Friday, June 4, 2010

Flatbed finalization

Well, here's the results of my labors these last few days.

I took a break from summer wind research to repair that old Nissan truck. Not a moment too soon, given I found big holes in the frame that would have caused it to collapse after another winter or two. I had plenty of time, so I went through it carefully, wrecking out the old bed, cleaning off all the rust, fixing one seized brake component, building the new bed, fitting new rear shocks, and painting the new bed and the underside of the entire truck.

Despite all this work, this vehicle wouldn't last very much longer if we drove it a lot, especially in winter.

The truck is sound enough now, with metal patches or new metal welded into all the holes and the rust all chipped off and the bare metal painted with primer and rust-proof black enamel. But that new paint will have to be maintained to keep the rust at bay every winter from here on out.

They just don't make them like they used to. The frame on this vehicle is just 1/8 inch or less pressed and folded steel, made into box sections. Any strength there is at all is in the shape of the cross-section, not in the mass of steel. When you have steel that thin, the rust will do for it fairly easily.

By comparison, the steel frame I welded on to make the bed is considerably stronger. I used 3/16 thickness rectangular section material for the beams, while the stringers are still 1/8th, but there's a lot more of them than there are in the original frame. This is not necessarily safer. If somebody sideswipes or rear-ends this new flatbed, there won't be much of a crumple zone. The force will be transmitted the length of the vehicle, and on to the occupants.

But it will last longer than the truck will. I can imagine salvaging this flatbed to make a trailer or similar one day, when the truck's engine finally dies. It would be a shame to send that much good material to the junkyard.

In the meantime, I have to puzzle out what I want to do about truck sides and a tailgate. I need some ideas for how to make the sides detachable, and I need to think about hardware for a tailgate hinge and latches. I have one 1 1/2 inch square steel stringer left, which could be cut up easily enough to make sockets for the sides, and I imagine that heavy duty farm gate hinges will hold a wooden tailgate together well enough. If I make it all removable, but also in sections so we can have tall sides when needed, or regular height ones for normal use, that would be most useful to us.

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