I just got off the phone with David Kohn, a mechanic from Boone, North Carolina, who used a bunch of brilliant home-brew methods to turn a Cadillac Seville into a flatbed car-hauler. Here’s how he concocted this genius bit of automotive glory.
Back in 1998, David was having issues hauling new cars—with their plastic bumpers and all-wheel drive—on his conventional hook and chain-style wrecker to his transmission shop, so he decided to build a flatbed. Drawing inspiration from his front-wheel drive 30-foot motor home, he chose to use a 1980 front-wheel drive Seville as the base for his project, getting the car in a trade for some bodywork he did on a woman’s Ford Escort.
It didn’t take long for him to start tearing away at the Seville, breaking out an angle grinder and cutting torch to hack off the Seville’s extremely hideous ass-end, and then patching the back of the cab with some scrap metal he got from an old solar panel, and with the window from an old pickup.
The rear of the Seville hauler is made up of a frame from a double-wide trailer, which David welded to the Seville’s frame, which he also beefed up with 3-inch or 4-inch angle iron to handle the extra weight. On top of that trailer frame sits a 16 foot-long quarter-inch steel plate that he got from a discarded local water treatment tank.
Under the frame and all that sheetmetal sit two custom axles, each made of tube steel with spindles from Chevy Citations welded onto both ends (those spindles have Citation brakes and 13-inch wheels attached to them). The axles are suspended on trailer leaf springs and U-bolts that David bought from his local Northern Tool and Equipment store (sort of like a Harbor Freight), and, up front, the torsion bars have been adjusted for the added weight.
To yank cars up onto the bed, David picked up a 12-volt electric winch from a “Dirt-Cheap” outlet store, and installed that just behind the cab on top of the flatbed. Right next to the winch sits what appears to be a regular household outlet, which, he told me over the phone, is fed juice from the alternator that he rigged up to a converter. That converter, he said, cuts off the voltage regulator, allowing the alternator to crank out lots of DC current for power tools and the hydraulic pump.
David says he got the 90-volt hydraulic pump from a Georgia flea market; its purpose is to raise and lower the rear eight-foot section of the trailer. As you can see in the image below, there’s a hinge right between the two rear axles. Behind it is an eight-foot hydraulically-actuated tilting section with an 18-inch flip-up ramp, and ahead of it is the fixed eight-foot hauler section.
Three holes on the back of the bed hold the rear of cars down via chains, while the cars’ fronts are cinched down with the winch. David says he probably hauled 400 to 500 cars to his shop or to the scrapyard over about 12 to 14 years of use, though the truck hasn’t really seen much action in the past 4 or 5 years.
To handle the extra mass, David chucked the 350 gas motor that was in the car when he bought it, and replaced it with a 500 cubic-incher with an electronic distributor. That caused a few complications, as to keep that big motor cool, David had to install two radiators—one in front of the other—and plumb them in series with copper tubes.
But with that modification, overheating hasn’t really been an issue for David, who said he only had to have the Seville towed a single time because of, ironically, a bad transmission seal. Other than that, the car has held up great, and still “rides like a Cadillac,” David told me.
The whole thing is decidedly hideous, but it’s hard not to at least respect David’s resourcefulness. From the solar-panel rear cab wall, to the bed made of a trailer frame and scrap steel from a water treatment plant, to the hydraulic pump from a flea market, to the tube-steel rear axles with citation spindles, I can’t help but admire the over-100 hours David put into this truck, especially since he got over a decade of use out of it.
David says the truck—which comes with new fenders and a new stainless steel roof panel—“was pretty much built out of things I could get for next to nothing.” And that’s just cool.