships. As the warning signs started to mount with this particular shop, our team was pushed to the breaking point, and my stress level began to rise. The first sign of trouble was the date they picked up Pandora’s Box. She was supposed to be picked up a week prior to that, and every day I would get a phone call telling me they would come get her the next day. After consulting with the rest of our team, we decided it was best to not have the Jackson shop do the work, so I lined up another shop instead. We just didn’t feel like they were motivated to do the project. When I called the Jackson shop to let them know I was going to take the ambulance to an alternate shop, I was told they were less than 30 minutes from being in Jonesboro to pick her up. Sure enough, they were, so they got to keep the job.

Transmissions for a project like ours can run upwards of $6,000-$8,000. We didn’t have that kind of money and we still needed to spend a bunch more on the creature comfort elements. They called me after she was picked up, and agreed to have a quote for me first thing Wednesday morning. A quote on Wednesday and having the work done on Friday turned into a quote on Thursday, with work done on Saturday. My phone calls on Thursday, August 7th, and Friday, August 8th, weren’t returned. On Saturday, I was told she would be finished Monday, that I could pick her up, and the work would be “well under my budget.” Monday, August 11th, I drove almost two hours to get her, only to be turned away because she wasn’t shifting properly. Every day from August 12th through the 14th I was told she would be ready the next day, that they couldn’t get me a quote, but they knew what my budget was and wouldn’t be over it. Finally, on August 15th, I was told I could pick her up at the end up the day. I drove there, and waited almost two hours before the shop owner came to talk to me. He assured me that she would be done before I left Jackson that night, even if his guys had to stay until midnight. He told me he was going to donate about $500 of the labor in exchange for throwing a logo on the side of her, and I told him that’s great. I explained to him again exactly what our time frame was, told him exactly what we planned to do to her, and I let him know what J’s flight plans were.

I told him I’d stay in Jackson until she was done, and to call me ASAP so I could go home. I got in my car and immediately drove home. I knew I wasn’t going to get a phone call from him. I’m trained to spot liars, and I knew I was being lied to. Phone calls to the shop that night went unanswered. At this point, panic started to set in for me. J was flying here in a week. We still had plenty of time to get everything done, but I didn’t know how much I could spend on everything else we needed to order, and I no longer had any confidence in the Jackson shop’s ability or intent to get the job done.

The Hot Wired Crew moved this safely to the inside.

The Hot Wired Crew moved this safely to the inside.

By Monday, August 18th, I couldn’t wait any longer. I told them I would have to pick up Pandora’s Box by close of business even if she wasn’t done. I explained that if she wasn’t safe to drive, I’d need to tow her back to Jonesboro because there was just enough time left to do everything else we needed to do. I drove there to pick her up — they had moved her between a fence and the building, then parked a truck behind her to trap her there. I’ve seen dealers use this tactic before with customers. I took it as a battle move. They wanted to make sure I’d pay before I had a chance of driving away with her. They knew my budget upfront, but to this point they’d refused to give me a quote. I sent a mass text message to our team to let them know that the Jackson shop was about to try and screw us out of money.

The owner seemed nice enough about the situation. He agreed to donate the hours of a couple of his crew guys and give them a list of odd jobs to be done on the ambulance. He also agreed to install a donated muffler for us, since the delay was entirely on them. We agreed that if the transmission wasn’t 100% ready to go by the end of the day on Wednesday, that he would truck her to us Thursday morning and finish the job in Jonesboro.

His crew honestly ended up making things harder on us. Vinyl was torn, everything got over spray on it and our fridge was dropped and scuffed up.  The wiring for the solar panel was installed outside of the ambulance and was not protected from the elements in any way. They did help us paint, and said that they fixed the cruise and got the muffler on.

This was her final coat of paint. Hours before she left Jackson.

Pictured are Rickie and Lorie working their asses off in what was a difficult situation.

 

Thursday, Pandora’s Box was in shambles. It was too late for me to have J get a later flight, and almost everything was going to have to be redone on her. All of our hard work was crumbling away.

Epic failure was certain. … And everything just fell apart.

 

Bo

At War with Summers Lost

Lights InstalledI think of all the days this summer where we could have done something more. There was never a day that went by that she wasn’t on my mind, but now we are rushing to get everything done. I’m smiling though. As the team’s leader, it’s my job to make sure everyone buys into the mission, has clearly defined objectives, and understands when things must be done. All this must be done under budget and it must be built to last.

The flurry of texts messages and late night emails I’m getting from our team members lets me know our group is as focused on our goal as I am. At this point I’d say Pandora’s Box is about 80-85% of the way done. However, the remaining 15-20% is without a doubt some of the most critical parts.

Justin looking fantastic!

Justin looking fantastic!

The bunks are installed and the monitor is in. All the lights work, including remote controlled interior color changing LED’s (click to check out the vid!). She’s had one coat of paint on the interior, and the floors ripped out. She’ll need another coat or two before we install the flooring and trim. She still needs the main AC fixed, auxiliary AC installed, mini-fridge, microwave, safe, locks fixed, cruise control repaired, solar panel installed, and a TRANSMISSION.

J and Victor have been adamant about me field testing her after she gets finished. Trust me, I want to as well. We need to make sure there are no bugs or quirks with her before she sets out to tour the country. Victor sent me a text this week that read, “Have you been driving it around? Getting a feel for the engine? Do you think it will tour well pulling a trailer for long periods of time?”

I guess a loaded set of questions deserves a loaded answer:

Q: Have you been driving it around? A. Well, my last time driving it I took it from Jackson, TN to Jonesboro, AR with no tags, or working lights or signals of any kind, and the torque converter failed a block away from HotWired, leaving it un-drivable since July 4th. At the time I thought it ran out of gas, but it turned out to be much worse.

All the bunks slid back in place.

All the bunks slid back in place.

Q: Are you getting a feel for the engine? A. Trevor Arnold, one of our Jackson TN mechanics, did a pretty thorough inspection of the engine and concluded it’s in great shape. Austin Kelley, who came down from Missouri, looked at it a few weeks ago, and gave me the same report without any knowledge of what Trevor had told me. I don’t know much about diesel engines, but a couple of guys that work on them for a living have given me assurance that everything’s going to be fine.

Q: Do you think it will tour well pulling a trailer for long periods of time? A. We’ll find out very soon. I’ve given Trevor and his crew our budget and specifications. It’s up to them to make it happen, and make it happen quickly. I asked him to do it, because I know he can do it well.

Brandon, Justin, and the HotWired team have spent several late nights and countless hours working on this project now. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I asked these guys to do some simple wiring and help me out with a head unit. So far, they’ve had Pandora’s Box for a month and have feasted on her. Ripping apart her insides, installing new walls, lights, wires, the stereo, speakers, and helping us install the bunks. It’s unbelievable how much work they have done. I’m incredibly thankful for their work, and humbled by the passion and commitment they’ve shown to this project.

Today she started to make the move back to Jackson for the transmission work, but then I guess it was just a twist of fate, or irony, or just plain dumb luck. As I’m posting this, Trevor is stuck on I-40 at the same spot where I broke down with Pandora’s Box and Uncle Pervy. This time they weren’t even driving the ambulance, she was on the back of a truck. God speed Trevor, god speed, and I feel your pain.

Been there... done that... I'll send you a t-shirt.

Been there… done that… I’ll send you a t-shirt.

 

Thank you for listening.

 

Bo

Bunks In

Side door view of the bunks.

Bunks Out

Bunks Out

All the bunks slid back in place.

All the bunks slid back in place.

Fold Up, Down

Couch Mode

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Getting set for her trip to Jackson.

Rear Sound

Your first shot of the rear sound system.

Fold Up, Up

Bunk Mode.

Fold up bunk in down position

Fold up bunk in down position.

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The chair on the left is removable.

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In couch mode.

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With the bottom bunks out.

On the way to get stuck on I 40 near Jackson!

On the way to get stuck on I 40 near Jackson!