Alaska Couple Converts Pickup Truck To World's Largest Radio Flyer Wagon
It's said “the older the boys, the bigger their toys” but in the case of Fred & Judy Keller of Wasilla, Alaska, girls just want to have fun too! In this case, the fun began when the retired couple began tearing down their 1976 Mazda B1600 pickup truck and things just got better from that point.
The iconic “little red wagon” made by the Liberty Coaster Company dates from 1923 and was so successful, the company manufacturing it changed its name from Radio Steel & Manufacturing (in 1930) to Radio Flyer in 1987. The little wagon is still popular today. That's a lot of childhoods, including that of Keller, a 68-year-old retired telephone worker.
Keller and Foster were inspired by a hot-rod version of the Radio Flyer they saw while visiting a car show in Oregon. “We could use the Mazda for that,” recalls 67-year-old Foster, referring to their old pickup which at the time hadn't been driven for about five years.
Keller, whose hobby was building home aircraft, was entirely in his element when faced with such an extensive reworking. “The basic structure of the wagon is marine plywood, foam, fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin,” he explained. “It's a very strong structure.” Strong enough to convince the state DOT, who have declared the fully operational vehicle legally licensed for road travel.
It helps that beneath the ultimate Radio Flyer's sleek bodywork lie the functional bits of their old Mazda pickup. The instrument panel and steering column have taken on new life, as have the truck's frame, chassis and engine. Working off that solid base, Keller switched out the wheels for a smaller, more in-proportion quartet and crafted the signature 8-foot tall handle from PVC pipe wrapped in fiberglass and painted black.
The finishing touches were “suggested” by the state DOT who required the installation of a windshield, mudflaps and running lights before declaring it truly and legally ready for the road. As for the latter, everything is relative this being Alaska and like the original Radio Flyer wagon, this one has no top so winter storage is the plan of action. Come summer, however, “We're going to be having a blast with it,” said Keller. “The one thing we both enjoy about the car is just the smiles it puts on people's faces.” Unexpected nostalgia has a way of doing that. (via Newsminer.com, photos via AP/Michael Dinneen)
Editor's Note: Radio Flyer has grown up and has a terrific lineup of tricycles and wagons. You can see a nice selection of them here.