Although going at a sedate pace due to the amount of work we have, we have been carrying out some of the preparatory work on turning our imported American fire truck, into a food truck.
On Board Power
The food truck was intended to be self sufficient, and as part of this it was intended to have on board power. There are a number of cabinets on the truck, but all were a bit tight for space to install a generator with a decent power output.
Eventually we happened on a Yanmar 25kva unit. At 3000rpm it would be a bit noisy so we were gonna need to put a bit of work into sound proofing, but with a minor alteration to the mounting feet, it slid in the rear compartment like it was made to measure.
We acquired a noise meter to get a baseline reading, and at 1 metre we were experiencing an average of 105dB. Ouch!
We added a layer of Tecsound, intended to act as a barrier and also prevent noise transmission through the steel canopy. Then added some 50mm thick noise block sheet, which was basically around 40mm of high density foam, then a layer of lead, then a 6mm layer of foam to decouple the panel from the wall. To avoid blocking the end panel air flow too much we used a thinner 35mm version.
The reading after this was an average of 85dB, which sound being a logarithmic scale actually means we have cut the perceived noise level to around a quarter of what it started. Good, but we ideally want it down by another 10dB, or half again.
Most of the apparent noise appears to be coming from a combination of the top box housing the exhaust silencer and underneath the truck. The air intake and exhaust are actually underneath so these are basically open vents into the box.
We have two more actions to try and solve this. First we are having baffled outlets made to cover both the inlet and outlet vents. A layer of soundproofing on the underneath of the cabinet floor would probably help as well.
Secondly we intend to box in the silencer with sound proofing.
Stay tuned for an update on where we get it too.
To try and keep the truck looking like a fire engine, rather then a funfair truck, we have piped the exhaust from the generator to one of the water pipe outlets on the unit, it probably needs a removable elbow and vertical pipe fitting for when it is in use, as that will also cut the noise down, but on the road it looks stock.
As far as we can tell in the UK, this will be the first fire truck food truck, well, American fire truck, I have seen a British Green Goddess in use to serve food, and a couple of typical Dennis type engines.
An oldie, but a goodie. Established over 128 years ago, and claiming to have served the first hamburger in the US. Sadly we can’t verify this, as like most other competing claims, the truth is lost in the mists of time, but given its age, Louis Lunch was certainly amongst the first.
Louis Lassen, born in Denmark as Ludvig Lassen in 1865 married Sophia Kurtz, a native of the US. Lassen was a Blacksmith and some time preacher, who ended up selling food from a street cart. Over time he began to add lunch items to his cart. Well, we say cart, but wagon was probably a better description.
Legend has it that one day in 1900, a local businessman dashed into the lunch wagon, exclaiming “Loui, I’m in a rush, stick a meatpuck between two planks and step on it.” Lassen placed a burger puck between two slices of bread and sent the man on his way. Allegedly the first burger was born
In 1917 Lassen took over a building that had been a tannery and remained there until 1975, being forced to make way for development and moving two blocks to 263 Crown Street in New Haven.
The business is today owned by the fourth generation of the family.
Today the menu consists of ‘The Burger’ which is made from a blend of five cuts of steak then broiled vertically. Accompanied by potato salad, chips and homemade pie. They also use a cheese spread rather than slices.
The patties are broiled on a cast iron vertical gas broiler made in 1898 by the Bridge and Beach Co. and they use a 1929 Savory Radiant Gas Toaster.
Louis’ Lunch ‘It’s My Way Or No Way’
Louis Lunch is famous (Infamous perhaps) for its dislike of ketchup,. In fact asking for ketchup on your burger results in you being ejected from the premises. A no ketchup sign hangs prominently in the restaurant, along with a caption popping up to read “Yale students who try to sneak in ketchup are asked to leave”. The venue is all about the burger, and allows nothing to upstage or detract from it, so no fancy buns or condiments, you get onions, tomato and a squirt of cheese.
History has it that Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya was the first to create the nacho in 1943. Evidently he was the maitre d’ at the El Moderno restaurant in Piedras Negras. After the kitchen staff had left for the evening, a group of army wives from the nearby US military base at Fort Duncan came in looking for a snack.
Our quick thinking hero cut some tostadas into triangles and topped them with shredded cheese and jalapenos. They were a big hit receiving the name Nacho’s Specials.
Word quickly spread and they entered the culinary lexicon as ‘Nachos’.
We are in the middle of restoring a 30 odd year old American fire truck, and converting it into a food truck to add to our fleet.
Now, many of the parts we need for it are only available in the USA. Surprisingly much of the contstruction is no different now than it was 30 years ago, so most bits are readily available. I sourced some bits and bobs we needed and ordered them online. As is standard now they came with a tracking number.
USA to Local Delivery Depot 3625 Miles
There was a number of jumps to different depot’s in the States, before the parcel was finally loaded onto an airliner and flown to the UK, where it ended up at Rotherham our local delivery depot. This encompassed a trip of around 3625 miles, and took a grand total of 5 days. That averaged out to a speed of 30 mph. Obviously it spent some time sat in depots before being transhipped etc, but overall the average was 30 miles an hour.
Local Delivery Depot To Us 15 Miles
Where it goes tits up, is the final 15 miles from the local delivery depot to our depot. This is the grand total of 15 miles, and took the UK postal service 12 days to cover. The interesting fact here is that works out to around 1/20th of a mile per hour average speed. Or roughly 600 times slower than the US postal service.
In fact the really interesting fact is that a tortoise is capable of travelling at just over half a mile per hour. So had they strapped the parcel to the back of a tortoise, it could have been delivered in a little over a day and a quarter.
An isolated incident you might say. Sadly no, because so far we have repeated the whole scenario with similar times on another parcel from the States. Then we ordered some lights from Australia. A distance of over 9000 miles. The Aussies managed to get it to us in seven days. With the final leg from the post office taking 11 days!
Having just ordered a couple of new vans (not electric vans, the old fashioned kind), I got to thinking about the approaching date of 2030, when the government ban on ICE vehicles comes into effect. What would this mean for our business and fleet of vehicles.
My own personal car is pretty much a plaything. I occasionally take it for a blast around the local countryside. Go to an occasional meeting, and perhaps to social functions. Some years it does a couple thousand mile, so this could easily be replaced with an electric alternative.
Vans, The Mainstay Of Our Business
But what about the part of our fleet that actually works for a living. We use a fleet of mid range vans, mainly from the PSA group (Citroen, Fiat, Vauxhall etc). So I took a look at how suitable these would be. The truth is, not very. They have a maximum towing capacity of 1000kg. Whilst our lightest catering unit is 1600kg. So they are off the list.
The only van we could find that would tow our units, is the Ford E Transit which is rated for 2000kg.
Ford very conveniently provide a range calculator. So I duly types in a typical scenario. Winter temperature, all season tyres, 75% load.
What I got back was the screen below;
Turns out that the maximum range at this set up is 82 miles. Not a lot of use on our regular trips to Edinburgh which is around 240 miles. So basically 2-3 charges needed en route.
BUT WAIT. A bit if investigation and it turns out that the advertised range, doesn’t actually work in the real world. Seems that around 80% of the claimed figure is more realistic. So that cuts us to 65.6 miles. (I will be generous and round it up to 66 miles). So that’s 3-4 charges needed en route.
BUT WAIT AGAIN. This calculator doesn’t allow you to factor in the fact that you are towing. A bit more digging and most sources claim that towing cuts the range in half. So we are now down to 33 miles. That puts us on 7-8 charges needed. Or would be if you could run the van down to empty before recharging, which isn’t really practical. So most chargers quote their charging time as being from 15%. So that lets me use 85% of the capacity. Or gives me 28 miles of travel before needing a recharge, which would push us towards the 8 charges needed.
Hmm, how long is a charge going to take. Well, best I can find is that it takes as little as 34 minutes to charge it to 80% capacity. So that means 34 minutes gives us 80% of 28 mile range which is 22.4 miles.
Now we are up to needing 10 recharges en route to Edinburgh.
But then we are only running the charge down to 15% before recharging, so basically 65% of the 28 miles or 18.2 miles. Or 13 charges.
At 34 minutes per charge that’s 442 minutes, or a little over seven hours of charging time needed, presuming the chargers are available without a wait at each location we need them.
We have just added 14 hours to our days work. Three members of staff on overtime at £20 per hour adds £840 to the days wage bill. Which means the job isn’t financially viable, which means those members of staff are out of a job.
But there is more. The Edinburgh job which we used to allow 5 hours driving each way and 4 hours to do the job, 14 in total. Is now 28 hours. So the van, equipment and staff wouldn’t be back in time fo the next days work. So now we need double the number of vans, catering units and equipment to do the same level of work.
Oh and in all of the above calculations, I have assumed that the air is perfectly still. Add in a 22 mile per hour headwind and those figure will look generous. It is estimated that a headwind of this speed cuts 20% from the range of a Tesla. So cut 20% from our range and we end up with 14.5 miles, or 16 charges or a bit over 9 hours charging time each way! That is basing the calculation on a Tesla, which aerodynamically speaking is super slippy compared to a house brick shaped Transit van, oh, and if you are unlucky enough to travel on a day with freezing temperatures, then your range drops another 10%.
At this rate, we will be lucky if the van manages to reach the end of our drive before needing a recharge.
In short, the Westminster based geniuses have no idea of how things work in the real world. The fact that a housewife doing 50 miles a week for her shopping can happily live with electric cars, does not translate to keeping the country running on a business basis.
A Cunning Plan
So, what can we do. Well the initial plan is to order double our normal fleet for delivery in 2029. This will get us a few years before we are forced into electric. The other option we are looking at is following the lead of an enterprising American guy, who added a generator to his Tesla, that bypassed the interlock to allow him to charge the car whilst he was driving it. A decent sized diesel generator in the back of each van might just give us a usable range, a bit like the electric diesel hybrid system Dr Porsche proposed for the German Tiger tank in WW2.
The second Friday (or Frie Day) in July is national French Fries Day. Where? you might ask, good old America, where no doubt they think they invented them despite the name.
Introduced into Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh, the humble potato spread to become a staple crop in many lands. Hopefully in the great cosmic distribution of Karma, this may alleviate the deaths caused by his other introduction ‘tobacco’. Perhaps we might have been better smoking potatoes and eating tobacco!
French Fries Aren’t Just Potatoes
Fries can also be made with ;
Parsnips sliver fries
Baked carrot fries
Parmesan-Crusted Asparagus fries
so even without Sir Walter we would still have had fries of some sort.
The good ole Americans consume 4.5 Billion pounds of fries, that works out at about 30 lb each. That’s a helluva lot of fries per person.
Whichever way you like your French fries, add some condiments and there is something for everyone.
Any England fan (football) will tell you of the years of hurt, failed dreams and fantasies of world cups that have come to naught. We seem to get so close, then lose on penalties. To be honest if I was the England manager, I would have my team training consisting of nothing but taking penalties for eight hours a day.
We had one, brief, beautiful bright spot in 1966. Hosting the tournament at home, we started a bit slow, but then hit our stride and as any fan will tell you, beat Germany in the final, which made it all the more satisfying.
What many fans won’t know is the part the fairground played in our victory.
The Charlton Boys
The linchpins of the England team were a couple of Northern lads called Charlton. Bobby and Jackie to be precise. Hailing from the mining town of Ashington, they hailed from a family with deep connection to footballing fame. Their mother Cissie, was from the Milburn family. A number of her cousins played professionally, including the legendary wor Jackie. Jackie Milburn a legend of Newcastle United and England fame.
Well, in 1934 a certain young man named Bob Charlton wanted to marry his sweetheart. Unfortunately with times being hard in the North East he didn’t have the money for a ring. Fortunately for him he wasn’t much of a footballer, but he was a handy boxer. At that time the travelling funfairs had boxing booths, where members of the public could enter, and if they lasted three rounds would win a cash prize.
Bob managed the three rounds, won the money to buy a wedding ring, and proposed to Cissie Milburn. Bob and Cissie went on to have four boys, including Jack and Bobby, who ended up in the England team in 66, and, well the rest is world cup history.
At one time mobile catering consisted of almost entirely box shaped ‘burger vans’. Occasionally someone with a touch of flair, or perhaps just a bit mad, would put together something quirky. With the dawn of the instagram generation, boxy burger vans suddenly dropped out of vogue. To get ahead you really needed people to be sharing your set up. Sure, good food was important, but it was no longer the sole arbiter of success. Your food truck needed to look better.
We are going to be taking a look at some of the quirky, weird, wonderful and downright strange catering outlets around the world.
Shipping containers are ubiquitous throughout the world. A standardised method of transporting goods via road, rail and sea. Many of them however do find a second life as something totally different. From bars, to offices to mobile toilets. They have also found favour with catering vendors. The basic container is a strong watertight structure, that is built to accurate dimensions, and lends itself to conversions.
Happy as Larry is an Australian company that specialises in selling Napoli-style wood fired pizza. A nice touch in this container conversion is that they have replaced much of one side with huge glass pains to give a real contemporary feel to it.
Space Shuttle Cafe
If you are looking for something to convert into a food truck, the most obvious thing you could think of is an aeroplane. Probably not! This one was converted to a mobile eatery by GMC in 1976. But it started life as an actual flying machine in 1944.
Cotton Candy Jeep
One of our favourites this, take an iconic WWII off road vehicle, and shove a cotton candy (candy floss if you live this side of the pond) machine in the back. Oh and for good measure paint it all pink.
Walls Mini Ice Cream Truck
Walls ran a campaign called ‘Goodbye Serious’, where they built a miniaturised ice cream truck designed to drive into offices and dispense their best selling goodies. This is one seriously quirky little food truck. Though some of our taller staff might struggle to operate in this one.
K99 Ice Cream Cart
This one is notable, not for being a different type of food truck. But because of its target market. This sells ice creams for your canine companions. That’s right, doggy ice creams. Seems that scientists have discovered that gammon and chicken-flavored ice creams really hits the spot for our doggy friends.
These are gaining in popularity, and are being used for everything from a gin bar to a burger joint. The ironic thing is, was during the late 90’s, the fairground industry used these for staff quarters, then tended to scrap them at the end of the season. If they were scrapped, it wasn’t unknow to just remove all identifying marks and leave them in a layby for the council to dispose of. You try buying one now, I have seen them advertised for upwards of £30k.
Step Frame Food Truck
More of a Stateside set up, they have a plethora of large step fram delivery vehicles from the likes of Dodge, Ford, GMC etc. These are pretty near the size of a 7.5 tonne lorry in the UK and make an ideal blank canvas to fit out as a mobile eatery
Airstream Style Food Truck
Another option hailing from the good ole US of A. Airstreams were originally touring caravans. Till some adventurous soul decided to cut the side out and add a kitchen. They are now a fairly regular sight on the UK scene. With both the original Airstream brand and a number of both EU based and Chinese manufacturers building similar looking trucks.
A regular sight nowadays, horseboxes are easy to obtain, pretty easy to convert and very flexible, though a bit on the small side for some catering options. Prices are steadily rising, to the benefit of anyone needing to dispose of a horsebox that’s past it’s sell by date. What you once would have scrapped, you can now get a tidy few grand for.
Snow Mobile Food Truck
This one is as far as we know, pretty unique. A burrito joint on a tracked snow mobile platform. Great for last minute corporate jobs in the arctic. Bloody noisy if you need to take it down the M1 motorway to London.
London Red Bus Yoghurt Truck
An iconic British vehicle this time, an ex London Routemaster bus, turned into a yoghurt dispensary by Snog. A cool vehicle for a cool brand serving a cool product (literally)!
The Peanut Van
Occasionally there are totally custom built trucks out there. I’ve seen vehicles that look like hot dogs, doughnuts, oranges. This one is a peanut. Leaves you in no doubt what the product is.
Land Rover Ice Cream Truck
Another off road vehicle pressed into service. We have already had a Willy’s Jeep with a candyfloss machine. This one is the UK equivalent. In vehicles that is, not food. This is one cool ice cream truck.
Another ice cream van. This time shoehorned into a monster truck. Unless you are 6ft 6 you need step ladders to be served here.
Rocket Launcher Coffee Truck
A big boys toy this one. A coffee truck on a rocket launcher. Though it didn’t work out too well for two of the staff when they were arrested for causing panic on the streets of Malaysia. What’s next, doughnuts served from a Challenger tank?
Another paramilitary offering. Tapas from a tactical armoured car. It’s all starting to get a bit Mad Max.
The last couple of options were built on trucks designed to blow things up and start fires. These were designed to put them out. Popular both sides of the pond, though the US fire trucks just seem to be a lot more jazzy.
This time we are looking at what was once one of the biggest chains in America. At its peak they had over 1100 outlets. Now they are down to one. A number of factors came into play with this massive decline. One of which was the hugely controversial name.
Ostensibly the name was a contraction of two of the founders. Sam Battistone Sr. and Newell Bohnett. However the name is also one that was offensive to a large part of the population, especially with it being linked to a book written in 1897 called The Story of Little Black Sambo. Much of the interior decor drew on illustrations from the book.
Predictably the name attracted protests, criticism and petitions for change during most of its operating life. The final remaining store changing its name after the George Lloyd protests in 2020
The first store opened in Santa Barbara, California in 1957. By 1968 it had grown to operate in 98 cities across America. It also diversified operating Red Top Hamburgers, Heidi’s Pie Shop, and the Blue Ox Steak House.
In the second half of the 70’s the chain came under increasing pressure regarding its unacceptable name. They steadfastly refused to change it, though in a number of locations they branded their eateries as Jolly Tiger, usually in locations where local laws had been passed forbidding the Sambo brand, or where they were having trouble obtaining permits due to the name.
In 1979 however the company reversed course and announced that they were dropping the Jolly Tiger brand citing poor financial performance, and would revert all restaurants to Sambo’s. They also cited a study claiming that three times as many black people ate at their chain than at other restaurants.
It was to be their peak. After 79 the company spiralled into decline. How much is down to the issues around the name isn’t clear, as a number of other corporate decisions also hastened their demise. One major issue arose when they dropped their “Fraction of the Action” scheme. This had paid the managers 20% of the outlets profits, with other staff being allowed to bid for percentages of the remaining profits.
A mere two years later the chain was filing for bankruptcy. Reorganisation and a name change to “No Place Like Sam’s” failed to help. And by 1982 all except the original diner had closed their doors. The restaurants were sold off to several operates, such as Denny’s and Baker’s square. All that now remains is the original located in Santa Barbara.
Following the riots over the George Floyd case, the owner Chad Steven, grandson of one of the original founders, finally gave in to public pressure and announced a name change, finally Christening it “Chafs” in 2020.
That staple of dessert goodness, the doughnut is round right. Everyone knows that. If a lost tribe was discovered in the Amazon jungle they would know little of modern life other than Kim Kardashian has a large posterior and doughnuts are round.
Only they aren’t as I have just discovered. Seems some adventurous blasphemers have been making them square.
Actually as it turns out, the French (It would be them) have been making something called a Beignet for quite a long time. Seems it’s made from something called Pets-de-nonne, which sounds exotic and enticing, until it is translated into the English of Nun’s Fart. Lovely, so they eat frogs, horses and nun powered flatulance.
They also spread to the new world, in some of those states with French culture such as Louisiana and New Orleans. Being French they will no doubt taste fabulous.
Actual Square Doughnuts
Like many things it is arguable who made doughnuts square. Heck, people still argue over who made them round and who added the hole. The Square Doughnut Co in Terre Haute claim that their founder Richard Comer Sr. started making them in 1967. This could be true, though no doubt their will be a plethora of other claiming to have been square first.