Robert Collett was a Construction Tech (Shop) Class teacher Lamar High School, but he will likely become best known for driving a giant red Radio Flyer wagon on public roadways, much to the delight of everyone who sees it!
“We do a lot of projects together and I had (the students) help me, teaching them to weld and how to cut wood, and all that type of stuff on my Model A, and we got bored, so I said let’s do another project,” Collett said. “The kids were Googling stuff and one kid came up with this, and I thought it was awesome!”
A retired engineer in Alaska had already built one, so they got his number and called him. After receiving advice and information, Collett bought a Ford Ranger, and they worked on it at his house (because that’s where there was enough room for the big project). Unfortunately, he retired before the project could be completed. Using it as a teaching tool, Collett continued to work on it as he taught students to use various tools. His son is a welder and did quite a bit of work on it as well, Collett said.
The unusual vehicle has been made street legal, having passed inspection, and has been operating on public roadways for just a couple of weeks, as of Saturday. Collett knew the vehicle would get some attention, but even he was unprepared for just how thrilled people are to see it on the street.
“I can’t believe it,” Collett said. “I pull up to a stoplight, and everybody gets out to take pictures! The other night, we had over 20 kids come up, and I let them get in the back.”
“It brings smiles to people’s faces,” he said. “The look, and then they slow down, and then their cameras come out.”
The front seat area of the interior is still the original Ford Ranger, with all the safety equipment and comfort that provides, but from the outside, it looks like anything but an SUV. He’s had it on the road about five times now, he said, and estimates about five dozen kids have been in the back of it posing for photos. He said if it makes their day a little brighter, “that’s what it’s all about.”
Karen Collett, his wife, said she had learned never to doubt her husband, or what he says he’s going to build. She hadn’t expected it to be finished by the Fourth of July, but it was.
“It’s great! He’s enjoying, and the kids love it, and we’re getting to meet a lot of nice people everywhere we go,” Karen Collett said.
Robert Collett said he never had a Radio Flyer as a child, but he has one now!