2004 was Wells Cargo's 50th Anniversary of building
the best trailers in the industry. Here's Don Randall (left)
taking delivery of the landmark trailer #100,000
from Jeff Wells (center), President of Wells Cargo,
and Tom Holloway (right), sales rep for Wells Cargo.
In the early 50's, Don Randall enlisted in the US Army. The Korean war was underway, but he was never sent to Korea. This was still a time in US history that was not far from the end of World War II. East Germany was still an issue. Don was sent off to Germany to perform a job for the US Government because of his experience with film processing. He had worked for a photo shop in Lansing that had many accounts around Michigan for developing film. Don would travel to these accounts to pick up undeveloped film and drop off the photos and film after they were processed. Back at the shop, he would work during the night developing the film. Anyway, in Germany while working for the US Army, Don had his first experience with an enclosed trailer. This was a trailer owned by the US Army. Inside the trailer, Don built the very first ever mobile photo lab for the US Goverment. Spy planes would fly over Germany taking photos and when finished, they would fly near where the trailer was set up and drop a bag containing the film. Don would take the film inside the trailer and develop it on the spot. The photographs would then be made available to those in charge very quickly while being able to maintain secrecy.
After spending two years with the Army, Don Randall started a business selling wholesale plumbing supplies. His uncle owned a plumbing supply warehouse about 50 miles away in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Once a week, Don would make the trip to Grand Rapids to load up his truck. Then over the next couple of days, he would deliver the products to those who ordered them. He catered to many plumbers, building contracters, and hardware stores in Lansing and the surrounding area. He owned a small, by today's standards, semi-tractor and trailer to transport the plumbing supplies from Grand Rapids to Lansing. For most of his local deliveries, he would use his new '55 GMC pickup.
At the time, Wells Cargo was a very new company. Don learned about Wells Cargo trailers and realized he could sell the semi rig and buy a Wells Cargo trailer to pull behind the pickup. Now, one truck and trailer setup could serve a dual purpose. And so began his love for Wells Cargo trailers.
In 1962, Don Randall wanted to buy a new camper to carry in the bed of his pickup for going on family trips. He learned that if he bought three of them, he could get a big discount which would allow him to resell the other two and make a profit. He could sell the campers without a dealer license because they didn't have their own wheels, but to be able to also sell travel trailers he needed a license. So, in 1963, he applied for a dealer license with the State of Michigan and became a dealer selling new campers and travel trailers as well as used cars. The used car business became very successful in the sixties and so he began phasing out of the wholesale plumbing supply business. While selling used cars became a big passion, selling campers and travel trailers was not so enjoyable. It was very seasonal and a constant chore to keep the interiors clean from all the "lookers" with dirty shoes and kids romping around. He wanted to drop the RV business and just sell used cars, but enjoyed the fact that he had a dealer license that allowed him to sell "new" vehicles. If he broke his ties with the camper/trailer manufacturer he would also have to downgrade his dealer license to used vehicles only. He wanted to keep his license the way it was, so he needed to sell something new.
Looking at his Wells Cargo trailer, he realized something. With some long ramps, he could drive one of his antique cars into the trailer. Don had started collecting antique cars in the late 50's and belonged to some of the car clubs and got to know many people who enjoyed the same passion for old cars. There were many makeshift "open" trailers in use. The cars were always in the weather and always had the wind beating on them. Some of these cars were transported at much higher speeds than they could go by themselves. This was rough on the fragile tops and other parts of the cars. Not to mention it was a crime to transport a car in bad winter weather. Don realized there was a big market for an enclosed trailer that could be pulled behind a pickup truck or full-size car. Many new cars at the time were fully capable of handling a trailer.
Don contacted Wells Cargo and worked a deal to buy trailers at a wholesale price. He ran an ad in the Hemmings Motor News and calls started coming in. He began selling trailers to the antique car collectors and was shipping trailers all over the country. In 1966, Don Randall became Wells Cargo's first dealer and was instrumental in introducing Wells Cargo trailers to auto enthusiasts all over. Don travelled to many car shows and swap meets promoting Wells Cargo trailers.
And so began a relationship between Don Randall and Wells Cargo, something that Don always took immense pride in and always cherished to his final days.
"It's not always easy for a son to follow in his father's footsteps. Taking over a long-running business can be a real challenge. It helps that, as a young kid, I made many of those trips to Grand Rapids with my Dad, helping to load and unload plumbing supplies in and out of his Wells Cargo trailer. I grew up around these trailers and have the same passion for them. I bought one for myself in 1986, a 32-footer to carry my race cars in. I still have it and it is still a good trailer, a testament to the durability of a Wells Cargo trailer and the long-lasting pride you can have with one."