It was roughly three years ago that Phil Rush founded Relaxed Customs in Thousand Oaks, California. He and his son/partner, Brian, set a goal that was, according to Phil, “to obtain corporate sponsorship from a major auto manufacturer and the dream came true in 2000. We made the undaunted effort to get into the Ford Vehicle sponsorship program with success after much stress and meeting all of Ford’s strict requirements.”

On September 9, 2000, they took delivery of the vehicle after paying $1 to Ford along with $800 for shipping (not a bad deal at all). With a fresh new car and a deadline of October 28, 2000, because of a scheduled appearance at the SEMA show, Phil was faced with a dilemma that needed a quick resolution as the deadline was fast approaching.

With a history that runs deep in car customizing, Phil is no stranger to award-winning vehicles as some of his past work has appeared in numerous features for such magazines as Truckin’, Mini Truckin’ and Lowrider Euro. With experience under his belt and a deadline quickly approaching, construction on the car began shortly thereafter and Phil and Brian’s hard work along with the help of sponsors helped to bring together one of the tightest wagons to ever hit the show circuit.

Lisa Dodge and Eric Laxdal at Paint ‘N’ Place in Thousand Oaks treated the body to a clean shave; it was there that they shaved the gas door and relocated the gas filler behind the rear taillight. From there, the wiper washers on the hood were removed along with the rain gutters on the roof. Once all of body mods were prepped, all exterior plastic pieces (antenna, cowl, rear deck lid) including the window shades provided by GT Styling were painted with PPG toreador red to match the vehicle.

A little flavor was added to the stock paint by adding some ghost flames, which were applied with PPG candy brandywine. The flames were applied to the fenders, doors and hood, and they feature a unique twist as the tips of the flames were topped off with a very distinct rose pearl. With the paint applied, dried and buffed, Precision Design and Manufacturing in Santa Fe Springs, California, enhanced the front end of the vehicle with the addition of custom billet upper and lower grille inserts. The inserts provide a distinct look that helps finalize the overall appeal of the wagon.

While the headlights retain their factory housing, Catz has replaced the internals with their MSX series Chrome Blue driving lights, which are produced by FET, Inc. The lights feature a high-intensity beam that emits a cool blue tint while also increasing driver visibility at night. Rocky Cowell of Topline in Montclair, California, hooked up Phil with the lighting that illuminates the Ford emblem in the grille.

Behind the wheel of the wagon, you cannot help but notice the Nu-Dash light burl woodgrain composite dash, console and door overlays. The dash overlay provides a feeling of luxury while adding to the aesthetic value of the whole interior. They are complemented by an interior that sports tan leather threads accented by custom white-faced gauges made by Phil. The interior revamp was performed by Relaxed Customs (Thousand Oaks) and features some trick custom work, which includes the removal of the center armrest in the front seat and the installation of a customized factory floor console. The console sports air gauges and switches. The automated up and down window components are courtesy of Advanced Automotive Technologies in Hillsboro, Oregon. Big Rob Fletcher at Precision Tinting in Thousand Oaks darkened the panes with the latest in UV film.

For entertainment purposes, the interior now sports two video displays and DVD changer supplied by Walt Detlefsen of Audiovox Corporation. The monitors, one 6-inch in the roof and one 5-inch in the visor, were installed by Eric Makai and Cory Price of Phantom Electronics (Thousand Oaks) along with an Audiovox CD changer. The trick install comes as a surprise to any onlooker as the slim profile of the display allows for a stealth install, which leaves the visor looking stock.

The factory head unit was retained but now sports a custom woodgrain faceplate by Nu-Dash. The head unit is linked to an arsenal of components supplied by Ken Koga and TJ Riggs of Cerwin-Vega, which includes Model 3204 and 7000 amps, IT-683 5x7s, IT-60.2 two-way speakers, and dual IT-10.0 10-inch subwoofers. To keep the components together, the entire auditory ambiance is held together with Scosche/EFX components (dual charge capacitors for unexpected bass spikes, to the power and ground distribution blocks for protection) and connected to an Optima gelcell battery that is tucked out of sight.

Resting on a set of chrome 18x 71/2 KMC Units, the rims are massaged onto a set of Toyo Proxes tires. To get the full visual effect of the suspension, Phil decided to go with a six-way set up (side-to-side, front, rear, pancake, full up and independent corners). According to Phil, “All stock suspension components were removed so all four sides can operate independently.” The suspension–which was installed by BIO-Kustums in Hemet, California–sports a fast bag setup which uses aircraft landing gear air rams in the front, Firestone air bags in the rear along with dual 3-gallon tanks, 3/8-inch lines and two pumps.

In order to install the custom air tanks and dual air pumps, the rear seats and seat belts had to be removed. With the flick of switch, Phil can have this bad boy sitting on the unibody frame because of the full air rams in front and air bags in the rear. To absorb the irregularities of the road, a full set of KYB shocks has been installed all around, while the stock sway bars were removed for full independent air. Harold Galinski of G2 Engineering supplied the ceramic red paint for “Lil’ Red Wagon’s” brake calipers.

The stock 3.0-liter V-6 was bolted up to a custom header, which was treated to special silver hi-temp heat paint, applied by Relaxed Customs. Attached to the header is a stainless steel Borla catback exhaust system, which was installed along with a Jet Performance computer chip to help whip up some additional ponies. To guide incoming air, Relaxed Customs fabricated a custom intake that sports a K&N air filter, while under the hood they also added a set of Nology Hot wires and performance plugs to help increase spark.

You will find that the engine is dressed up with many polished and painted goods from Gene Palma of Autobahn Wholesale, Inc., as well as a polished alternator and motor mounts from The Polishing Shop in Newbury Park, California. The master cylinder cover used to cover the gas lines was acquired from Empire Motor Sports while the radiator cap, brake fluid, coolant cap and other billet goods were supplied by Billet Specialties. Talk about attention to detail.

With the car complete and ready to show, Phil was ready to deliver the car as promised to the folks at Lund-Auto Vent Shade. Since he had helped them at the SEMA ’99 they wanted his car displayed again for SEMA 2000, yet shortly before the show, the rug was pulled out from under his feet as they backed out of the deal and chose to go with another vehicle. While this would be enough to drive most anyone mad, Phil got on the phone and began to hustle and was able to strike up a deal with Paul Gibson at Firestone for the Ride-Rite goods. They allowed Phil to use them as a title sponsor and to display the vehicle at SEMA and to make a long story short, Ford saw the vehicle and in the words of Phil, “Went nuts when they saw it.” Everything happens for a reason.

With the car complete and the problems out of the way, the final product is one worth boasting about. Yet without the help of all his sponsors and family, none of this would have been a project worthwhile. With that, Phil would like to thank “my partner in the project, Brian Rush, my oldest son.” He would also like to thank his wife, Sherrie. Of course, a special thanks also goes out to Sara Shelton and Don Baker of Ford Motor Company. His gratitude is also extended to the sponsors (mentioned in the article) who have supplied both their time and products.

In the world of design and car customizing, the one thing to always remember is that you are only as good as your latest design. And judging from Phil’s latest creation, the only thing to really say or do is to tip our hats forward and congratulate him on a job well done.

TECHSPECS

Owner: Phil Rush
Vehicle: 2000 Ford Taurus SE wagon
City/State: Los Angeles, California
Club: Relaxed Atmosphere C.C.
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6
Setup: Six-way setup, unibody frame with fast bag setup and full air rams in front and Firestone air bags, dual 3-gallon tanks and two pumps in the rear
Tires: P225/40-ZR18 Toyo Proxes>br>Wheels: Chrome 18×71/2 KMC Unit
Model: Skye Ashton