This article originally appeared in our August 2021 issue.
In the blockbuster film Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey plays a space cowboy who sacrifices himself for the sake of science. “Newton’s third law,” he says, in an attempt to save Anne Hathaway’s character’s life. “You’ve got to leave something behind.”
Erin Millage isn’t a movie star, nor is she in space resigning her life for the sake of all humanity, but she does understand the concept of leaving something behind in the interest of something better.
Erin is on her fifth truck. She sells her old trucks to buy new ones, learning how to work on them along the way. Not bad for a 25-year-old who didn’t get her first truck until she was at college.
The Son They Never Had
Not getting Erin a truck before college was a tactful move by her parents. They knew that once she had one, it would take up her time and money, two things a college student generally lacks. Their daughter had never been interested in the stereotypical “girl” toys like the Barbie dolls they bought; she loved Hot Wheels and would spend hours playing with what felt like the thousands they owned.
“My parents like to joke that I was the son they never had,” Erin said. “They knew that as soon as I had a vehicle in my possession that I would be very distracted and wouldn’t be able to focus on school, so they told me when I graduate college they would help me get some old vehicle to drive around town.”
Getting a truck post-college wasn't exactly a timeline Erin was thrilled about. She worked a late night bar manager shift to save up to buy a beater in the form of a 1991 Dodge D150 with a V6 engine. The water pump blew out on the drive home from getting it registered and the modification-education adventure had begun.
“Just used YouTube channels and Facebook forums and such to kind of learn how to work on it on my own,” she explained. “College kid, I didn’t have a lot of money to take it somewhere to get it fixed. Once you start working on it you start thinking it isn’t so bad and start to like it and learn about it and it’s kind of cool knowing exactly how your vehicle works and you take pride in it when you do get it running again. All of a sudden I was excited for something to break. When it’s running well it’s like, ‘When’s something going to break so I can fix it?’ That’s kind of how it went through college.”
People attend college to get their dream job, but if you’re offered your dream job while in college, what’s the point in finishing? Erin had the same thought. She attended Iowa State University for four years but was offered her dream job as a construction inspector and jumped on the chance.
“You just have to keep doing what makes you happy no matter who or what tries to stop you,” she says. This stayed true for Erin when she recently pulled into the dealership to pick up some parts for her current diesel, a modified 2020 RAM 2500 with a 6.7L Cummins turbo engine, and was immediately asked if it’s her husband’s truck. It hasn’t stopped her from building it up, going to shows or obtaining sponsors, but people question and doubt her along the way with comments like these.
A Greek Goddess
Erin names her trucks before she ever picks them up. Her 2019 1500 Hemi she sold to buy the 2020 truck was named Scarlet because it was red, but she wanted something more unique for the 2500 and Aphrodite came to mind.
“She is the Greek Goddess associated with love and beauty and passion,” Erin shared. “I wanted something a little more elegant and it came to my head.”
Erin hasn’t let another soul touch Aphrodite, with the exception of the dealership’s warranty work. She prides herself in getting her hands dirty and doing the work herself. When she owned the 1500 her parents told her not to do any work on it since it was her daily driver.
“But, I can’t keep anything stock,” she said with a laugh.
She certainly didn’t keep the 1500 stock and the same goes for Aphrodite. The first modification she made to Aphrodite was a CJC Off road intercooler guard skid plate which “made it look a little more aggressive in the front,” according to Erin.
Next came MGP custom caliper covers, Lasfit LED bulbs and 26x14 -81 offset Arkon Lincolns, chrome wrapped in 35x13.5r26 RBP Tire Repulser M/T with 2-inch spacers all the way around and MW Customs double-row pure-white wheel rings to go along with it.
The upgrade Erin will never forget installing is the 6-inch ReadyLIFT front lift kit. It was negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside with no heater in the small storage unit Aphrodite stayed in, but Erin had to get it ready for Lone Star Throwdown in Conroe, Texas.
“That’s something I will always remember,” Erin remarked. “You work so hard to do it and when you’re done it’s like, ‘wow, I just did that.’ It was a big accomplishment, a big thing to overcome. Installing a lift in a storage unit with a jack stand is already not fun and then doing it in negative 20 degree weather. That first drive after getting the lift on it was just wild.”
Discovering New Expectations
Erin lives in Omaha, Neb., and likes the truck scene there better than her hometown in Southern California. She’s part of two clubs, Local 402 Trucks and Team Uninvited, and has garnered a plethora of sponsors. She built the half-ton as an enjoyable daily driver, but things changed at Truck Nationals.
“I was trying to get into the truck scene last year and was really excited about it. Obviously, COVID threw a wrench into that plan in the beginning of the season,” Erin explained. “Luckily, the Truck Nationals was still going on so when I did go to that, that was really a big push and got me excited about the truck scene. Before that I had never been to a lifted truck show. I’d been to classic car shows and muscle cars but it was a completely different environment. It got me really excited and motivated to build something different. That’s why I ended up getting rid of my half-ton a month later.”
With Aphrodite and a whole bunch of modifications leading the way, Erin then took first place in the mildly modified trucks class at World of Wheels. Whatever Erin does next, you can bet it will be bigger and better than the last thing.
CJC Off Road