By Jon Clark, design graduate and horse owner
I visited Boss horseboxes at the invitation of the owners Clive Ecroyd and Paul Williams. Boss horseboxes was formed in 2009 combining the engineering and horsebox building skills of Clive Ecroyd and Paul Williams. Their modern airy factory is just outside Chester, and as I am shown round, there is a busy happy feel to the place as I am shown round and see boxes in different stages of build.
Later at Clive’s home we chat. I asked how Boss came into existence. “The 3.5 tonne horsebox is a vehicle of the future. It is so convenient and economical and easy to drive. If you have a trailer, it’s hard to manoeuvre and you end up driving round a gas guzzling 4 X 4 all the time for the comparatively short time you pull a trailer. A 7.5 tonne box and larger boxes have a place, but again how often do you carry more than 2 horses and need a full living area? The 3.5 tonne boxes travel at 70 mph and need no special licence, which is good for younger drivers, or the Boss can be uprated to 3.9 tonnes if you need even more payload. I had a vision to produce a new beautiful genuinely lightweight 3.5 tonne horsebox that was attractively priced and would be the best horsebox in Europe. Paul had been building horseboxes for over 20 years and had the skills and quality commitment and shared my vision”.
Clive has a background of aircraft engineering and so engineering safely using lightweight materials came naturally to him. He is also a perfectionist so luckily Paul’s skills and temperament were similar. “We both knew that advertised payloads for 3.5 tonne horseboxes were exaggerated but believed it was possible to produce a box that could carry two horses legally. My family and I have always been involved with horses and we travel them almost every day (– I built my first box 35 years ago and it is still going strong), so I knew we could get the design to be horse and user friendly and safe and we had some blue sky ideas here. However to be the best we had to offer a product that was superior in all ways to the other 3.5 tonne boxes on offer. We looked at and systematically tested most of the other offerings on the market and were often surprised at general build quality and just what small payloads most of them actually achieved compared with advertised payloads.
“The trouble was we couldn’t bring ourselves to compromise – so style, weight, build, quality materials – all had no corners cut. The materials we use are selected for strength, longevity and to be lightweight. We use aluminium and fibreglass– no steel, no plywood. And this panelling is amazing”. Clive hands me a piece of panel from a shelf: “Plastic – incredibly strong – and regrettably – very expensive!”. The honeycomb interior can be seen in the cut edge – the piece is amazingly light. “All this helps us to achieve genuine payloads of up to 1.3 tonnes, without compromising on strength and to make the Boss long lived – there is nothing to rot or rust”.
The result of two years planning and enormous investment in tooling and design has been the Boss 35. And the Boss is visibly different – it is clearly designed to look good as well as to be functional: curves are everywhere, the sides are flat – no seams or joins or screws or bolts are visible, “It’s not coincidence,” says Clive – “we planned
it that way and it takes a lot more time to manufacture, it’s quality construction and we think it shows”.
When it comes to the inside – it is a Tardis, everywhere is much roomier than you think it will be. Clive shows me round an 35XS. “This is our most popular model – it has a five seat cab and you can have the back seat convert into a bed – my son spends most of our journeys asleep there”. A window gives a view into the horse area. We go to the ramp – “Try it” says Clive, and I obediently open the ramp by means of a large single shiny central lock, the ramp descends smoothly and easily to produce a shallow inviting ramp, I put it back up again with two fingers. “Horses load and travel very easily in the Boss” Clive continues, “You load horses leading from the left which is natural for them, and there is plenty of headroom and space in there – a 17.2hh horse fits comfortably. I look a bit askance at him so he goes off to get a horse, a big good looking bay. “Now this horse is a sniff under 17hh” says Clive, “but he’s a warm blood and very long and tall in the neck”, which he is, I think he looks huge. Chris obligingly pops up the ramp and settles comfortably in the far stall. I have to admit surprise at just how much room there is in there – the design is so well proportioned it can deceive you. The horses travel backwards. “I have always found horses are happier travelling backwards, their centre of gravity is more in the middle of the box and in the event of a sudden stop they brake against their rumps. I have travelled foals loose in the back of the Boss without partitions where they could choose what orientation they wish and they always turn to travel backwards so I am convinced this is a natural position for them.
Clive points out lots of little features that show the thought behind the design and I notice everywhere there is attention to detail, for example, potential sharp edges have been hand filed.
Clive flips up a locker door to reveal an enormous tack locker with two saddle racks, three bridle racks and lots of space. My mind instantly starts planning where I would store my boots, bandages, tack box, studs, fly spray hoof oil etc etc – and I can see I could fit it all in easily. What about rugs and haynets? “Well there is the over Luton storage which is quite big and there is a locker on the nearside. This model has a full bulkhead between the horses and the rear separate living area Which gives you a really big locker, but if you have a door to the horses you still get a reasonable sized locker.” And he opens a locker door to reveal the most enormous space imaginable. “When Alex (Hua Tian) used the Boss to go round Europe – he got all his haylage for two horses in this space. We call it the Immigrant locker”. You would want to lock it in Calais!
He hasn’t finished yet and already I have this aching wanting feeling inside.
Clive opens the back door to reveal a living area with a sink and a burner, lots of storage space and a bench seat. “It’s perfect for changing and keeping all your clothes clean and away from hay and sneezes, The XL version has an extra 45cm in here, which can be useful if you stay away a lot and need extra carrying space”. The living area in this box is obviously in use – there are hats lined up on a rack, a shelf with a variety of boots and several hangers with jackets and body protectors, it clearly does the job very neatly.
Another locker: “This is the wet locker – with a horse shower and water – we keep buckets sponges etc in here so that all the wet stuff is kept together”.
What about colour choice? “Any colour you like”. No possible complaints there then.
So how much? “Well, we make three different models and the price depends on the final spec and the chassis you choose. You can have a 3 seat cab model (with all the quality build which is our hallmark) on a quality used chassis for as little as £24K including VAT up to a full specification on a new chassis which can cost £34,000 excluding VAT. But each one is exceptional value. By balancing chassis age and features, we can usually build a box that suits the customer and their budget”. Several companies have chosen the Boss as a hire vehicle finding their customers appreciate the quality and good looks. The Boss may be pretty but it is strong and durable.
Boss’s reputation is spreading as more and more satisfied owners are driving round the country. Forums give the thumbs up to Boss and Clive emphasises customer service is all important at Boss. “We find word of mouth is the best recommendation. I can tell you all day long how good our box is but until you see one or someone tells you about theirs, I just sound like a salesman. We do not pressurise or hassle potential customers at all – we welcome them to the factory, I think it helps them to see the boxes in build and the care that goes into their construction by every man here. We are happy to spend lots of time discussing their requirements, and often send them photos or a short video of their box in build. We understand the importance of the box to our customers and want the whole experience to be pleasurable.
And the future? “Well our 3 seat cab model is really just coming onto the market now and we have good organic growth despite our poor marketing! We have had lots of enquiries from abroad, but we don’t want to get too big and lose that personal touch with our customers – the Boss box is not a number to us – each one is a work of art and we care about it. Our aim was to be the best, we believe we are the best. We just want everyone to know that”.
I leave suitably impressed
For further information please visit: www.BossHorseBoxes.co.uk