4-Star Trailers Featured in 'Modern Metals' Magazine
Finishing Rough Stock
By Corinna Petry
Builder of deluxe horse trailers teams up with producer and service center to get flawlessly finished clean sheet.
May 2017 - Professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls live on the road for a portion of the year, and they want to live in style and provide their animals with comfortable shelter, too. On the rodeo circuit, those who win the big prizes become brands and they take pride in their equipment and gear.
4-Star Trailers, Inc. founded in Oklahoma City in 1984, has become a well-known brand among rodeo people, folks who compete and show horses, and livestock owners. The trailers are long-lasting: Fans write to the company to brag about the mileage they've put on during 25 and even 30 years of driving the same trailer.
'My wife and I are on the road constantly rodeoing. We love this trailer," one customer stated. "It is going to be able to withstand our lifestyle."
Champagne Metals has the widest cut-to-length equipment for aluminum coils, allowing it to trim for mills, service centers and end customers like 4-Star Trailers, Inc.
Another wrote in, "Our 1987 3-Horse Mid-Tack 4-Star Trailer looks pretty good. I am sure no other brand would hold up as nicely. It will be the only brand trailer for my horses and family."
Two more customers-one who hauls cattle, another who shows Belgian draft horses (which weigh 2000 pounds)-praised how 'solidly built' the trailer are.
4-Star Trailers General Manager, Forrest Shifflitt, who has been with the company since 1995, says, "We are custom manufacturers; every trailer built is different from the next." Although there are standard sizes, from two-horse trailers measuring 7 by 14 feet up to nine-horse trailers measuring 8 by 52 feet, each model presents different criteria for the materials they consume, and criteria multiply with each owner.
“Our trailers are high end,” Shifflett says. “We build custom trailers with prices starting at $20,000 and going up to $400,000.” The fanciest models “are for million-dollar horses. Some rodeo riders will win $500,000 to $1 million a year in prize money. And they live in our trailers while on the road competing, so the interiors are like a deluxe motor home.”
So, how do you get the best quality aluminum sheet, and stock every different size you might need for a custom trailer? You don’t. That’s where Champagne Metals comes in. The Glenpool, Oklahoma-based aluminum processor and service center inventories “cut sizes on their floor” just for 4-Star Trailers, and makes deliveries twice a week. “That’s a big plus,” says Shifflett.
4 Star Trailers previously purchased aluminum coil directly from mills but found it necessary to perform extensive work on it to get the desired trim size and finishes. What the company needed was a service center that could quickly deliver sufficient quantities of beautifully finished aluminum sheet in custom sizes. Champagne Metals brought Arconic (formerly Alcoa) into 4 Star Trailer’s supply chain and the two work together to become a seamless source for 4 Star Trailers. 4 Star, in turn, raised the standard on trailers by specifying an aluminum sheet that possesses a high-quality, durable finish that withstands all weather conditions.
President and CEO Mike Champagne explains that his company has partnered with Arconic, Constellium and other North American aluminum producers because he has the lines necessary for cutting to length, trimming and enhancing mill coils.
“We have the widest equipment, the 100-inch-wide and the 111-inch-wide cut-to-length lines, and soon, we will have an 84-inch-wide line,” Champagne says. “In the past, rolling mills couldn’t make coil that wide because they couldn’t trim it internally. We can finish the product. We found a way for the mills to produce more and wider products than they were capable of doing in the past, and more efficiently.”
Consuming markets are ready for wide sheet. To fabricate the front and rear ends of a 7-foot-wide trailer, for example, that’s a minimum sheet size of 84 inches.
According to Shifflett, 4 Star Trailers continues to perform select mill finish and paint processes in house, but “trying to find a mill-finished sheet that’s really clean was really difficult. Fortunately, Arconic and Champagne Metals provide a clean mill finish.”
His company’s R&D department, headed by Butch Patchell, is “always trying to find the next best thing. People using our trailers want to maintain a clean look and that is hard to do on the road,” says Shifflett. “If a trailer is 30 years old, the [untreated] mill finish will tarnish. Ours will still have the new look.”
Quality comes first
“It is hard to get mill-direct finished aluminum that meets our quality requirements. Our quality control is second to none,” Shifflett asserts. “We go over the material with flashlights. If we see any imperfection, we rip it out and replace it. We think this sheet finished by Champagne Metals is awesome. We just released new trailers with the material and several dealers bought them and put them on their lots. It has generated a lot of interest.”
The volumes of aluminum provided by Arconic and Champagne Metals to 4 Star Trailers is not negligible. “We typically build over 1,000 trailers a year,” Shifflett notes.
Shifflett values the relationships with both partners, as does Jim Karr, Arconic’s business development manager for Commercial Transportation, Marine and Consumer Electronics in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “My relationship with Champagne Metals began 10 years ago, when Mike helped me with a customer request. A few years later, he contacted me about working together on a 4 Star Trailers product. 4 Star wanted an aluminum product that was extremely durable, looked good, and its appearance wasn’t affected by weather,” says Karr. “Our Lancaster plant has years of experience manufacturing custom-tailored coated and painted aluminum products, so we have the knowledge and proven processes to tackle this project,” he continues.
Working with Champagne Metals, “we developed a solution that satisfied our customer.” Karr and Champagne frequently exchange ideas about how to grow their mutual business in the commercial transportation market. “Mike keeps me informed, and tailors his capabilities so we’re able to do more and more business together.”
4-Star Trailers, Inc.