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Top Shops: Shop on wheels

Dave Mowitz
Successful Farming magazine Machinery Director

The Leonards couldn't find the service truck they wanted, so
in true farmer fashion, they built the truck they needed.


The Morgantown, Indiana, farmers began their quest to create
the service truck tailormade for their operation by purchasing a used 1992
Model FL70 Freightliner.

A winter spent modifying that truck and equipping it with
the tools and materials needed to make it a true shop-on-wheels resulted in a
truck that not only is crucial to their operation, but also earned the Leonards
First Place in the Best Service Truck category of Successful Farming magazine's
Top Shops Contest.

With that honor came a portable toolbox from Montezuma
Manufacturing ( as well as a Lincoln Electric MIG 140C
welder (

The truck the Leonards chose to modify was well suited for
their purposes, providing a 30,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating and
22-foot box bed. But the van body that came with the truck didn't figure into
their plans.

"So off came the van body," explains Jim Leonard,
who farms with sons Dean and Duane. "Since we didn't need all that much
frame, we decided to shorten it by removing 9 feet from the center of the frame
to shorten the truck's wheelbase. In doing so we had to remove a section of the
driveshaft. We also removed 5 feet from the rear of the frame (behind the rear

Even with those modifications, the truck still didn't meet
all their needs as a transport vehicle. "We had seen a similar
Freightliner that had a double cab," Jim recalls. "We really wanted
that extra room but couldn't find a similar cab. So we found another cab
identical to the unit on our truck, which had been burned and salvaged."

The Leonards took to removing the back paneling and window
from the truck's existing cab. They removed the dashboard panel from the
salvaged cab. Then came the tricky part of marrying the two cabs together.
"We were concerned that they would not marry up together that well, but we
found that wasn't a problem," Duane recalls. "We had to add some
sheet metal and a few supports. But on the whole, it came together well."

After the expanded unit was painted, the front bucket seats
replaced, and a bench seat mounted in the crew part of the cab, the Leonards
had created a vehicle that could transport "six grown men to the
field," Jim reports. "We've even used the truck for transport when
going to farm shows."

After finishing the cab, the Leonards set about mounting a
utility body on the frame. "The used body we had came up short,
lengthways, on the frame," Dean explains. "To fill that gap, we built
two tall service cabinets positioned directly behind the cab."

Another embellishment to the utility body was the addition
of a 5,000-pound-capacity IMT crane. The body wasn't constructed to handle a
crane, however. So the Leonards reinforced the right rear corner of the body
with a 2x4-inch tube steel boxed structure mounted to the truck frame. The top
of that structure, which resides inside the right rear storage compartment, was
topped off with 3/4-inch plate.

The addition of the crane required outrigger wheels for
stability. Those outriggers were fabricated from 2x4-inch tubing that slides
into a homemade bumper. The vertical part of the bumper is fabricated using
3/4-inch plate upon which a pintle hitch is mounted. The horizontal step is
built of 1/2-inch plate and is home to a DMI spring-loaded drawbar hitch.

Other features on the Leonards' truck include a
225-gallon diesel fuel tank, hydraulically operating 110-volt generator, and a
welder generator.

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