COVER FEATURE - SEPTEMBER 2009
N.J. TRUCKER SCORES A TKO (TRUCKING KNOCK OUT)
By Daniel J. Linss - Editor
Back in the day, taking a punch from young boxer Richy Ruiz was pure punishment. Known as “The Punisher” (which was later transferred to his truck), Richy took that same brutal attitude he had in the ring and applied it to his successful trucking career. Today, if you had to compete against his personal truck at a show, it would be equally punishing. In response to all of the early beatings he took at some truck shows before building this truck, he had the phrase “It’s Not Revenge... It’s Punishment” painted on the back of the sleeper. I guess he thought a little retribution was in order.
Richy Ruiz (33) of North Arlington, New Jersey grew up in a trucking family. Richy’s father hauled containers out of the port in Newark and he had a cousin that trucked. But trucking wasn’t Richy’s first love – it was boxing. When he was thirteen years old, Richy began training with his uncle to become a professional boxer. He had high hopes and a “punishing” hit, but five years later a serious car accident prematurely ended his short boxing career. The injuries he sustained in the accident (he was rear-ended by a car that was street racing) kept him in the hospital for a few months and took him out of the game. So, Richy turned to his second love – trucking.
Having learned how to drive from his father at an early age, trucking came pretty naturally to Richy, who got his CDL when he was 21. Being a hard worker, it didn’t take Richy long to reach a nice level of success. In the beginning, Richy got a lot of support from his cousin Fernando “Hollywood” Espinosa, who helped Richy get his first job and buy his first truck – a Mack conventional. Back then, operating as Ruiz Transport, Richy pulled vans, reefers and flatbeds, but it was garbage in end dumps that put him on the map. Growing to ten trucks (all Kenworths) and several trailers, Ruiz Transport is a great success story. But it didn’t end there.
In 2002, a neighbor asked if Richy could haul his motorcycle to a big bike event back east. Richy agreed, and then hauled the guy’s bike in his van trailer. The word quickly got out and Richy became “the guy to call” if you wanted to have your motorcycle hauled on the east coast. He could cram as many as 30 bikes in his trailer, but each one had to be individually secured – it was not easy work. The next year, he bought a 1999 enclosed Kentucky car carrier with a lift gate to haul the motorcycles. He had no intention of ever hauling cars. But later that year, at a car show, someone asked Richy if he could haul his cars – and Exotic Carriers was born.
Started in 2003, Exotic Carriers hauls cars for sports personalities, actors, business people and snowbirds. Richy also does a lot of hauling for the Hot Import Nights “tuner” car events and Rides Magazine. Exotic Carriers is currently operating five of Richy’s ten trucks, along with three enclosed trailers and a few open racks. Richy and his driving partner Will Camacho (36), who have been friends for most of their lives, bring a load of cars from the east coast to the west coast, and then reload and head back to the east coast. They do this turn twice a month. All of Richy’s trucks are nice and clean, but none of them compare to “The Punisher” on our cover and centerfold (and these pages) this month.
Purchased new in 2001, this Kenworth W900L is powered by a 550 Cat C-15 with an 18-speed transmission and 3.70 rears. Back then, it had a 62” Aerodyne sleeper and a 265” wheelbase. Shortly after getting the truck, Richy sent it to his friends at Elizabeth Truck Center (ETC) in New Jersey for a little customization – this was one of the first trucks the ETC crew ever customized. Richy had them shave the headlights and add single rounds on Double JJ brackets, and then they added some chrome, a nice stereo, a flat-panel TV, fat stacks and custom fenders. It was cool, and it was silver (all of Richy’s vehicles are silver), but nothing like it is today. Richy used this truck to haul garbage in and out of the dump every day for many years until the motorcycle (and then car) work came along.
Two years ago, Richy brought the truck back to ETC for some clean-up work – new fenders, paint touch-ups, new deck plating, some hood repairs, etc. – and about the time the guys completed the work, Richy landed a new account hauling high-end vehicles for film and music stars. With this in mind, he thought it would be a good time to completely rebuild his KW – but this time, he wanted to make it a little more extreme. After all, he’d be hauling exotic cars – shouldn’t his truck look exotic, too? After a month of work, the ETC guys (actually the work was done at ETC’s sister company Car Craft Truck Works in Staten Island, New York) tore the truck back down and spent another three months doing it again.
Heading up the project, with major help from the entire crew at Car Craft and ETC, was Anthony Pesce. Richy calls Anthony the Chip Foose of trucks. Richy told Anthony that he wanted a truck like their infamous “Beast” (which won the Big Rig Build-Off in Louisville, KY back in 2005), but he wanted to be able to drive it and work it. It would also have to accommodate two drivers, Richy and Will, as they ran the truck back and forth between the east and west coast. The first thing they did was stretch it and switch out the bunk to an 86” Studio Sleeper. Not a big fan of frame stretching, Anthony opted to replace the original rails with brand new double rails that extended the truck’s wheelbase to 300” long. Since the truck was going to be a true working truck, not much was done under the hood.
The truck’s exterior features many custom-built parts including the visor, the boxes (one hides the PTO tank for the wet kit), and the rear light bar. The entire fiberglass hood was re-engineered to lower it down more over the wheels, and the rear pieces of the front fenders were extended down to line up with the bottom of the tanks and steps. Custom one-piece rocker panels were fabricated, as well as sleeper skirts and tank fairings. The guys also moved the fuel tank filler necks to the rear of the tanks and then centered the tanks underneath the sleeper. Cool Truck Components’ fiberglass fenders were installed over the drive tires, as well as a billet grille (with the “Punisher” skull ghosted behind on the radiator’s bug screen), 8” stacks, a 24” bumper, a Taylor wing and custom motorcycle headlights with high-intensity bulbs. Also, the breather lids were chopped, laser-inscribed aluminum step plates were added (featuring the Exotic Carriers logo) and a recessed box was built into the boltless deck plate to hide the air lines. All of the door handles were shaved and the doors were changed to suicide-style with remote poppers. A cool tribal paint scheme in silver and charcoal grey and a skull on the back, along with the words “It’s Not Revenge... It’s Punishment” finished up the exterior (the eyes of the skull light up with red LEDs).
Moving inside, the truck’s interior is just as eye-catching as the exterior. Done all in suede, using the same colors that were used on the outside, the inside of the cab features painted dash panels, a custom billet steering wheel, a sunroof, stainless-trimmed door jambs, electronic digital gauges, a navigation system, and swivel seats so the guys can kick back and watch the big TV back in the sleeper. And speaking of the sleeper, there is a lot going on back there, too. Featuring a simulated granite floor, a 42” plasma TV with a DVD player and a PlayStation, two small closets, a refrigerator, a couch that turns into a lower bed and a fold-down upper bunk, this truck is still a functional work truck. Now let’s talk about the stereo. Featuring custom fiberglass speaker boxes and (8) 12” speakers, (10) 10” speakers, (6) amps, and a bevy of smaller speakers, the system produces almost 6,000 watts. To accommodate all of this power, the alternator was upgraded to a unit usually found on fire trucks.
Although Richy has never competed at a national truck show, he does go to a few each year on the east coast – like the Carlisle All-Truck Nationals in Carlisle, PA; the U.S. Diesel Truckin’ Nationals in Englishtown, NJ; and the East Coast Truckin’ Nationals at Virginia Sports Park. Last year, Richy took home the Best of Show award in Englishtown and is currently preparing to defend his title by adding a few extra things to his truck (like custom-cut wheels, more speaker boxes and TV monitors inside, Pickett elbows on the exhaust and a recessed tracking satellite on the roof). Every year, this show draws in over 1,000 trucks, so the competition should be fierce.
Richy was married for ten years and has two kids – an eight-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. Although he is now divorced from their mother (another marriage that fell victim to the trucking lifestyle), he still tries to be as involved as possible with his kids. Richy’s daughter loves to brag about her daddy’s truck, and likes to go out on short hauls with him. Richy wanted to thank Anthony and his entire crew for all their hard work, including his sister Kim and her husband Mike, who run the ETC chrome shop and take real good care of Richy. Also, thanks go out to Steve Sr., Anthony’s dad, who is the “Godfather” of the entire ETC organization.
With 500K miles on this KW, both it and its owner know how to get the job done – hard work has paid off for this boxer turned trucker. While ETC was building the truck, Richy would always say, “If it ain’t rough, it ain’t right!” because nothing was ever easy. Since then, it has sort of become his motto (Anthony can certainly relate to it). But hey, if things were easy, everybody would do them. Richy Ruiz may not get in the ring anymore, but his truck still scores a TKO (trucking knock out) every time it “hits” the highway.