Does this rat rod look familiar? If so, that's because you saw it on display as part of the St. Paul Street Machine Summer Nationals in St. Paul, MN this summer in the "Young Guns" corral. This completely custom creation nicknamed "Wild-Torquey" belongs to 25 year old Luke Merrill of Isanti, Minnesota. Merrill, also known as "Tinman," didn't win the Young Guns regional qualifying round at St. Paul - but that didn't stop his quest to make it to his first SEMA show. Merrill reached out to his sponsors B&M, Hurst & Flowmaster and got the trucks to Las Vegas for their first SEMA appearance last week. Merrill's Wild-Torquey then qualified in the Young Guns Top 10 and the Battle of the Builders Top 40.
We caught up with Luke after SEMA and here's what he had to say....
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | Your biz name is Tinman 2 Kustoms - are you a builder by trade or do you have a day-job?
A: Merrill: | All of my time is spent on the Tinman 2 Kustoms Brand, social media, articles & builds. I do some work for hire, but currently I am spending most of my time trying to grow my business & hands-on skills in preparation for future TV opportunities. I still live at home with my parents, so all of my money (what little I can scrounge) goes into builds, tools & video equipment. Although I am hardly making enough money to live, it's a long term investment into myself and the car community. The ability to influence the younger generations (and older), to the best of my ability, is very satisfying despite the lack of income.
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | Can you provide a brief history of the build?
A: Merrill: | 4500+ hours of exclusively my labor. Approx 1000 hours in video editing (with over 50 build videos on YouTube that document the entire build from start to finish). A few very large personal issues that occurred during the build, including the accidental death of my little sister, dad's double lung transplant and heart valve transplant, etc. The build has more sentimental value than meets the eye. Parts were incorporated from my sisters belongings and I tried to spend as much time as possible tinkering to keep my mind off of the life stresses I was going through- which definitely helped. 800hp, 1500ft lb cummins 12v, auto trans, f450 full-float rear axle, YES, IT PULLS THE TRAILER.
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | What were some highlights from your SEMA experience?
A: Merrill: | Top 10 Young gun award, Top 40 Battle of the builders Award, Interviews (Shell pioneering performance stage; Skidmarks show. Discovery Casting. Numerous SEMA interviews. Numerous Sponsor interviews), The stressful preparation beforehand and driving there/back (possibly negative highlights LOL), seeing peoples faces when they asked who the builder was and how old I was.
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | What new opportunities came out of SEMA for you?
A: Merrill: | There was definitely a large amount of networking and new contacts that were formed. I spent most of my time introducing myself to companies, as well as interviewing for TV opportunities, etc. I am super stoked to see what comes of all of the media that has been and will continue to be posted. #tinman2kustoms
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | Are you working on another project for next year or will you be taking Wild Torquey out again next year?
A: Merrill: | I would like to build another vehicle for next years show, but it depends how time and money works out. There is a lot of time that goes into a SEMA quality build, and as a builder who does 100% of his own work, as well as all of the social media, etc. it is very hard to dedicate that much time & funds. But we will see what happens!
Q: Street Machine Nationals: | Anything else you want to add?
A: Merrill: | Just a backyard blue collar builder with a strong passion & work ethic. Everything has been self-taught. No formal automotive education: I didn't even know how to change my own oil until I was 18. Shows that anyone can do cool stuff if they work hard enough! Check out my social media accounts.... Youtube, Facebook & Instagram all ending in .com/tinman2kustoms
Special thanks to all of my sponsors!