how to turn a fifth wheel into something else, v001

or, “how to destroy something to make it better”

so my friend tony called me up and said he knew where there was a trailer i might be interested in. it was free, it was hammered, stripped, and was a 5th wheel to boot.

*sigh*

my rig isn’t set up for a fifth wheel, being a van and all 🙂

… so the woman called me, told me about it, and i told her i’d get back to her.

so a week later i go look at it.

eek.

someone, in the process of stripping it, had cut the front of it off, so there wasn’t even a way to tow it if i had the rig to do it.

so i figure i’ll head out there with my generator and a sawzall, cut it up into manageable pieces, and load it into my buddy chris’ truck. (f-450 for the win 🙂 …

then he mentions his boss has an 18 ft car trailer…

now we’re talkin’ 🙂

so today, we headed out there to get it… when i said it was in rough shape, i wasn’t kidding…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-01.jpg

it was kinda a mess. 🙂

i shook my head and laughed at myself when i realized it’s got dexter wheels on it.
the irony is that i was desperately looking for a pair of these a couple years ago, and now some little old lady gave me five of them 🙂

anyway, so we used a bunch of cargo straps and a come-a-long to load it onto the car trailer…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-02.jpg

and we then headed out…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-03.jpg

of course, we had had a lot of fun backing the 8 ft wide car trailer down the 7 ft wide road to go get it… heh 🙂

and the 5th wheel was too wide to pull up past the car trailers wheel wells…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-04.jpg

so we kinda had to make do 🙂

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-05.jpg

7 ft of overhang is a bit… much, but we weren’t going far, and it was secured very very well 🙂

so we get to our destination, and decide that most of the work can be done where it sits… so out comes the implements of destruction… (8″ angle grinder and a sawzall for the win 🙂

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-06.jpg

note the style of the spare wheel… that’s a 4 lug dexter wheel. if you have any kicking around, let me know, i’m short one, or 7, depending on how you do the math 🙂

anyway, what truthfully amazed me was how bent everything was. stick and staple construction sucks, *cheap* stick and staple is even worse… although i was amused by the steel rod bridge trussing…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-07.jpg

chop…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-08.jpg

chop…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-09.jpg

and the rear floor supports are gone, and now we have the front floor bracing and the front bulkhead…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-10.jpg

which cannot stand up to the mighty sawzall from milwaukee…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-11.jpg

i used the angle grinder for the small stuff, but this is 1/8″ wall 2″ x 8″ “C” channel for the outside beams, and the center one is an 1/8″ wall, 2″ x 6″ box tube… tough stuff.

the horizontal cut was also through 1/8″ gussets welded on the corners, so it was slow going…

i thought about making a utility trailer out of this:

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-12.jpg

but truthfully, it sits higher than i like. (all my trailers have a really low center of gravity for a reason, and i’m picky as hell about my engineering)

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-13.jpg

so the impact wrench couldn’t touch the suspension bolts….

but the angle grinder made short work of them…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-14.jpg

and off comes the frame rails (don’t worry, most of this steel will be used for other projects, or recycled)

and now we’re down to what i was after…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-15.jpg

a set of lightweight (2500 lb rated) 4″ drop, dexter axles, with brakes.

when i build trailers, i pretty much insist on double axles and brakes. it’s a whole lot safer when someone does something stupid on the highway… and they will.

i’ve been looking for a set of light ones for a while, since i’m putting together a 12′ pop top gypsy vardo, with the goal of keeping it light enough to tow behind a small car. these should fit the bill nicely. truthfully, i expected a 25 ft fifth wheel to have a lot bigger brakes… but these are plenty big for my vardo, since most 12 ft trailers don’t even have dual axles, let alone brakes…

so we clean up all the parts and load them into chris’ truck…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-16.jpg

breaks down surprisingly small, although it weighs about 1000 lbs or so…

http://www.l7.net/myspace/images/fifthwheel-17.jpg

so yeah… new project coming down the pike when i get my house done, and get some time…

but now you know how i spent my afternoon 🙂

thanks for the help chris 🙂
-stone

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