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.



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


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.


The chair on the left is removable.


In couch mode.


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!

Intervene Her

Front Hood Up“You’d have to see it with my eyes, cause it sure was quite a sight, just the way she looked with men like me surrounding…”

The anticipation for last weekend couldn’t have been bigger. We planned to have the entire crew together for a weekend campout in Jackson to do the bulk of the work on the ambulance. The planning for last weekend started almost two months ago. Perhaps I’m not the seer I thought I was. We had to shift our trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas because of the transmission issues. In my last post, I mentioned we’ve had a mild summer to this point. Mother Nature decided she wasn’t going to let that continue.

She needed brake lights, head lights, tail lights, turn signals, and a TRANSMISSION.

She needed brake lights, head lights, tail lights, turn signals, and a TRANSMISSION.

Our weekend started with a drive to Nashville to have a laptop configured by Pete Tellez.  This computer will serve as the hub for the rear electronics. Pete works in IT at the corporate office of Logan’s Roadhouse. His office is located on the third floor of a corporate office building, which looks just like every other corporate office building in America until the elevator doors open on the third floor. That floor looks just like a Logan’s Roadhouse, complete with neon lights and all the décor you’d find in the restaurant wrapped around the desks. Pete was able to fix up our laptop and as a bonus, he provided us with a second monitor and other equipment for the numerous devices J and crew will be using in the ambulance. It was the perfect start to the weekend.

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

Lorie (we took full advantage of Sonic Happy Hour)

I met Lorie Beth [who designed and built the bunks at her house] while I was in Nashville, and she followed me all the way to Jonesboro in the blazing heat with no air conditioning. When we arrived, Austin Kelley, who had already made the drive down from Missouri, was hard at work in the Hotwired shop. He was quick to point out that I drove the ambulance from Jackson TN through Memphis, to Jonesboro with no head lights, no brake lights, no turn signals, no tags, and a torque converter that failed a block away from the Hotwired shop. I had already thought my trip from Jackson was an extreme trip, all I could do was laugh when I found out a week later exactly how crazy it was.

The Hotwired team continued to gut and clean up the ambulance over the course of the last week.  They didn’t want to install anything until our entire crew arrived in order to make sure everything was done right the first time. Now that we were all finally in the same place at the same time with the ambulance, we were able to have a production meeting to create a final plan for the weekend.

Friday night ended with the crew going to visit a local bar for dinner and a few drinks with some friends of mine from high school. Our tab was graciously picked up for us. It was the first of many times that our tab was picked up when we ate. I made sure to relay to J how well everyone treated us while we were in town, and told him he had to do a show in Jonesboro on a future tour. I’m insisting on it.


Justin being Justin (building shit)

Saturday, everyone was fired up. The crew quickly jumped into action. Justin,

from Hotwired, framed out the walls for the driver’s side bunks. As we removed the vinyl from the passenger side rear wall, we were all grossly reminded of Pandora’s gruesome past. The padding on the wall hid over two decades of dried fluids that had never been cleaned. With not so subtle hints like that and the music of HURT playing in the background while we worked, it was impossible to not feel emotion from every aspect of every part of this project.

A quarter century of bio-hazardous fluid build up was found behind the padding.

A quarter century of bio-hazardous fluid build up was found behind the padding.

The vinyl surfaces were dyed black, the flooring was removed, and parts of the interior and bunks were painted. Austin was able to get all the lights working. We only paused briefly for meals and worked until just past 3:00 am Sunday morning. Everything was starting to come together now. It felt like we made more progress between Friday and Saturday night than we had in the months leading up to this. It was finally taking shape.

By Sunday everyone was showing signs of being drained from the long hours, but the energy level was still high. Austin began the day installing a brace to support the passenger side fold up bunk, then did the remaining fabrication work for the bunks. Lorie worked to prepare the bunks for installation and painted a second coat on everything we had painted the night before while I purchased supplies. Brandon, from Hot Wired, joined us after dinner to install the bunks.

Austin's mount for the fold up bunk.

Austin’s mount for the fold up bunk.

The bunks have been the most expensive element of this project so far, and there simply wasn’t another project we could find to copy from or a kit to use. Every aspect of them was custom designed and built by Lorie, 9 hours away. I think everyone involved in this project so far was somewhere on a range from ‘cautiously optimistic’ to ‘not understanding at all how this would work, even with sketches and measurements.’ I was on the cautiously optimistic side. I recruited Lorie for this because she owns a business building furniture. I knew the designs would be sound and the craftsmanship would be top notch. By 3:00 am Sunday we were able to install the passenger side folding bunk and test fit the four driver’s side sliding bunks. SUCCESS! The bunks wouldn’t need any modifications and the ambulance would only need a couple of adjustments for everything to work perfectly.

At 3:30 am early Monday morning we were all in the back of the ambulance

Brandon, passionate music fan and Hot Wired owner.

Brandon, passionate music fan and Hot Wired owner.

reflecting on the work we’d just done. I looked around at a worn out crew and couldn’t hold back from smiling. Austin, Brandon, Justin, and Lorie all share a passion for being the absolute best at their craft. All weekend I kept having to remind them that this didn’t have to be flawless because we don’t have the budget for flawless. It just needed to function well and be durable. Despite intense heat, twenty hours days, and the obstacles that come from truly doing something that’s never been done before; we were actually making this thing happen! In that moment “The Seer” popped in my head. It just seemed fitting the way we all converged on her because we all wanted the same thing, and we all saw her true beauty.

Pandora’s Box is going to stay in Jonesboro until the Hotwired crew finishes with her. They are doing some more cosmetic work, installing interior and exterior lighting, and installing the AV components. By the time you are reading this I’ll be hard at work installing the flooring. Then, she’ll have to be towed back to Jackson for a new transmission, solar panel install, air conditioning work, cruise control repair, and the modifications made for her to run on biodiesel.

She’s had a hell of run so far, but I’d like to think her best days are just ahead of her.

Thank You For Listening


(More photos can be found here. Compliments of Austin Kelley.)

Removing the vinyl on the rear doors.

Removing the vinyl on the rear doors.



When Atlas slips, she won't lose her grip.

When Atlas slips, she won’t lose her grip.

The inverter

The inverter

J's roof mounted stripper pole and rear wiring.

J’s roof mounted stripper pole and rear wiring.

The vinyl was died black

This vinyl was dyed black.

Prepped for paint

Prepped for paint (and newly dyed black door panel).

Justin putting in the new wall.

Justin putting in the new wall.

We'll shine up the chrome and these doors will look great.

We’ll shine up the chrome and these doors will look great.

Custom fitting made by Austin to repair the passenger side rear door.

Custom fitting made by Austin to repair the passenger side rear door.

Passenger side bunks in couch mode.

Passenger side bunks in couch mode.

Austin and Lorie raising the bunk into place for the first time.

Austin and Lorie raising the bunk into place for the first time with Brandon watching.

They are in!

Bunk up and secure! (Bo and Lorie pictured).

Lorie adding slides to the bunk rails

Lorie adding slides to the bunk rails.

Both braces in and ready for sliding bunks

Both braces in and ready for sliding bunks.

3 bunks in, with the bottom bunk slid out.

3 bunks in, with the bottom bunk slid out.

Bunks 2 and 4 slid out.

Bunks 2 and 4 slid out.

Letters are no where to be seen anymore.

Letters are no where to be seen anymore.

The Inner Workings of Pandora’s Box

Just about every day I get a message from someone asking me for details on what we are doing. I’ve given just about everyone pretty detailed information and some insight into our plan. The most notable exceptions to this are J and Victor.

It’s amusing to me to keep these guys slightly on edge and waiting for updates. They’re used to it being the other way around. As they record their albums, people haunt the various HURT sites combing for updates and snippets of what’s to come. I’m sure it’s got to be a rewarding feeling for them to know that so many people care so much about something they put so much of themselves into when they are recording an album. Similarly, we are taking great pride in all the attention our build is getting and hopefully giving J and Victor a slight taste of the curiosity and eager anticipation we go through during the long waits between albums.

So what exactly is the plan anyway?

Honestly, a lot of what we have planned is going to depend on how much we’re able to get donated. So things will probably change over the course of this build depending on our budget and what’s sent to us.

The most critical aspect of this project is making sure this thing runs safely and runs well. Before we spend any of our resources on anything else, all mechanical issues must be resolved.

The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any major issues with the engine. The bad news is that the transmission is showing signs of wear and, if at all possible, we plan to replace it. The four rear tires must be replaced (one of them is already blown). The heat and air need some work, and the ambulance is full of electrical issues. From what we’ve been able to discern at this point, it appears most of the electrical issues stem from a previous owner ripping out the inverter and trying to direct-wire all electrical systems to the battery. We are going to basically rip out ALL the wiring and start again.  Depending on time and budget we may not hook back up most of the lights and siren because they aren’t needed.

The next phase involves gutting most of the insides. Once it’s gutted and the mechanical issues have been addressed, Pandora’s Box will be taking a 2 ½ hour trip to Hot Wired Car Audio in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Hot Wired has agreed to donate several days worth of shop time and labor to the project. They will be installing the electrical, audio and video equipment that will be used for both entertainment purposes and as a functioning mobile recording studio. J has mentioned AC plug-ins are prized in the band world, so we plan to run AC outlets to each bunk to provide life support for their phones and laptops.

Once the wiring is complete, Pandora’s Box will make the trip back to Jackson to be fitted for bunks. Lorie Haynes did an amazing job on designing them. We plan to install three permanent bunks, one bunk that when folded down will form the back part of a couch, and two bunks on a locking slide system that can be removed for additional head room. Austin Kelly, whom I met through this blog, will be helping us out on this part.

Four Bunk Set up

This is a model of our four bunk set up, with bunks locked in travel mode.

Four Bunk Set Up Extended

Model of how the four bunks on the driver’s side will look when extended.

Pandora’s Box will be equipped with a kitchenette and a separate cooler so the guys aren’t forced to eat fried gas station and bar food.  We plan to install an auxiliary heat and air system that can be used for extended hours without the engine running so the guys can stay comfortable and not burn gas.

Speaking of not burning gas, sustainability for the guys has been a running theme on this blog and sustainable energy is both functional and practical for a project like this. We plan to make the necessary modifications to allow Pandora’s Box to use biodiesel. She’ll be equipped with an on-board filtration system to process used cooking oil and convert it to fuel. Even using this option only occasionally will drastically cut down their fuel cost. In addition, the battery array that will power the recording studio and auxiliary heat and air will be hooked up to roof-mounted solar panels as well as the main engine.

She’ll give them life support, and it never has to end.

As always, Thank You For Listening.