As you may recall in last month's issue I showed the home brewed crane attachment I'd made to help me do some heavy lifting around the shop without calling in reinforcements. It actually works rather well, but it does have its limitations. Primarily the fact that it's hard to use under lowered vehicles due to the castered legs that require a good 7 inches of clearance between the ground and the framerails. In that story I also alluded to an option that I thought was as useful as what I'd built myself and more than likely quite a bit safer to use.

What I'm talking about is a telescoping gantry crane I'd spied on a recent visit to one of my all-time favorite haunts-Harbor Freight Tools. For those who have never been, Harbor Freight is best described as a Disneyland for gearheads. These folks offer tools and equipment of nearly every description, from handtools to power tools, and casters to cranes-all for extremely reasonable prices to say the least. And though the vast majority of their wares are inexpensive off-shore items, the quality is for the most part excellent, and as I said, the prices are phenomenal. In fact, it'd be pretty accurate if I said that a large portion of my tool collection has come from Harbor Freight-and have served me well for years.

The reasons I opted to go for the gantry crane shown here are many, but the fact that it offers a much more stable lifting platform than the modified cherry picker was foremost in mind when I chose it. Another plus, is the fact that the unit is telescopic-in other words the I-beam height is adjustable from 8 feet 3 inches to 12 feet 8 inches with seven increments between its minimum and maximum height. This adjustable capability ensures that the crane can be utilized in varying situations-from pulling an engine to removing and re-installing truck cabs and beds. Plus, it's lifesaver when it comes to single-handedly loading or unloading heavy objects into or out of my pickup bed without help from others.

The fact that the gantry crane allows me to accomplish things on my own and without outside help makes it well worth the price (MSRP $649), and when used with an optional push trolley, the crane is one of the best investments a lone hobbyist or fabricator can make. So take a look at the Harbor Freight Telescoping Gantry Crane (PN 41188-7VGA) I recently brought home, and see how easy it goes together. And while you're at it, check out my local Harbor Freight Tool outlet (in Riverside, California), if you've never been to one you'll be impressed to say the least. And by the way, you can find your nearest Harbor Freight (they have stores nationwide) by logging onto the company's website at www.harborfreight.com, or you can order your goodies directly from the site if there's not a store within driving distance of your home or shop. Either way, dollar for dollar Harbor Freight ranks as one of the best sources I've found for common and not so common tools, equipment, and supplies for hands-on classic truckers like us.