McHenry Builds Aftermarket Crew Cab Business

McHENRY TRUCK Equipment in St Louis, Missouri, has built a thriving business manufacturing steel and aluminum crew cabs for aftermarket installation on truck chassis.

The first crew cabs built by McHenry were made of steel, says Elmer McHenry Jr, president and owner of McHenry Truck Equipment. The truck equipment distributor and manufacturer began building aluminum crew cabs after Ford introduced a 15,000-lb GVW chassis in 1987. A lighter crew cab was needed because of the truck's GVW.

"In 1987, 90% of cabs were steel, and now it's completely reversed," McHenry Jr says.

McHenry built 400 steel cabs in 1986, he says. But now the company builds only about 10 steel cabs a year. The big advantage with aluminum is that the crew cabs are significantly lighter than a similar steel cab.

Walls of the aluminum cab are made with two-inch Z-posts covered with prepainted white .040-inch thick aluminum sheet. The same sheet covers the roof. In aluminum cabs, corner posts are extrusions. McHenry rolls the corner posts for steel cabs and breaks the steel treadplate for cab floors in its shop.

Crew cabs meet or exceed federal safety standards, McHenry says. They are built in four-, five-, eight-, and 10-man capacities. A four-man steel cab weighs 2,000 lb, but a four-man aluminum cab weighs only 900 lb.

Different Cab Configurations McHenry builds the aluminum and steel crew cabs in a wide variety of configurations. A 16-ft tall crew cab built for the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads is mounted on medium-duty chassis. The tall cab is used as a mobile welding workshop and has plenty of room for storage of oxygen and acetylene welding gas bottles.

The distributor builds a five-man capacity crew cab that it mounted recently on a Ford F-800 with an Aristocrat 12-ft dump body.

The crew cabs are available with a walk-through option and bench or bucket seats. Other options include an oversize window and a curbside door.

In an emergency, the cab window can easily be pushed out by occupants. A four-man crew cab was mounted on a Ford Cargo chassis with a service body built with an upper structure.

McHenry also assembles and installs Hewitt-Lucas kit vans. Besides vans and crew cabs, other truck bodies mounted by McHenry include Knapheide service bodies and dump bodies, and Riecher's oak stake bodies made in Washington, Missouri.

Some of the van bodies are modified by McHenry after assembly. Van bodies modified recently have racks that hold oxygen-acetylene bottles, storage lockers, and two inches of foam insulation.

Full-Line Distributor As a full-line truck equipment distributor, McHenry installs a wide variety of truck equipment, including Venturo cranes, Anthony tailgate lifts, and high-rail equipment from Fairmont in Fairmont, Minnesota, and Diversified Metal Fabrication in Atlanta, Georgia. McHenry also services high-rail equipment.

"Servicing high-rail equipment has been a rapid growth area for us," McHenry says.

But McHenry's primary business has always been building and mouting truck bodies, he says. The distributor has built or modified truck bodies since Elmer McHenry Sr started the company in 1946.

McHenry moved in 1961 to central St Louis from its original location on the southside of the city, he says. At that time, the company's move into a blighted neighborhood was praised by city officials and in a newspaper article. In the new location, McHenry experienced fewer zoning restrictions and was able to purchase additional property at a reasonable price for future expansion.

McHenry has grown steadily by building crew cabs and taking on additional product lines. Since 1973, McHenry has built over 6,000 aftermarket crew cabs.

"That's a lot of crew cabs for a little company like ours," McHenry says. "Building crew cabs has been a good business that has contributed to the growth of McHenry Truck Equipment."

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