Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do-it-yourself trailers reborn from truck beds MAN PUTS LIVES AT RISK


This person is putting people in harms way.

What liability insurance does he have?

Does he have product liability?

Who is checking to see the condition of the ball bearings?

Who is checking to see how the welds are?

Who is checking to see the condition of the tires?

How about the safety chains?? It is the law in TEXAS.

Who is providing a manual on how to tow and load this type of vehicle?

Do-it-yourself trailers reborn from truck beds

After fading and rusting away in pastures for years, some tough old trucks are returning to work, reincarnated as trailers.

But they must first withstand decapitation from a welder’s torch. Wielding an acetylene-fueled scalpel, Glen Raabe has performed a half-dozen such steel surgeries. Raabe makes it sound simple.

“Just get an old raggedy pickup. And you cut it right where the firewall would be on the truck, where the engine would be, and you just bend your truck frame rails in, put a hitch on it, put a jack on it, and you got yourself a trailer,” said Raabe, owner of Glen’s Welding in Temple.

And for illumination, you can simply connect the modified trailer’s taillights to a pigtail connection on the pulling pickup’s rear bumper. Make a trip to the county tax assessor, tack on the new plates, and you’ve doubled your hauling capacity.

These born-again trailers do myriad chores: hauling, feeding, advertising and, for one disabled former firefighter, it’s an automated appliance picker-upper.

Anthony Wheeler runs the Corner Trading Post in Rogers. He scours the area for old appliances. Back at the shop, he disassembles them, sells some metal for scrap, and rebuilds the motors for sale.

Last year, Wheeler welded a battery-powered electric winch with steel cable to his trailer - a ’67 Chevy in its first life. And to add a little modern technology to this good-ol’-boy engineering, he installed two solar panels that keep the marine battery charged.

Thursday afternoon, Wheeler rolled his electric wheelchair out of his store into the afternoon heat to demonstrate. An overhead steel arm pivots up, down and 360 degrees. Using controls that look like they came from an Atari video game, he lowers the cable, attaches the steel hook and raises a Kelvinator dishwasher 4 feet in the air. In about one minute, the appliance tumbles into the trailer.

“That’s how you get away with being disabled and still be able to move things,” Wheeler said.

Leaving Rogers, a couple more pickup trailers rest on U.S. 190, near the city limits.

Someone painted a Chevy trailer - age unknown - a Neapolitan-looking yellow, green and white. A small billboard advertising a house for sale sits on three steel beams welded across the trailer sides.

Resting next door to the Rogers Flea Market, a sunbaked, old white Dodge trailer loaded with a rusty metal shelf and tree limbs now runs errands for John Finto. He said he’s built a few of these home-style trailers, but bought this one from a buddy about four years ago.

He says licensing is simple. First, weigh the trailer at a scrapyard or grain co-op.

“You tell ’em you got a homemade trailer,” Finto said. “They ask you what it weighs. You buy your tags.”

He’s seen a few high-steppers paint their trailers to match their pickups.

“It actually looks pretty decent,” he said. “Like somebody trying to make their stuff look good.”

In the tiny community of Heidenheimer, Scott Farr installed a 550-gallon fiberglass tank in his trailer - carved from a ’70s-era half-ton Chevy pickup. He uses it to haul corn to his deer feeders outside Belton.

The tank can be lowered and raised with a steel hinge that Farr installed. On Thursday afternoon, it was positioned at about a 45-degree angle, looking like a white, snub-nosed missile ready for launch.

Out on Texas 53, between Temple and the farm community of Zabcikville, several trailers that were once pickups line the highway, scattered under shade trees and near one graveyard. Neighbors said an old blacksmith has taken an unidentified pickup carcass, expanded it to a dually, welded a long, steel tongue on it to make a muscular trailer capable of hauling heavy loads.

Back at Glen’s Welding, Raabe said 99 percent of the time these trailers are made by country boys who don’t have much money.

“You can probably find a little old pickup somewhere laying dead for $50-$100,” Raabe said. “And they can do it themselves. If you go out and buy a small trailer it’s probably going to cost $700-$800.

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