Top Shops: Shop on wheels
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 (www.montezumamfg.com) as well as a Lincoln Electric MIG 140C welder (www.lincolnelectric.com).
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 axle)."
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."