“Two roads diverged in a wood … and I … I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” –From the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
I come across a lot of unusual and interesting stuff in the trucking business, but nothing quite like 24- year-old Austin Bretzel’s one-of-a-kind headboard.
And if you’re wondering, the answer is yes; that’s a real front grill off a 1996 Peterbilt 379 tractor – Austin’s first truck as an owner-operator – and yes, the headlamps really do work (though the wattage is a LOT lower than when they operated out on the highway, I’m told!)
Austin – a resident of Sussex, WI – told me he’s had the “trucking bug” as it were for most of his young life – and it’s one of the reasons why this unique headboard came to be. He got his CDL at age 19 and spent the next two years hauling flatbeds in and around Wisconsin. The day he turned 21, though, Austin got the nod to go long-haul – making his first PTR run to Missouri – and he’s been hooked ever since.
“Ever since then I have grabbed gears, getting to basically be a ‘paid tourist of the USA’ as I like to say,” he told me be email. “I have been from the west coast to the east coast and everywhere in between.”
Back in March 2008 Austin became an owner-operator at the ripe old age of 22, buying the aforementioned 1996 Peterbilt 379. Intent on creating his own “look” for his ride, Austin said he replaced the original front grill and other parts. Yet for some reason he couldn’t bear to part with the original grill.
“I wanted to save it for whatever reason, so I put it in my dad’s garage,” he explained. “But after moving it around for cleaning and getting at stuff, my dad told me you got to either get rid of it or do something with it. So I decided to put it together and make it into my headboard for my bed.”
First he sanded the grill surround by hand – using 100 grit and then 2,000 grit sand paper – then buffed it out using brown and green rouge bars, finishing out the buffing by hand. To get “the look” of having rivets on the grill, Austin bought 80 stainless half-inch carriage bolts and nuts and attached them to the grill.
“To get a complete look, I put double ‘J’ headlight bars on and single round headlights with the LED [light emitting diode] marker lights,” Austin added. “My best friend Dave, who is an electrical engineer, helped me design an electrical circuit with a transformer to covert the electrical current to make the headlights and LED marker lights work.”
He said they then hooked up the lights to two toggle switches, with one turning on the marker lights and the other activating the headlights that now serve as reading lamps.
“Since the headlight buckets stick past the grill in back, I added two inches of wood to make it look like its coming through the wall – and I have it far enough from the wall so as not interfere with the headlight buckets,” Austin noted. “I also extended the wood down to the ground so it’s free standing since its almost 80 pounds all together.”
The whole headboard itself is six-foot tall and is the perfect width for a full-size bed, he said. “So I guarantee I have the only true real Peterbilt headboard, especially with real working full-size headlights!” he crowed.
Pretty awesome work, if you ask me.