Hell on Wheels
Sherry Martinez and crew exorcised the demons of a troublesome truck, known as “666,” with some devilish customizations</span
By Ashley Vice
Sherry Martinez’s 1990 Peterbilt 379, affectionately known around Southern California as either The Mean Bitch or 666, is visually hell on wheels born from personal trials and tribulations.
Martinez says her Pete, the first of three tricked-out trucks in the Mira Loma, Calif., based Jessica Martinez Trucking fleet, was designed to match the tough times that came with going independent.
“Its looks reflect the hell me, my husband, and my family went through when we first got it,” says Martinez, adding that they’ve owned the truck for ten years. “Everything that could go wrong with it did. But now it’s a part of my life and I wouldn’t give it up for any other truck.”
Martinez and her husband, Paul, flatbed mostly pre-fabricated concrete, like highway dividers and underground vaults used for sewer, water and power systems. Martinez says she’s the last person expected to hop down out of that cab.
With long brown hair and carefully manicured nails she admits, “I’m a little woman in a big man’s job.The best part is when I get to a job, get off my truck, walk about seven steps, turn around and watch everyone stare,” says Martinez. The most common response to her Pete is “That’s your truck?”
She got into trucking being offered a permanent position driving after doing some customer service work for the company her husband drove for. “Paul told me ‘Come on you’ll be good at driving,’” she says.
Co-workers placed bets on how long it would take Paul to teach her how to drive a truck when she started. “I don’t take bets well,” says Martinez, a fiercely independent person. “I try to never lose; isn’t that the point? From beginning to end I think it took me two weeks.” She won every bet.
Martinez says that her truck, with its showy looks and chrome “666″ on the hood sides, is first and foremost a working truck. “If the local shows ask us to show up then we will, but I’d rather work.”
Transforming her truck into a showstopper was a family affair, says Martinez, who took a hands-on approach to customizing her rig. The 425hop Cat engine and the running gear are stock, but
that can’t be said for the exterior.
Martinez, Paul, and Ernie and Jermaine Rubio painted the truck candy cobalt blue in the open shop behind their house while SoCal pin-striping legend Wild Bill airbrushed ghost flame and skull graphics.
“I kind of took him out of his comfort zone,” says Martinez of Wild Bill’s airbrush work. “He’d never really done something this big.”
Paddy Lyons of P&A Lyons Industries, (951) 658-2514, and his son Nigel crafted the side mirrors, a combination of ghost flame skulls and spider webs, to match the truck’s hellish theme and paint job.
“We’ve scared a lot of people with those mirrors,” says Lyons, who also crafted an aluminum piece that says “Mean Bitch” attached to the back of the truck. “There was a lot of design work to come up with what she liked, and then we had to get the size right so the mirrors were legal,” says Lyons.
The headlights and taillights also incorporate webbing. “My nephew and I made the headlights from different parts from different stores,” she says, adding that the webbed attachments were done by Lyons.
In all, 50 lights give the truck an eerie blue glow at night, including the clearance marker
lights on top of the truck, which Martinez can turn from amber (legal) to show glow blue with the flip of a switch.
The nightmarish theme doesn’t end with this Pete’s exterior though. Opening the suicide doors installed by Jermaine Rubio reveals more ghost flames and skulls on the interior door panels designed by Isaac Espinoza.
Inside the truck Martinez enjoys BMW seats and a Sony audio/visual system, including a complete stereo system and custom speaker boxes with 12-inch kickers. Jermaine also crafted a custom dash for Martinez by pulling out all of the stock controls and replacing them with new switches.
“We also put in a lot of three-way switches, so it went from one switch operating one thing to one switch operating two or three things.” To finish the look the dash was painted candy cobalt blue to match the truck’s exterior.
The Martinez family affinity for custom rigs doesn’t end with her truck. Customizing is less of a hobby and more of a lifestyle, she says. “We like to look good in whatever we drive.” Since the family does most of the custom work themselves, Martinez says it’s very affordable.
In addition to its three tricked-out trucks, the Martinez family has several other custom vehicles including mini-pickups and Harley-Davidsons. Of course Sherry’s hog is painted to match her rig — right down to the skulls.