Rockin' Around with Roust-A-Bouts

Author: Leah Cooper

 

“I'm just a roustabout. Shifted from town to town, no job can hold me down. I'm just a knock-around guy. There's a lot of space beneath that sky. Till I find my place there's no doubt...I'll be a rovin' roustabout.”
-Elvis Presley

Say what you want about his film career- love it or hate it- Elvis Presley got it right when he sang about being a roust-a-bout. If Elvis were a contractor or mechanic, he'd be whistling this tune on the job as he hoisted engine blocks with ease out of the bonnet or hauled heavy materials around the worksite in a hard hat. Roustabout isn't just a 60's era term for this rockabilly Casanova; a roustabout is an ideal tool for any building professional. Due to its immeasurable versatility and usefulness, our stock of roust-a-bouts at GES seems to sell as quickly as they arrive! And for a good reason.

If we were to consider the weight of a car's engine, it easily surpasses the physical lifting capabilities of the average man. At a range of 250 to 700 pounds, you need to bench like powerlifter Ed Coan to make any progress with it. But regardless of this weighty setback, engines do need to be regularly serviced and even removed for extensive repairs, and to do this takes a tool capable of not only hoisting but holding the weight balanced for extended periods. Enter an automotive garage with a little more "oomph" than your Pep Boys oil change emporiums, and you'll find the all-important roust-a-bout is probably already in use. Any good NASCAR crew's garage has a fleet of roust-a-bouts holding engines, exhaust, and you-name-its, dangling like ornaments on a tree.

Of course, roust-a-bouts aren't favored simply for their capacity to lift impossible weights, like the Sumner R-100 with a payload of 1500 pounds. "Shifted from town to town," roust-a-bouts can be fitted with casters to move about a shop with ease. Because roustabout equipment is specifically designed to be balanced up until max weight capacity, mechanics, or over-enthusiastic classic car hobbyists, can hoist and roll away large block engines without damaging the internal or external body of the vehicle. Fallen engines can total a vehicle, causing massive damage from the point of contact to the chassis with the weight of impact.

It is the portability of roust-a-bouts that have capitalized their popularity. Without a roustabout, an installed pulley-and-sheave system must accomplish the same job. Even a small-engine powered automated pulley system must be anchored to a solid, structural beam in your garage able to withstand the force. This poses a strict limitation to the work area where these repairs can be done. A pre-installed system just is not feasible for a NASCAR mechanic working trackside. Portable equipment means more professionals have the space and the ability to perform specialized work without outsourcing, saving cost and time for large repair projects.

The price of roust-a-bouts solidifies their reputation: at $3,000 to $6,000 straight from the manufacturer, the expense of these handy hoisters can easily be justified with the payment from an extensive engine head gasket repair. Removing the engine from the bonnet and lowering the hoist down to an operable level allows the mechanic to easily access all openings along the block, clearing out coagulated engine and coolant goo that otherwise renders this high-performance part useless. It's impossible to estimate the number of blown gaskets repaired yearly in the states. Still, the steep cost of repair— justified by the intensity of the repair work— is enough to cover the garage's monthly rent, let alone a new roustabout for the floor.

Whether you are an independent mechanic or a technician on the factory floor, say at the BMW manufacturing plant in Greer, South Carolina, roustabout equipment is a significant component of your working life. Durable, balanced, and hardworking, roustabouts have traveled across industries, from site to site in the back of work vans, and became a go-to for professionals and amateurs needing a lift. You'll find them backstage hauling sound equipment between sets or even during loading for small businesses in place of more expensive forklifts. Compact, portable, and priced right, the roustabout is a versatile tool for any job. Anyone can operate a roust-a-bout with their intuitively simple design: even Elvis Presley, the original roustabout troubadour.

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