SHOP TALK: The Making Of A Perfect Car Hauler
A car hauler is a very handy piece of equipment for any serious gearhead. I was blessed to have been able to borrow an open trailer from one of my buddies for a season. Besides costing a lot less money, an open trailer has a few other benefits. The trailer that I borrowed did not have a solid deck. It had two ramps that went up the sides leaving the center section open. This feature makes working under a car very easy while you are away from your shop. If you are not fortunate enough to have a lift in your shop, an open trailer is a very safe alternative. An open trailer also has its drawbacks. One day while waiting in a very long line to register for a race, every car that passed by in the opposite direction left a huge cloud of dirt in the air. By the time I got into the pit area my car was absolutely filthy. A long ride in inclement weather or something as simple as the summer time bugs that explode upon impact leave your car in need of major detailing.
I searched an entire year looking for a used car hauler that I could customize to suit my needs. I eventually stumbled upon an 8.5 x 20 foot Stealth Titan enclosed trailer. The people that were selling it were tired of paying monthly storage fees while they built their new garage. So they bought this trailer brand new to store their stuff, and to one day use to haul their toys. The trailer only saw 100 miles or so before they decided to sell it.
What caught my eye while driving by at 50mph was a for sale sign and an enclosed trailer that matched the color of my GMC Sierra perfectly. By the grace of God and a little help from the money my Mom left me when she passed, I was able to buy this trailer and not take advantage of my friend's good nature anymore.
The exterior of the trailer looked brand new as did the rims and tires. The interior however, was covered on every side with multiple rows of E-Track rails and was painted a hideous shade of 57 Chevy light blue. I really wanted the trailer to match my car and the overall look of my shop, so repainting it was going to be an absolute necessity. After unscrewing all of the E-Track rails, I was left with a million holes to fill and sand. Once all of the walls were smooth, I applied two coats of gray paint and laid out a red stripe that goes across all of the walls and the ceiling.
I enlisted the help of my older brother Mike who is a master at all things made of wood. I spent a lot of time designing a custom workbench for my trailer that would be built around the first "real" toolbox I got when I was 13. I wanted the top of the tool box to be the surface of the workbench when closed. It would also provide storage for my winch / winch battery and all of the other items I would need to bring to the track or a car show. I trusted that my brother would be able to get me started and bring my design to life. He immediately understood my idea and helped me frame out the skeleton and made sure my 37 year old toolbox fit inside of its new enclosure. He left me with an education and instructions on how to finish the rest of the workbench. Working with him warmed my heart as it reminded me of how our Dad taught us, and it felt like he was actually with us.
I was able to finish the workbench, paint it, seal it with polyurethane, trim the edges with aluminum, build and mount the storage doors, and install the winch and battery box all before attacking the wiring job I had planned. I then mounted an outdoor 30 amp twist lock receptacle on the exterior of the trailer and connected it directly to a circuit panel with two circuits mounted on the inside. I wanted one circuit to be for lighting, and the other for the outlets. In an effort to save amperage, I decided to use all LED lighting. Over the workbench I mounted a 4 foot dual florescent fixture I had laying around my shop. I found LED tubes that work with it. The LED tubes not only save power, but they are not made of glass and are very flexible. I figured the vibration from traveling would shorten the life of any bulb that had a filament, so LED was the best way to go. I then wired in two outdoor LED fixtures in the back of the trailer. I designed a swivel system that enables me the ability to point the lights inside of the trailer or rotate them out towards the ramp. This will prove itself useful while working on the car during late night test and tune sessions.
With the trailer painted and wired for power and lights, workbench complete, toolbox mounted, vice installed, winch installed and wired, the only missing piece was what to do with the floor. I had painted the floor gray to match the walls, but like I mentioned earlier really wanted it to match my shop. I used 12x12 commercial vinyl tiles in my shop with a gray, black, and red checker board pattern. These tiles were very expensive and I did not have the budget to install them in my trailer. After a lot of research I gave the awesome people at Checkeredfloor.com a call to see if they had a floor that would help us out.
Checkeredfloor.com has an amazing product. It is a very durable, stain resistant vinyl floor that comes in a one piece sheet. The black and white pattern has 9.75 inch squares. All that you have to do is enter the dimensions of your trailer including the ramp in their web-site and it will tell you the price. The floor gets shipped to you in a plastic wrapped roll. Since interior widths vary slightly with different trailer manufacturers, Checkeredfloor.com sends you the 8 foot roll with a few extra inches added on so you could trim it to your exact width.
I took some measurements and cut the overall roll to the width I needed. I then unrolled it and laid it out over the entire floor. I made all of the cuts for the side door, wheel wells, and anchor tie downs with a sharp razor knife. I then rolled it back it in reverse order and applied the vinyl adhesive to my perfectly clean floor. I did a 5 foot section first and laid the floor over it, and secured each corner temporarily with screws.
This enabled me to continue applying the adhesive while kneeling on the new floor one section at a time. I went to a local steel / aluminum supplier and bought what I needed to trim all of the ends in aluminum. This will not only make the install look better, but will make it more durable as well.
I am happy to say that the new floor turned out great and really made all of the customizing I did come together. The floor is very easy to clean with a damp mop. Any scuffs that may get on the surface can be easily removed with a magic eraser. I highly recommend Checkeredfloor.com and urge you to check out their web-site and check out their products. You will be surprised how little this amazing product will cost and how much it will improve the look of your trailer / workspace.
My mission to customize my car hauler to meet my needs and to have it not only match the look of my shop, but look as good as my car, was a complete success. The journey was a long one due to financial restrictions and the limited time I had to work on it. Due to my crazy schedule, I was forced to work a few late night hours for just over two months to finish it. Don't be intimidated to begin this project on your own. There is a good deal on a hauler just waiting for you to find it. The key is patience and an unrelenting pursuit to find it. You can build your trailer in stages to accommodate your budget or build it all at once like I did. Whether your ride is a meticulous trailer queen, weekend drag strip warrior, or in my case both, the hauler you need is just a dream away. Thanks Mom!
If you are in the 908 area be sure to check out Sky-Line Trailers in Washington, NJ. They have a massive stock of trailers and every part/accessory you may need.
Holliday Canopies is the place to contact when you are looking for a custom awning for your trailer. They can design and make anything you can dream of including putting your logo on your canopy. We will be doing an install on one of their awnings and will document the entire process in an upcoming issue. Do yourself a favor and give them a call and check out their web-site at www.canopyguy.com
For all of your decals and full car and trailer wraps be sure to check out Funk Signs. They are the leaders in custom wraps and can bring your project from design to finish.