VISTA, Calif. (July 6, 2000)—Performance West coordinates the production of concept cars and show vehicles for major auto makers. Larry Weiner, vice president and a Chicago native, gave Tire Business a rundown on what´s showing up on West Coast highways:
"A trend that is very popular here in Southern California, and one that is indigenous to this area, is what they call the Pre Runner. It´s a desert, 424 look, and they´re doing it to Chevy S-10s, Mazda B series, your mini-trucks.
"It´s strictly a pickup truck fad. They have these big, oversized bulgy fenders—usually made out of fiberglass—because they have to cover the top of the tires.
"They lift the truck up subtly, so the truck´s got this rake that favors the front. They put on a grille bar and usually install a belly pan that covers the oil pan. They put a lot of extra lights on the roof as if they were racing in the dark.
"It´s very odd—once you see them, you´ll never forget them. Of course, there´s a geographic component to it: we´re very close to Baja.
"Then there´s what we call the `outdoor lifestyle´ look, exemplified by the new (Ford) Explorer Sport Trac, the (Dodge) Dakota Quad Cab, the small SUVs—and Ford is coming out with the new Escape.
"(Owners) are going to all-terrain tires, maybe in plus sizes that say, `I can go anywhere and mountain bike, ski, surf and snowboard.´ We´re doing several for the SEMA show that certainly emulate that theme.
"This is big news, certainly out here in California and the West Coast, where the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors is virtually endless.
"I don´t sell anything. We´re not in the parts business so I´m not prejudiced. My job is building cars that people are really interested in.
"We´ve been in the truck/SUV mode for some years and still very popular are lowered vehicles—even slammed dualies ("slamming" is the tuner term for lowering a vehicle). This is red-hot stuff. It never ceases to amaze me to drive the freeways and see all the cool cars people are driving."