Freeway Horse Floats Company Information
Alan and Lyn Crabbe began their Freeway float construction business from the grass roots level - but 23 years later, that initial family involvement with equestrian sport has led to a stand-alone business that is both flourishing and enjoyable.
Alan tells us that in about 1978, a so-called "good friend" introduced their daughter to the exciting world of ponies. The Crabbes didn't actively encourage this early interest but neither did they discourage it. Like so many parents, they thought that if they ignored it, it should in theory, go away.
However, after two years of hard work, their daughter's devotion continued unabated, and the Crabbes were spending an increasing amount of time and money either hiring or borrowing floats, or cadging a lift for the four-legged member of the family.
One day after Alan had been bossed around and finally managed to get some time alone, he set to thinking that he could build one of these units for himself.
Starting from the ground up, and including the roof mould which is still in use today, he built one float for the family and another one to sell, thinking that one could help pay for the other. Initially named “Palimino” because of the gold and cream colouring (there are still about four of the original floats in use today) then a decision was subsequently made to rename the company to Freeway and changed the colour to white, because the Crabbes felt that their white cars had always been cooler and less likely to show the dirt.
Because Alan was Managing Director of an aluminium company, his spare time was limited and therefore he only built if asked for a float, never advertising his work.
By now, however, their daughter was wanting to travel to every event imaginable within a 200 kilometre radius and Alan (who thinks drinking from a can is roughing it) decided it was a complete waste of money paying for a motel to put his head down for an all too short rest before he was being bullied along to help feed, groom and plait up in the morning. This led to the brainwave of building a sleeper unit with 2 bunks, a kitchen table, two chairs, cupboards around the top, a sink bench, cooker, water and pump, and an awning. All this, and the ever present mountain of horse gear was towed by a 4.1 Falcon with ease.
After Alan bought an orchard (for a horse paddock of course), he moved out of the aluminium joinery business and was able to diversify alongside the orchard. He began to advertise, which led to more business and more staff and also gave the Crabbes the opportunity to offer different types of horse floats, built to the client's requirements. These have included front off-loaders, side off-loaders, singles, angle-loading in both double and trebles, dog trailers, and even more recently the addition of minitaure and specialist trailers.
The orchard is now sold and the business has moved to a factory at 17 Niven Street, Onekawa, Napier, where Alan can fully concentrate on satisfying his clients' wishes.
Since the early days, the window design has been the only radical change to the basic float construction, although other adjustments have included the introduction of heavy duty galvanised steel sides (internal and external) rather than ply, rubber matting glued to the steel floor and a special paint coat is applied as a feature rather than an extra. One feature which the Crabbes never share is the rate of fuel cost saving because of the aerodynamics – in some cases, they say this has been halved.
In his current range of floats, the ‘easi-loader and barn door' system is one Alan would like to promote more. These have been designed for the difficult to handle, load or unload horse or pony but existing easi-load and barn doors owners say they would never go back to the conventional ramp loading system, and the Crabbes have been amazed by the positive response.
Alan and Lyn say their motto has always been “look after our customers as they are our best advertising.”
39 Johnston Way Whakatu, Hastings, New Zealand
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