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CTF Conversions takes hobby on the road
Rod and George Brewe, known as the “Brewe Crew” in racing circles, stand by an early stage of what will become a CTF “toter” vehicle designed to haul race cars and crews to racing venues.
Rod and George Brewe, known as the “Brewe Crew” in racing circles, stand by an early stage of what will become a CTF “toter” vehicle designed to haul race cars and crews to racing venues.
November 22nd 2008 - EDITOR'S NOTE! After a fire, CTF is no longer in business. Last I heard, Rod was still involved in racing, now residing in SE Wisconsin.-BRONCO

by Jim Gorecki

It’s no stretch at all to say that people who are into stock car racing love their sport. In fact, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say that many of them live their sport.

And when you have a large number of people that immersed in a recreational activity, it creates some unique business opportunities for those who know how to meet the needs of the racing community.
How about a vehicle that the racing team can use to get from one track to the next, providing team members with comfortable — even fancy — living facilities with plenty of entertainment opportunities? Oh, and the vehicle should be able to haul the race car, too.

It’s called a “toter,” and a Dunn County firm will custom build one for a racing team.

CTF Conversions is hidden away in Rusk, a tiny Dunn County village bordered by an interstate highway, a grain elevator, fertilizer business and a handful of farms.

Brothers and business partners Rod and George Brewe, known as “The Brewe Crew” in local racing circuits, have found a home for their manufacturing business in buildings once occupied by Dunn Energy Cooperative.

What is a toter?

A CTF toter is a customized conversion on a late model truck chassis, with hauling or towing capabilities, along with living quarters similar to any luxury RV coach seen on the road. Outfitted with whatever amenities the customer desires, most have fine wood cabinetry, a full bath, kitchen, and sleeping quarters.

A completed conversion could include A/C units, furnace, fresh water storage, full size bathroom with shower, private bedroom, granite tiled floors and countertops, gas range, water heaters, oak cabinets, sofa beds, above-cab sleeping quarters, microwave, full size refrigerator/freezer, sink, range, two flat screen TVs, an entertainment center with VCR, DVD and CD players, a diesel generator, shore power hookup, fluorescent lights and more.

It really is a home on wheels, with the hobby in tow.

Fox Valley transplant

CTF Conversions was founded in 1998 by Rod Brewe, a young stock car driver looking to support himself and finance his fledgling race team. Rod turned to what he knew best, fabricating race car chassis. Working out of his home in Kimberly in the Fox River Valley, Rod began manufacturing oval track race cars out of his home garage for competitors throughout the Midwest.

In 2001, CTF moved out of that residential garage and into an industrial shop. As Rod’s race team, comprised of brothers Jim and George Brewe, gained more and more notoriety on the race tracks of the Midwest, they felt a growing need to procure a toter to haul the race team, racecar, tools, tires, and living quarters for the long weekends. Jim and George Brewe were both residing with their families in Menomonie, while Rod was a one-man show at the CTF headquarters in the Fox Valley.

“After pricing out a toter, we realized we had the equipment, and the talent on the race team, to build our own for a cost that was much more financially sound than purchasing one,” said George from his office at Westconsin Credit Union in Menomonie, where he is the office manager.

“The only obstacle holding us back was distance. We needed to relocate CTF and Rod to Menomonie. In July of 2004, we did just that, and purchased the building we are currently in.”

Once the CTF team was literally under one roof, it realized that the toter industry is very selective, and not many companies were customizing. That is where the word “conversion” fits the CTF business name.

“People we knew in racing circles started to contact us about converting or updating the standard toter they had purchased, and building one that was customized from the ground up was a natural progression for the business,” said George.

With the limited availability of customized toters around the country, CTF Conversions has become a top name in customizing toters. A user-friendliest aspect of one of their toters is that the driver does not need a commercial driver’s license. These rigs come packaged with “auto shift” or “smart transmissions,” said George,

“The customer does not need experience in driving a big rig with a standard transmission,” said George. “The setup is made to get in and drive. That is also a great selling point.”

These units are sold and licensed as a private motor coach.

“With changing to the customized motor coaches, we have opened up our client base, too. Instead of just focusing on the racing market, CTF now has clients that haul collector cars, show horses, boats, insurance companies’ disaster relief offices, and even a monster truck. The possibilities are unlimited,” George said.

Rod, who still finds time to race, runs a WISSOTA sanctioned Street Stock at the Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie. So how does he build these rigs by himself?

He grinned while leaning on the side of his silver number 53 racer.

“Well, we do have some great suppliers CTF has hooked up with,” he said, after a recent Friday night racing event. “Some of the components can be prefabricated for us, so installation goes much faster than building from scratch. Some of our suppliers are from the Chippewa Valley. Building those local ties is very important to CTF.

“CTF also subcontracts out some work to local artisans. Case in point, our custom cabinetry and millwork is done by Chad Amundson of Menomonie. His cabinetry is absolutely beautiful, and our customers really appreciate that. His work really helps to set us apart from the competition.

“My brothers are always involved in one way or another. There is no way we could run this business if it wasn’t for them. We all work together to make the business work.”

As with many startup companies, CTF has experienced growing pains. According to George, the most challenging aspect of getting CTF Conversions off the ground was, “getting suppliers to trust you.”

“You just can’t walk in there telling them, ‘Hey, I’ve got this great product that is really going to sell. Can I have a large line of credit?’ It really takes a solid business plan, and getting local and regional people involved as customers.“

CTF does have an established supplier network, with companies from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Indiana.

The main advantage that CTF has over other companies, says George, is that most of the competition makes standardized models. CTF can make a one-of-a-kind unit, keeping the customer in mind.

“Each toter is built and tested as if it were our own, before it ever goes down the road,” George said.

The current business climate has been very positive for CTF Conversions, with six customized units completed in 2004 and six also in 2005.

“We have run some toters to trade shows in Green Bay and Rockford, and of course, taken them to race tracks for display. I have on occasion run an ad in a national publication that targets just the customers we want,” said George. “We do have a website, too, (www. brewecrew.net) and that helps us out when people use a search engine to find customized toters.”

CTF offers two different styles of toters, a TAG Style, and a FIFTH Wheel Style. The TAG style has more living quarters and usually more amenities, and will pull a trailer. The FIFTH Wheel style also pulls a trailer, only it has shorter living quarters, and is usually able to handle a higher towing weight.

Besides those main styles, George said, “If a customer brings in an idea that is completely different, or small sketches made on a napkin, we can work with them to create exactly what their vision is.“

To date, CTF Conver-sions is on pace for its best year yet. Asked if they have plans for future expansion, George replied, “At this point, no immediate build up. We are concentrating on building our client base. If there is a time and a place to grow, the market will dictate that. We’ll know if that time comes.”

Jim Gorecki is a freelance writer from Menomonie. Contact the Chippewa Valley Business Report at (715) 723-5515 or through www.chippewavalleybusinessreport.com.