A ‘Lit’ Truck

May 2022 Feature Gus Surdu

This article originally featured in the April 2022 issue. 

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the Black Pearl is known as the fastest ship throughout the seas. It’s traveled to the end of the world and back with its black hull and sails invoking fear in the trading ships it hunts down in search of loot to plunder.

Nick Heiskell isn’t a pirate, but he does have a Black Pearl of his own. The original plan was to find a white truck and name it Pearl, but just over a year ago, after 2 miles into the test drive of a black 2007 RAM 2500, that all changed. He told himself not to fall in love with it, but the Craigslist find was too good to pass up, even if it was out of Nick’s price range. Nick kept Pearl but added Black to the name to match the paint job.

“The first time driving it home after I bought it,” said Nick, “I just remember driving home with all the windows down with the biggest smile on my face the whole way. And since then it’s just gotten better with all the people I’ve met through the truck and how this truck has helped me become the person I am today.”
Getting In The Game

Passion for the automotive wasn’t passed down to Nick from his parents; it’s something he and his brother cultivated on their own. They fed off each other while growing up and it’s become something Nick wants to do with his life. After growing up in the Sacramento, Calif., area, he now attends Universal Technical Institute (UTI) to become a diesel technician.

“Going to school to be a diesel mechanic definitely gives me ideas of what I want to do with the truck as well as giving me the knowledge and confidence to build it how I want.”
He uses Black Pearl as his daily driver, in addition to taking it to truck meets. The idea behind the build was actually pretty simple.

“I really just wanted to accomplish my dream since I had my first truck back in high school,” Nick explained. “My dream was to own a really clean Cummins that I could drive everyday but that would still stand out and make people look and smile.”

He’s been able to take the RAM to one show, Truck Mania in Northern California, and he said a majority of the people were fans of his work.

“There are always those people who don’t like it because it’s not their taste or type of truck but the majority of them like it. And I go to car and truck meets all the time and it’s the same reaction and I always love meeting new people and talking about each other’s trucks and the plans for it and everything.”


Nick’s first truck was a 2004 RAM 1500 Hemi that he bought in high school, built for three years, and sold for more than his original buying price. Nick loved the lift kit he had on it, but didn’t love the price, so he was ecstatic when Black Pearl had a pre-installed 6-inch Carli lift.

“I figured if I found one with a lift kit already on it at the height I wanted I would save a ton of money,” Nick said, “but other than the lift pretty much everything about the truck I have done to it. It’s always a learning process through everything I do and then after I do it on my truck, I always love helping my friends do it on theirs.”

Black Pearl did have Hostile wheels when Nick first bought it, but he changed those out for Arkon Crown Series Victories 24x14, which are wider. Those are wrapped in 35x13.5 amp MT/A tires and have chrome spiked lug nuts.

Nick feels his grille stands out the most because it’s custom done by Karriker Kustoms. It’s accompanied by fourth generation front-tow hooks powder-coated white, a fourth generation tailgate and TSO custom exhaust tip.

On the interior, he put in a 12-inch subwoofer under the backseat, Auto-Meter gauges (boost psi/ EGR temp/trans temp), Husky Liners floor mats, an EFILive tune with the 5-mode switch and an aftermarket touchscreen stereo, a cool asset for a 2007. Nick also installed a starlight headliner from FCKLightBars but he certainly didn’t stop the lighting modifications there.

Lighting Up The Night

“I really like the lighting aspect because it stands out a lot at night and I love driving at night,” said Nick.

His favorite lighting mod is his Oracle wheel ring lights, partly because they puzzle onlookers. They were also his toughest mod to install, because he was trying to get the self-taping screw to not hit the rotors, which took a couple of days to figure out.

“I have people come up to me and ask how I did the lights on the wheels and how they move with the wheel,” he continued. “I enjoy explaining that they aren’t attached to the wheels and that they are just screwed into the heat shield. It’s just fun to see reactions when I’m driving at night and people are taking pictures.”

Other light mods include a Rough Country 20-inch LED black series light bar, three rock lights per wheel well, for a total of 12 by LEDMIRCY, white LED cab lights on the roof, aftermarket headlights, taillights and fog lights, a Putco LED blade in the back which has a running light, brake lights, turn signals and reverse lights, as well as FCKLightBars LED cubes in the back that are wired with his reverse lights. His aftermarket mirrors are painted to match with LED switchback from Boost Auto Parts (white running lights and amber turn signals).


Nick plans on waiting to upgrade the engine until he gets to that part of his schooling. Right now he’s just enjoying building up his diesel and living out the dream he had in high school.

“I don’t really have a need to have a diesel because I don’t have anything to tow but I have always wanted one,” he said. “They are just so much more fun to drive and just better in every aspect in my opinion.”

Outlaw Fab Skeletonized traction bars are currently in the mail on their way to Nick, but his list of future mods isn’t short. It includes everything from AMP Power Steps with custom padding to a train horn to a to-be-determined powder-coat on the suspension. Really, he’ll do whatever it takes to make his truck look cool because, in his own words, “Life’s too short to drive a boring car.”




AMP Research




Arkon Off-Road



Boost Auto Parts




Carli Suspension











Hostile Wheels




Husky Liners




Karriker Kustoms














Rough Country




Truck Mania






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