Saturday, February 19, 2011

I told Him...

Your 8 years old...its time you start making your own money...

Not exactly what I meant!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10-4 Magazine

Did a feature on JR Schleuger's Kenworth...this is how it went down...

Americans are slowly drifting away from their pioneering spirit. We used to invent things, create things and build things – and not just any things – the best things. Today, we buy things, we use things and then we replace things. We have shifted from being producers to consumers. We no longer care about quality – price dictates (or at least heavily influences) our purchases. But all is not lost. In trucking, we are fortunate to still have a handful of companies that invent, create and produce. One of those companies is Lifetime Nut Covers of Britt, Iowa. JR Schleuger (pronounced slugger), one of the owners at Lifetime, recently customized his KW using only American-made products – he did this partly to make a point, partly to take a stand, and partly to support his neighbors (fellow Americans).

When JR was growing up, his dad (Dan) was a trucker. Dan drove a cabover Kenworth for Mercer – in fact, he was one of their earliest drivers. JR and his sister Danielle both loved to go riding with their dad as often as possible. Their mother died when they were young, so when dad was out trucking, they spent a lot of time with their grandparents. They lived on a farm in Britt, Iowa and grew corn and beans (actually, they still do). Between trucking and farming, they all stayed pretty busy.

One day, when Dan was out on the road, he got a flat tire. When he attempted to remove the wheel, his tin nut covers had rusted to the bolts – he had to use a blow torch to get them off. Apparently, this was a common problem back then. But Dan had an idea. He called a buddy that had a plastic injection molding machine and told him that he wanted to make plastic nut covers that would last a “lifetime” without ever rusting – and Lifetime Nut Covers was born. That was in 1990. Dan was the first person in the U.S. to make a plastic nut cover. Today, the company makes 960 products including various light bezels, hub and axle covers, interior trim pieces and dash accessories, custom-engraved billet parts and, of course, three different styles of nut covers in every size imaginable.

JR (26) and his sister Danielle (28) have been involved with the company for most of their lives – they were both just kids when their dad and his longtime girlfriend Julie started the business. Back then, Dan did everything by himself. On weekends, he’d pay JR and Danielle a penny for every part they cut and trimmed (all of the nut covers come attached to a plastic runner, and each of them need to be cut off and trimmed clean). Over time, they got pretty good at it, and could trim up to 2,000 pieces a day. JR learned at an early age that hard work and prosperity went hand-in-hand.

After graduating from high school, JR (whose real name is Dan Jr. – JR for short) began studying to be a tool and die maker at a local college. JR got a job at a company called Plastech Tooling, which just happened to be the company that made all of the molds for his dad’s company. JR went to school until noon and then worked at Plastech until 5:00. From there, he’d go to another job and work until midnight. When asked why he did all this, JR said, “I wanted a variety of training, education and experience – and I liked the money, too!” After graduating, Plastech put JR in charge of making the molds (which are made from billet aluminum) for Lifetime. At this point, he was also working a few days a week with his dad at the company.

JR’s dad has never believed in debt, so everything he bought for the company, he bought outright. This one business decision has helped keep the company going since the economy went south. Even the farming operation (Schleuger Farms) runs debt-free. When asked if farming is still profitable, JR answered, “You can still make a good living farming if you don’t have a bunch of payments” – which is a true statement about any type of company. Today, they manage about 2,000 acres of land on the farm.

Dan also has a 1989 Kenworth B-Model that’s been in the family for years (we’re sure it is paid for, too). The bright red truck is known as “The Red Baron” for obvious reasons. Dan doesn’t get out and truck much anymore, so the old Kenworth has become more of a show truck, but every once in awhile he’ll take off and haul a load or use it to deliver the molded plastic pieces to the chroming shop in Wisconsin.

Over the years, in addition to working at Lifetime, JR has done a lot trucking. It started out just here and there and on weekends, but now he trucks a lot. One year, he even went trucking full-time, hauling meat to the west coast for Monson’s. In 2007, JR’s dad bought a blue 2003 Kenworth W900L that had a lot of miles on it (about 800,000), but it was very clean. That Kenworth is now JR’s. Wanting to name the truck, they started calling it “The Blue Baron” and the name stuck. JR and his dad formed a company for their two trucks called The Barons, Inc. For the last three years, JR has been driving for IMT Transport out of Garner, Iowa, hauling military vehicles and equipment throughout the Midwest. When he’s not out driving, JR can be found back at the shop, helping to run the company

At first, the truck, which sits on a 273” wheelbase and is powered by a turned-up C-15 Caterpillar with 535 hp hooked to a 13-speed transmission and 3.55 rears, was just stock. But JR decided that he wanted to fix it up a bit, using not only Lifetime products, but also accessories made by some of his other friends – American manufacturers like Valley Chrome, RoadWorks, Rockwood, WTI and Dynaflex. What he ended up with is the beautifully-appointed Kenworth featured on our cover and centerfold this month (and on these pages), as well as a showpiece rig highlighting quality American-made products.

Wanting to paint his fuel tanks and rear fenders to match the truck, he realized after a little investigating that the Kenworth had already been repainted and that the color was not a stock color – in fact, it was not even available (the color is a 1984 Chevy Camaro blue). JR’s friend and painter, Nick Moore of Moore Customs, mixed and matched the color and then painted the tanks, mirror brackets, WTI fiberglass double hump rear fenders, and various pieces here and there. The exterior also features 8” Dynaflex stacks, a Pro-Tech headache rack with several modifications (including an integrated air line box and lights underneath), three tank straps on each tank (from 4 State Trucks) and tank skirts from Valley Chrome. The custom visor, front blinker bars/fender braces, rear bumper, several light bars, and 22” tapered bumper (which is actually a Peterbilt bumper with modified brackets) were all made by Valley Chrome, while the cab and sleeper extensions, custom grille, deck plating, and many of the lights came from RoadWorks

Obviously, many of the accessories on JR’s Kenworth are made by Lifetime. JR made a custom engraved “Blue Baron” billet aluminum hood emblem for the front of the truck, and says that he can custom engrave anything a customer might want on their own billet emblem. He also added Lifetime bezels and/or visors to most of the lights (Lifetime was the first company to build screwless light bezels), as well as one of their latest products, chrome axle rings, which makes it look like your rear axles are chrome-plated. Of course, all of the nut covers on this truck are from Lifetime. Featuring their “Vortex” design, JR installed all of these nut covers over two years ago and says that he has not had to replace any of them since. Another new item on this truck is smooth, chrome-plated, billet aluminum fuel caps, now available from Lifetime. JR’s caps have been custom engraved, and yours can be, too. One other neat new item that JR made for this truck is a pair of vertical billet blinker strips that are mounted on the outside edges of the front bumper. These blinker strips are a little pricey, but they are now available for purchase from Lifetime. To finish off the exterior, several blue lights were added under the cab, sleeper and fenders. At night, the truck, which has a lot of lights throughout, floats on a sea of blue light, glowing from underneath.

The interior of JR’s Kenworth is equally impressive. Featuring chrome trim pieces and accessories made by Lifetime, RoadWorks and Rockwood, the cab also has comfy massaging seats from Qualitex (a company out of Texas), a billet steering wheel, toggle extensions from Colorado Customs and a chrome shift tower boot. Teltek (a company based out of Nevada) provided JR with a few digital gauges with blue displays. He plans to upgrade all of the gauges as soon as possible. Remember, all of these products had to be American-made to get on JR’s truck. A friend of JR, who owns a company called Walk Construction, installed a custom laminate wood floor inside the Kenworth. Built from scratch, piece by piece, this floor is not only beautiful, but practical, too. The 63” AeroDyne sleeper, which is still pretty stock, has a full-size window in the back and a chrome cover over each of the 625 buttons inside the truck.

After 20 years, Lifetime continues to grow and improve. Quality has always been the key to their success – everyone at the company strives to build not only products that look good, but also ones that are practical and durable. All of Lifetime’s products are made in-house, on their own plastic injection molding machines, and every part is triple chrome plated (they are sent to Wisconsin for that). Everyone in the family is involved in every aspect of the business. When someone gets an idea, all four of them – Dad, Julie, JR and Danielle – all sit down together to talk about it. Lifetime Lug Nut also has three full-time employees that not only help run all of the machines, but they also help out a lot with the packaging and shipping.

Over the years, both JR and Danielle have become more and more involved in the company. A few years ago, Dan began the slow and steady process of transitioning the company to his kids. Once the transition is complete, they don’t plan on changing much, but JR would like to start advertising the company more aggressively out there – after all, that was one of the reasons why he built his truck. He takes “The Blue Baron” to several local shows, but he’d really like to start going to all the big ones, too. In regards to the shows, JR wanted to send a big “thank you” out to his girlfriend Chelcee – she not only helps him get the rig cleaned up and ready for all of the shows, but she also provides JR with plenty of much-needed mental and moral support.

When JR isn’t trucking or working in the shop, he enjoys hanging out at the “toy shop” where they build all of their cars. Over the years he has built several hot rods, including a cool 1967 Camaro. He currently has two 1957 Chevy Bel Airs, and his dad has a 1957 Chevy Pro Street drag car. Unfortunately, they are all pretty busy these days, so they don’t get out to the track nearly as often as they’d like. Fun is fun, but business always comes first.

JR may have customized his Kenworth to help promote the company (and other American manufacturers), but don’t mistake it for a show truck – it works all the time, and just recently turned over its one-millionth mile. If quality is important to you and if you believe that “Made in the USA” is more than just a simple statement of fact, then Lifetime Nut Covers is a company you should know, respect and patronize.

We are sure that JR Schleuger and his sister Danielle will do a great job running the company – and keep it rollin’ for at least 20 more years. Following their lead, let’s all get back to business, and get back to being the pioneers and visionaries we once were, because “Made in the USA” means a lot! In fact, in terms of our future, it means everything!!

Chain Slingin'

Patrick from New York sends some shots of his Dad's iron from back in the day...

Thanks Patrick!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

1 hour door

cut, notch...

lay a couple some finish grinding then out the door.