Torklift International introduces aluminum Talon Camper tie downs. Less weight, rust free, but can the aluminum Talon handle the double and triple-slide big rigs? Torklift International says they’re stronger than steel.
The concept of taking a successful product and manufacturing it using new materials is nothing new. Even within the truck camper marketplace, we’ve seen wood frames move towards aluminum and composites. We’ve seen hung-wall construction move towards pinch roll lamination. We’ve even seen molded fiberglass replace TPO roofs and filon front noses.
Of course all of these changes come at a cost, and some of the advantages of the old material are lost as the strengths of the new material are embraced. In camper frames, aluminum offers superior strength to wood, but aluminum sweats and lacks wood’s natural insulation qualities. Aluminum is also more expensive than wood and, although recyclable, it’s not renewable. Then again, aluminum framing is what allows double and triple-slide truck campers to exist, and it doesn’t rot.
We get folks asking us why the industry doesn’t build carbon fiber truck campers with composite frames. The answer is simple; cost. While the industry certainly could build carbon fiber and composite truck campers, they would be $100,000, or more. Yes, they would be lighter and stronger than anything on the market, but would you buy a $100,000 truck camper? Not many people would.
One area we haven’t seen a lot of material advances is in truck camper tie-downs. They’ve been steel, steel, and more steel for decades. That’s about to change with Torklift International’s introduction of the Talon aluminum alloy tie-down system.
Upon hearing of the aluminum Talon tie-down system, a few questions immediately raced through our minds. How can it be strong enough? Does it have the same capacity as steel tie-downs? And, what are the advantages of aluminum tie-downs? Is it worth it?
To answer these questions and more, we talked to Jack Kay, President of Torklift International, Jay Taylor, Torklift’s General Manager, and Randy Fisher, Torklift International’s National Sales Manager.
TCM: Ford announced an aluminum 2015 Ford F-150 this past January. This introduction has sparked a fierce debate about the strength and durability of aluminum versus steel. What is Torklift’s position on this material debate?
Jay: We were getting ready to announce our all-new Torklift International Talon aluminum tie-down system and Ford grabs the spotlight with their aluminum F150. Obviously they were trying to scoop us.
Jack: In all seriousness, most people are probably not aware that critical high stress steering and front suspension components in cars and trucks have been made with aluminum for years. With Ford’s announcement, the public is beginning to realize that the technology of aluminum alloys go well beyond the pop can with automotive, aircraft, military and space craft applications being commonplace.
Jay: We have been using different alloys now for several years as we design, develop, and manufacture our bumper line. In addition to its remarkable strength, it greatly reduces weight.
TCM: The weight savings of aluminum, compared to steel, is obvious. Is that the reason Torklift International developed an aluminum tie-down system?
Jack: We actually started by challenging our engineering department to create a super high-performance tie-down system. By utilizing aluminum, we were able to develop a tie-down that is ultra light weight, corrosion resistant, and able to outperform everything currently available in the marketplace. The Talon tie-down line is nothing new for our engineers at Torklift International as the first aluminum tie-down design and testing began more than two years ago.
Jay: One of the biggest challenges to steel products is corrosion and rust. Aluminum directly addresses this challenge and improves durability, corrosion resistance, and weight.
TCM: Are you telling us that an aluminum tie-down can be stronger than a steel tie-down?
Jay: Based on how it’s designed and the type of aluminum used, aluminum products can be designed to be a lot stronger than steel. The military commonly uses different alloys for different applications. We are using a military grade 6,000-series aluminum alloy.
Above: Video of the Torklift International’s Talon camper tie downs
TCM: Are the Talon camper tie downs designed the same as the traditional steel tie downs?
Jay: All of the Talon camper tie downs are designed differently. They feature different reinforcements, gussets in the support structure, and inserts.
We have many different tie-down designs to accommodate different years, makes, and models of trucks. For some trucks, the Talon tie-downs are similar in design compared to their steel counterparts. For others, the Talon is a completely new design. It depends on the vehicle and the specific load limits.
Jack: We use computer models, and then physical models. The computer is not always 100% correct, and there are unforeseen issues that need to be addressed in the real world with physical prototypes. We also put production ready prototypes through hydraulic load tests with special strain gauges until we destroy the part. Lastly, we have a specially designed machine that actually cycles the load on a tie down to a maximum load to simulate thousands of miles of real life severe use. That way we know where the failure points are and make design adjustments accordingly.
TCM: Are the Talon aluminum alloy tie-downs as structurally strong as Torklift International’s steel tie-down system?
Jack: They’re not as strong as steel, they’re stronger. Let me be clear, the Torklift International Talon tie-downs are stronger than our steel tie-downs.
TCM: That’s a bold statement.
Jack: One of the design requirements of building the Talon was that it had to be stronger than our steel tie-downs which are already more than adequate. The Talon exceeds the steel tie-downs in every area; corrosion, weight, and strength.
Jay: Forty years ago, airplanes were made of steel and wood. Today, that has all changed to aluminum and composites. As a result, airplanes are safer, lighter, more aerodynamic, more fuel efficient, and easier to construct. Similarly, we feel the Talon will do for the truck camper industry what the radial tire did for the tire industry.
Jack: If I was going to outfit a one ton dually with a triple-slide truck camper, my first choice for a tie-down system would be the Talon. It’s the strongest and best tie-down system on the marketplace.
TCM: So the Talon system is recommended for 5,000 to 6,000 pound double and triple-slide truck campers with rail height basements?
TCM: If the aluminum Talon tie-down system is superior, why not discontinue the steel tie-downs and just offer the aluminum Talons?
Jay: For the same reason that Ford offers both the Mustang GT and the Mustang Shelby GT500. Both of those Mustangs offer great performance, but the Shelby GT500 offers super car performance. Not everybody wants or needs a super car, so Ford makes it an option.
The Talon is 30% lighter, but it’s also 30% more expensive. Aluminum is a more expensive material and it’s a more extensive process to produce the Talon in our plant.
Jack: The Talon comes with our Legendary Lifetime Warranty. Because we plan on being around twenty years and beyond, we have to be confident in the capability of our products. Our lifetime warranty is assurance to our customers that whatever material we build with, they can bank on the fact that we performed our research and development.
Above: The Torklift International Talon tie-down system installed on a truck
TCM: What year, make, and model of trucks has the Talon tie-down system been developed for?
Jay: Right now we have about 140 different Talon systems on order. We are currently testing 2014 and 2015 model trucks with Talon tie-downs. When we get a new truck in-house, we take measurements for both the Talon aluminum system and the steel system. There’s a tie-down fit guide on our website. It gets updated daily with new fits.
Above: The yellow Talons above are for demonstration purposes only
TCM: Are the Talon camper tie downs a no drill installation on all trucks that they’re designed for?
Jack: The Talon is a 100% no drill application. Steel or aluminum, with every application on 2000 and newer trucks, Torklift International tie-downs are no drill installations. Even with our steel tie-downs 99% of trucks are no drill. Only some of the earlier designs for pre-2000 trucks require drilling. Every tie-down design made since the year 2000 is no-drill with the exception of our universal fit rear tie-downs for aftermarket trailer hitch applications.
Above: The original steel tie-down and the aluminum Talon camper tie downs side-by-side
TCM: What does the Talon tie-down system weigh?
Jack: The Ford F-series is the most popular truck for our tie-down systems. For the Ford F-series, the aluminum Talon is about 50% lighter than the steel tie-downs. It’s a significant weight savings for the Ford F-series trucks.
Jay: Overall, the Talon is 30% to 50% less weight depending on the application. The weight difference varies based on the application. At shows and meeting with dealers, everyone wants to touch and hold the Talon. When you hold it in your hand, you can feel how much lighter it is. It’s also easier to maneuver under a truck for the install. We have been flooded with Talon orders since beginning of show season.
TCM: Where did name Talon come from?
Randy: The Eagle represents freedom and American strength. We are an American factory. Is there any thing stronger than the image of the talon on an Eagle? We think Talon is the perfect name for this new product.
TCM: What is the MSRP for the Talon?
Jay: The MSRP for a set of front Talons is $386 and the MSRP for a set of rear Talons is $318, not including the associated shipping, handling, and local taxes.
Above: The Torklift International tie-down finishing kit is included with the Talon
TCM: Why does the Talon system come with the Torklift tie-down finishing kit?
Jay: You’re buying the top of the line with the Talon, so the accessory options are included. It gives you an extra value and enhances the Talon.
Above: The Talon during the welding process at Torklift International
TCM: Being made from aluminum, is the Talon system manufactured by a different team using a different process compared to the steel system?
Jay: No, the Talon system is made by same folks on our production team. To accommodate aluminum, we have different welders and different jigs down the line.
Jack: Working with both steel and aluminum gives our team the opportunity for cross training. It’s great to train our employees in techniques for different materials and alloys. The techniques for working with steel and aluminum are different, but there’s enough similarity that our experienced team can be trained and transferred over.
Jay: Our aluminum GlowStep and bumper lines are welded and manufactured in-house. Once a tech has developed a skill set, they can step-up easier in our organization.
TCM: Is there anything you would like to add about the Torklift International Talon system?
Jack: I want to restate for your readers that our Legendary Lifetime Warranty, whether for our steel or aluminum tie-downs, includes the truck frame and the camper anchor points for the length of the manufacturer’s warranty when used with Torklift International spring loaded turnbuckles.
Randy: I’ve been out on the road talking with our distributors and customers. There is a lot of excitement about the Talon. We have such a strong reputation in the industry, especially with our trusted tie-down system.
I’d like to mention that, if the customer pays freight, we will re-powder coat the Talons as long as the original customers own them. If there is any corrosion, which there won’t be, we will refinish their Talons for free with freight prepaid. That’s an additional warranty for the Talons, rust-free corrosion protection for life. You will not find that with any other tie-down manufacturer.
For more information on Torklift International, visit their website at www.torklift.com.