Pete Shanley has been collecting antique cars all of his life. “I’ve got a bit of a collection,” he tells us. “Most of the stuff is older, from the 1920s and 30s, but there’s also some new stuff. Most people are into [collecting] the same type of cars, but I’m more into things that are a bit different.”
Pete has had a lot of various businesses over the years but has been primarily building custom horse barns for about a decade. His signature style includes a “nice rustic flair” and he doesn’t “use any modern materials.”
About a year ago, Pete’s daughter Emily sent him a link to this mid-1950s style van that had taps coming out of the side and suggested he create something similar – so he did. Using a 1925 Model-T roadster pickup, he outfitted a cold box for the bed of it. Together, Pete and Emily now rent out this vehicle – and others! – for use at local private events.
The first one he built was a learning experience. The vehicle was basically built out and outfitted with space for kegs and ice, but it’s so hot in Virginia that it proved to be too much maintenance to cool the kegs. So he wanted to build a refrigerated one next. Pete needed to find a way to do that in a way that was economical, since truck boxes “weren’t going to work,” according to Pete, because they were extremely cost prohibitive.
“I built a basic refrigerator that sits in the back of the truck – using a CoolBot – so [the cold box] can actually come in and out of the truck with very little effort (slide-in style). That way it’s not committed to the truck for its life. I built the cold box with the A/C unit and then did the aesthetics around it to match the appropriate vintage of the truck,” explains Pete.
The cold box in Pete’s Model-T truck gets down to “38 degrees on an 80 degree day.”
“It’s doing really well,” he says. “The box is built out of 3-inch insulated panels and sealed up tight, with lighting both inside and outside. The Model-T has eight taps in it, which mostly hold small kegs of wine. It’s quite roomy in there. The box is about 3.5×5 feet. Everything is mini.”
While the Model-T is driveable, they tow it to events because “it’s very slow,” according to Pete. Once they get the Model-T placed at said event, they plug it in on-site to run power. So far, they’ve had nothing but great experiences keeping their booze chilled at these events, which Pete attributes to proper insulation and sealing of the cold box. He also has near future plans to try an inverter; he doesn’t like the noise of a generator.
Since Pete is “always buying and selling [cars],” he is now able to offer his services making custom conversions for people from start to finish on vintage cars, or converting existing vehicles for people that they already own.
Pete’s refrigerated vintage truck rental and “customized tap truck” conversion business Cruizin Brewz is currently “a part time thing,” according to him. He’s had a couple of people approach him with inquiries about conversions… until they find out what he charges. But a Model-T alone might cost between $22-27K, plus the cost to build out a cold box. “It’s been slow getting off,” he says, “but I’ve got so many barns to build, that it’s a-okay with me. Plus, we’ve only been doing Cruizin Brews for about a year now.”
Cruizin Brews rental rates are extremely reasonable, though – compared to the cost of a vehicle conversion! They charge various fees that range from Basic or Deluxe to Supreme, which includes additional bartenders, lounge seating and wine barrel tables. And these unique bar vehicles are “always the life of the party,” according to Pete. “They’re just so photogenic.”
Staying true to himself and his vintage aesthetic is important to Pete, which allows for lots of customizations and presents itself really beautifully at weddings and events. While there are less expensive trailer conversion options, such as horse trailers, Pete enjoys converting vintage cars that are already collectors’ items to begin with – which drives up the price. However, “the value is always there,” he explains. “The car will sell for the same amount and won’t depreciate.”
He’s currently working on converting an old horse truck with open sides that will contain a full bar.
Meanwhile, Pete’s daughter Emily “handles, organizes and executes” all of the weddings and events for Cruizin Brews. They’ve done lots of local ongoings and a bunch of weddings in VIrginia, but their biggest event so far has been the Montpellier Hunt Race in the fall, where they serve hard cider to about 80K attendees. “It’s a huge event at the James Madison Estate with a horse race,” Pete says. “So the Model-T fits right in with all that tailgating and fancy hats.”