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
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.
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.
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