A Colorado company is transporting plastic's potential to outdoor recreation enthusiasts, marketing a thermoplastic trailer designed to carry bicycles and camping gear behind small and midsize vehicles. Let's Go Aero Co. of Colorado Springs launched sales of its Sport Performance Trailer in late 1998, made with two Bayer Corp. Plastics Division products, Lustran ABS 752 resin and Centrex polymer.
The trailer, called "Herman" in honor of the company's turtle logo and its rounded-shell exterior, represents a new concept for Bayer's plastics, said Kit Newton, spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based division.
"We tried using polyethylene, but that didn't work," said Sara Williams, vice president for operations for Let's Go Aero. "We had some warping problems with heat. Fiberglass was too heavy and too expensive. This [ABS and polymer combination] was perfect.
"We are ahead of the curve now in experimenting with the uses of this kind of material."
Medallion Plastics of Elkhart, Ind., is producing the thermoformed trailers, using a thermoplastic sheet coextruded by Spartech Inc. of Clayton, Mo.
The trailer weighs in at 235 pounds, can withstand a variety of weather conditions and retails for about $2,000.
The thermoplastic shell also can be professionally painted to match the vehicle towing it.
"People often get shaken down at the gas station," Williams said in a Feb. 22 telephone interview. "People want to know what it is, where they got it."
Williams' husband, Marty Williams, first came up with the concept in 1990 when the couple were trying to find room for themselves, three children and vacation gear in their Volkswagen Rabbit, without buying a larger vehicle.
By 1997, Marty Williams had fashioned a prototype trailer from an 850-gallon elliptical rotationally molded water storage tank. The couple hooked up with engineer Matt Drabczyk to create the SPT.
The trailer bowed at a 1998 bicycle trade show in Las Vegas and will appear as a support vehicle at more than 60 mountain bike competitions around the United States as part of a sponsorship deal with a professional cycling team backed by Volkswagen AG and Trek Bicycle Corp.
Let's Go Aero sold 70 trailers on its own, but recently hooked up with auto dealerships for a major sales push, Sara Williams said.
The trailers are on auto dealers' lots in Colorado now, with Let's Go seeking out sales locations throughout the United States this year.
"It's just driving traffic to our stores because of the curiosity," said Matt Tynan, whose family operates two dealerships in Aurora, Colo., and one in Fort Collins, Colo., selling Volkswagen, Nissan, Isuzu, Kia and Saab vehicles.
The business is offering the trailer in package deals with car purchases, allowing the dealership to steer some potential sport utility vehicle buyers to smaller vehicles. Tynan noted, however, that many sales also are going to families who already own minivans or SUVs, but want extra, lightweight storage space.
"They just want to be able to take it all," he said.