The FIREFIGHTER COMBAT CHALLENGE Trailer Renovation Project
Two years ago we purchased a 53-foot 1989 Kentucky moving van.
A number of modifications were made to enhance its functionality;
this photo journal describes our renovation efforts on the interior.
Another story board will examine the engineering of our Keiser load system. We thought that you
might enjoy an inside view of how things get done on the Challenge. It's not Orange County
Choppers, but we have far less controversy and a lot more progress.
For starters, we removed all of the cabinets, counter tops, lockers,
appendages, accessories and accouterments.
Rex finished painting the ceiling where the previous driver had obviously left off.
Extraneous decals were removed from the tractor and trailer.
A 100 pound anchor bar (pipe) that supported the pulley (and was badly bent)
was cut out with a torch and ground down. This was a part of a huge ramp system that has been
replaced with a system weighing thousands of pounds less.
The box was completely emptied and vacuumed out.
The outside dimensions of the box are 8 feet 6 inches. Keep this picture in mind when
you scroll down to the finished project.
So, this is where we started from. Note all the clutter.
Now we begin the process of putting it all back together again.
The shelving was removed and prepared for powder coating.
John Tillett and Rick Payne started the task of removing the rear doors.
They were badly in need of rehabilitation. They would barely close.
Rex started the process of preparing the tracks of the Keiser Hoist System.
This metal was supposed to be painted prior to use last season,
Regrettably, this was not done, so considerable rust had accumulated. Notice he's also patched
some of the holes in the ceiling.
We were fortunate to have space at the Keiser plant in Frenso, California.
While the outside weather was crummy, we were high and dry. Bill Edwards coordinated the
scores of trips to Home Depot and other suppliers for the thousands of dollars of materials (and food)
needed to keep the five of us moving forward. Also a huge benefit, an office was being constructed
next to our workspace. This served as a huge work bench.
One of our projects was shortening the scores of banner poles so that they would fit into the roller boxes.
The box's outside dimensions are four feet wide by eight feet long.
The poles have not fit properly in the boxes; they now do.
Rex assembled and measured the parts of the current finish line as a template for the new one to follow.
Two new mini-carts were purchased and assembled.
One will be used for the 4.5KW Onan Generator- also being rebuilt during this trip (December 11-18, 2004).
The base plates have always had some pretty sharp edges. Also the pins have a tendency to wobble.
A previous effort to weld these pins was flawed because the screw was spot welded and not the pin,
so all the spot welds had to be removed.The base plates have also gotten rusted from exposure to
the elements. They are being prepared for powder coating by Rex.
Two new cabinets were purchased from Granger and assembled.
The previous cabinet was discarded; it was very flimsy and inadequate for a
life on the road. These units are a gauge heavier then the previous edition.
John and Rick installed new conduit and replaced the inadequate spot lights
and other wiring fiascos that have plagued us over the past season.
We next turned our attention to the floor. Maple and Oak strip flooring had been obscured by decades
of dirt and abuse. Rick is using Rex's detail sander in working around the carriage bolts.
Next, Rex loaded thousands of pounds of base plates in preparation for the trip to the Keiser Powder
John Tillett made some major adjustments to the overhead shelves. They were leveled and the gap
between them closed in.
Rex prepared all metal surfaces for painting with JASCO and primer.
Keiser has an assortment of welding machines. This portable Miller did the trick. We purchased a
couple of Craftsman halogen light stands; they were a great benefit.
Here's the culprit for our rear door problems. The pin at the top had to be driven out by a drift pin.
Compare it to the new one on the bottom left. Some of the hinges had to be completely replaced.
Rex generated about 55 gals of saw dust. The upper dance floor is maple. The rest of the floor is
strip oak. Most of the dings and gouges were sanded out.
The overhead, extruded metal rack was primered in preparation for a final coat of enamel.
Dennis Keiser would periodically stop by on his Razor scooter to check in on our progress and lend
helpful advice on all things mechanical.
We started this project on Sunday morning, the 12th of December. Typical work day was 12 hours.
Pictured in the Fresno I project crew are from left to right, Randy Keiser, Dennis Keiser, Bill Edwards,
Troy Keiser, Paul Davis, Rex Nimrod, John Tillett and Rick Payne.
FRESNO II: February 12-19, 2005
On our second trip, we needed to be outside for a couple of reasons. Fortunately for us, the winter fog
had abated and the sun was shining. Rick prepared for painting the exterior door frame, taking
advantage of the fact that the doors were removed.
Meanwhile, back in the shop, John Tillett was fabricating the new workbench and tool cabinet
containing system. We worked around Keiser's production schedule by using the shop at night.
Troy Keiser, who will be joining the 2005 tour as the Driver, fabricated some
pins for retaining the trolley extensions in their outside positions.
Eight gallons of Baer Exterior Latex Satin Finish paint was applied to the
ceiling and walls. Extensive prep work was required to make the surface
look as close to new as possible.
With low relative humidity and ambient sunlight, painting was a breeze.
Water and grease stains were treated with Kilz, a sealer product that does a good job, especially
given the fact that it's water based. Bill checked all the metal struts for evidence of rust.
After the first coat, an inspection of the sidewalls revealed a large number of dings, dents,
gouges and craters. These will filled with bubble gum. Not really, this is a product from DAP that
when applied goes on pink; when ready for sanding turns white. We'll see how well all of this
holds up over the tour.
Here are the rear doors after having been heliarc welded on the corners. Renting a pickup truck for
the week is essential. The Dodge Ram was great, but got about half the mileage of the Chevy that
we had rented from Enterprise the first time. Dave Woodward is getting the rivets ready for
securing the plywood.
John had straightened where possible, the bead. New plywood was sealed and varnished preliminary
to being cut. The plywood adds considerably to the strength of the doors.
Pop rivets were used to fasten the plywood to the frame. Contrary to the workmanship of the
original job, we lined up rivets to be evenly spaced.
At last; in an effort that probably required over 40 man hours, the doors have been hung.
Work continues into the night; with inclement weather moving in, advantage
has to be taken of the excellent conditions.
In another shop, far, far away, the new lids for the rolling boxes are being finished. This project
will result in lids that don't move. Rain seems to follow us everywhere and this week was no
exception. Fresno probably got about 8" of rain. But, we were high and dry. These plywood
sheets would ultimately get 5 coats on the tops and 3 on the bottom. They do a reasonable job of
keeping moisture out of the boxes.
Meanwhile back at the main shop, John and Rick were installing the overhead lighting and
new conduit that would supply current for the receptacles in the lockers.
The storage cabinets were fastened to the bulkhead in a manner that would preclude any movement.
Dave removed old Streamlight logos in preparation for the new design.
While certainly a once and shiny surface, the side door was stained, etched, dinged and in need
of a face lift. Dave manned the orbital sander and gave the surface a new look.
Even our venerable, ten-year old Magliner cart got a face lift. Look at the refurbished unit below.
Here it is with new wheels, a blade, paint job, lube job, caulking and Lexan top. Ready for another
The storage cabinets now house the Streamlight Survivors in their charging rack and the
Kenwood VHF radios. The receptacles were mounted inside the cabinets.
John's new workbench frame is headed for the power coating oven.
Dave is applying some polish to the side door. We've got some ideas for what we'll post on this door
but you might have some suggestions. Send them in.
There are 15 rolling boxes; two of them stack leaving 14 lids to be custom cut to fit the one inch
pins that guide the boxes in their storage positions. The lids provide protection from the elements
as well as a work surface, or as in the case for the Haix boots, a counter top for check-out.
Rick Payne prepares the floor for final coat; he's laying down a silicone caulking bead.
This is our main service panel. The PTO-driven Onan generator creates 45KW of available power.
Dave has cleaned up a lot of the clutter from the back of the truck. Gone are the extraneous
stickers and decals.
This forklift, originally the backbone of our logistical operations, is now available for purchase.
Dave Woodward who had no prior experience as a painter took to it quite naturally. He's currently
contemplating joining Rex's Paint Crew in the off season.
We carry 21 tables; all were cleaned with Simple Green and tipped to dry.
Rick and John installed all the electric; overhead and strip lighting, plus receptacle boxes.
Rick appears much older than he is because of the sanding dust all over his face.
Between each coat of varnish, the floors were sanded, vacuumed and wiped down with a tack-rag.
The diamond plate turned out very nicely with a coat of Rustolem. Billy thoughtfully procured knee
pads on a timely basis.
Each coat of varnish is rolled on and "tipped" out to remove the stipple effect. We wanted a bowling
alley appearance. The low humidity enabled us to do multiple coats in short order.
The angular sheen inspector, Rick Payne points out "holiday's" to Paul Davis, ensuring no misses.
Several gallons of urethane varnish were used. Water based products
have improved significantly to the point where they are nearly as good as
the oil based ones. However, Spar varnish is still the best treatment for
This is the fourth and final coat of varnish going down. Left to be seen are the shelving, lockers, tool
chest, cabinet and work bench installation. We'll have photos of those activities when available.
FRESNO II Crew: L-R: Bill Edwards, Paul Davis, Rick Payne, John Tillett and Dave Woodward.
Started on Saturday night, the 12th of February. John and Bill finished up on Sunday the 20th.
Another typical work week of 12-14 hour days totaling more than 400 man hours in preparation
for FRESNO III and Tour 05.
The finished product: our new workspace and storage racks. We more organized than ever before.
As a reminder, here's the truck before again!