LIFE OF THE PARTY

Harry the Hook once helped fight fires around Can­berra. Soon the su­per­hero Sca­nia will be avail­able for birth­day par­ties. Ea­monn Cum­mins tells Ta­mara Whitsed about his in­no­va­tive am­bi­tions

Owner Driver - - Contents #305 -

A re­built 1994 fire-fight­ing Sca­nia is trans­formed into a chil­dren’s birth­day party at­trac­tion

EA­MONN CUM­MINS re­fuses to ac­cept that chil­dren can no longer ex­pe­ri­ence the cap­ti­vat­ing world of trucks, fork­lifts and dig­gers. “I think we can do it right and do it safe and min­imise [risk], and still give an ex­pe­ri­ence where it’s done in a con­trolled, safe en­vi­ron­ment,” says Ea­monn, who owns T7 Plant Hire at Al­tona, Vic­to­ria. Grow­ing up in the early 1980s, Ea­monn reg­u­larly spent school hol­i­days on Mel­bourne con­struc­tion sites. “My fa­ther had a drainage busi­ness lay­ing pipes in very deep trenches and hard rock. “They used to blast with gelig­nite. He’d have us driv­ing the ma­chines. You’d be locked up now for it.”

Ea­monn isn’t sug­gest­ing we should let kids run wild on con­struc­tion sites. His dream is to build ma­chines to give chil­dren a safe, ed­u­ca­tional and in­spir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence; and ul­ti­mately open a theme park where chil­dren can safely watch and in­ter­act with big rigs, con­struc­tion equip­ment and other ma­chines.

Last year he re­built a 1994 Sca­nia 93M 250. He named the truck Hierony­mus – or Harry the Hook for short. And later this year Harry the Hook will be avail­able for birth­day par­ties.

Imag­ine the ex­cite­ment when chil­dren see Harry the Hook ar­rive, car­ry­ing a gi­ant cus­tom-made gift box. They could watch Harry’s Hiab Mul­tilift lower the box to the ground. And then they could open a door in the box to dis­cover a birth­day cake or gift in­side.

“It’s a very one-off truck,” Ea­monn says. “There’s not an­other one like it in the world.” The truck’s in­ter­ac­tive in­te­rior re­ally sets Harry the Hook apart. Ea­monn has in­stalled back win­dows “so the chil­dren can now look out the back win­dows and see the whole process of the truck pick­ing up the bin”.

A red box in­side the cab has large gauges – “the big­gest we could get” – so the chil­dren can watch changes to the hy­draulic pres­sure and air pres­sure.

Ori­gin story

Like all su­per­heroes, Harry the Hook has a back­story. He was orig­i­nally a fire brigade crew cab in Can­berra.

“He used to go out and res­cue peo­ple and get the fire­men to where they needed to be,” Ea­monn says. But he was re­placed by a more mod­ern truck and des­tined for the scrap heap.

“We sort of rein­vented him with a new back and made him stronger, and he’s go­ing to put smiles on some faces again.”

That’s how Ea­monn will ex­plain the story to the younger chil­dren. But he’s sure older kids will want to know about the build. He is keen to tell them how he trans­formed the au­to­matic 4x2 nine-litre 250hp Sca­nia into a 14-speed man­ual 8x4 11-litre 380hp with a multi-pur­pose Hiab Mul­tilift.

Ea­monn is a diesel me­chanic and he hired fab­ri­ca­tor

Lee Ram­stein from Com­plete Fleet Solutions to help bring Hierony­mus to life. The mod­u­lar de­sign of the 1994 Sca­nia made it eas­ier to up­grade it with parts from a donor truck, so Ea­monn is glad he chose a Sca­nia for his first project.

“Sca­nia has been ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic.” He was im­pressed with their tech­ni­cal sup­port, which in­cluded find­ing

in­for­ma­tion from their archives. The build took place at the T7 Plant Hire work­shop at Al­tona over a pe­riod of 12 months and was cap­tured on time-lapse video. Ea­monn plans to share the footage on his web­site.

He hopes his ef­forts will en­cour­age young peo­ple to con­sider trades. Ea­monn be­gan his own ap­pren­tice­ship when he was 16. His me­chanic qual­i­fi­ca­tions helped him find work in the United King­dom. Nine years later he re­turned to Aus­tralia and started his own busi­ness.

“I love this in­dus­try and I just think, for my own soul and well­be­ing, I need to do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent that ig­nites the pas­sion and cre­ativ­ity – some­thing that’s go­ing to carry me through the next part of my life.

“I mainly want to show young peo­ple that be­ing creative and be­ing artis­tic can come in so many forms. You don’t have to sit down for de­grees and things like that.”

He is prov­ing that artis­tic in­ge­nu­ity can be ex­pressed on a grand scale in a me­chan­i­cal work­shop.

Theme park dream

Ea­monn has dreamed up a long list of projects and plans to bring the ideas to life, one by one.

“Our next project is go­ing to be a dis­abil­ity-friendly big rig.” And he wants to create a “real-life func­tion­ing dig­ger” in a gi­ant sand­pit. We’re go­ing to do a chil­dren’s story book for each one we build.”

Ul­ti­mately he would like to com­plete enough projects to es­tab­lish a whole theme park.

He is ex­plor­ing ways to en­sure each ma­chine and the pro­posed theme park will be safe for chil­dren and ac­ces­si­ble to vis­i­tors with a dis­abil­ity.

“I’ve got all these draw­ings, drawn up by a story-board artist, of ex­actly what was in my mind for the theme park.”

Ea­monn hopes to at­tract like-minded peo­ple to help him achieve his dream. Per­haps ex­pe­ri­enced trades­peo­ple could demon­strate old-school skills in his work­shop. Uni­ver­sity stu­dents could help him de­sign fu­ture projects.

Right now, Ea­monn is or­gan­is­ing a web­site for Harry the Hook, and he plans to film each new build and up­load videos to the site so peo­ple around the world can fol­low the progress. He might even set up a live feed.

At the mo­ment, Ea­monn’s pri­or­ity is to make Harry the Hook avail­able for birth­day par­ties, hope­fully later this year. Un­til then, Harry the Hook has to roll up his sleeves and so some work for T7 Plant Hire.

“He has to go out and earn a living. He’s a fully func­tion­ing work­ing truck. He’s gone and picked up de­mo­li­tion bins in the west­ern sub­urbs of Mel­bourne.

“There’s not

an­other one like it in the world.”

Op­po­site top and be­low: The Sca­nia crew cab in its pre­vi­ous life as a trans­porter for around the Can­berra re­gion; Ea­monn Cum­mins be­hind the wheel of Harry the Hook, which is earn­ing its keep at T7 Plant Hire

Above: Gi­ant gauges on the big red box al­low back-seat pas­sen­gers to mon­i­tor the hy­draulic and air pres­sure

Be­low: It took 12 months to con­vert the fire brigade truck into Harry the Hook

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