By Amy Daybert Herald Writer
EVERETT — Jack Walkley was in his shop this week when he noticed one small problem.
A yellow light on top of the cab of his custom-built truck was working.
“One of the lights needs to be out,” he told his friend, Erik Davidson.
“You want one out? It took me an hour to get it to work,” he said.
Walkley and his team have worked for more than a year on his life-size replica of Tow Mater, the friendly fun-loving tow truck from the Disney/Pixar movie, “Cars.” They want all the details to be as close to perfect as possible.
If the reactions they’ve already received are any indication, the truck is pretty close to being the real rust-and-rubber Mater who children and adults have loved since the movie came out in 2006.
“We had to get a cover for it because we were going down the trestle and people were actually stopping and pointing in both directions,” he said. “We were hoping we didn’t actually cause a traffic jam.”
Walkley, owner of Cobra Construction in Everett, hadn’t heard of the character until a friend brought a poster of Tow Mater to a car show he held at his Lake Stevens home about four years ago. Walkley displayed the poster and watched others quickly react to seeing the toothy tow truck.
“I put it up on the wall and everybody went nuts over it,” he said.
Then Walkley, 66, watched “Cars” and Mater made an impression on him, too.
What started out as creative yard art turned into a longer project, Davidson said, when Walkley told his team he had an idea to use the truck to raise money for local charities. He wanted the truck to be road-worthy too.
The team went to work to “Git-r-done” as Larry the Cable Guy, who provided the voice for Mater, says.
“It could tow something if you wanted to, but we don’t plan on it,” Walkley said.
Walkley started searching for the old pieces of truck. This ‘Journey for Parts’ as he calls it started with finding a 1955 Holmes wrecker in Arizona — not in Radiator Springs, but in a place that looked a whole lot like it.
Other old cars and trucks were found to help. There was a 1955 Chevy 1.5-ton farm truck from Wyoming and a 1964 Mack Cab top from Montana. A pair of 1955 wrecker reflectors came from Connecticut. A wrecker hook and shackles were found in Alaska.
Mater started to emerge as everything was fit together. They beat him thousands of times with hammers to create characteristic dents, and 13 coats of paint for an old, weathered look.
“We wanted to make it look like he’s been sitting out in the field, but it’s actually brand new paint,” Davidson said. “The letters and the mirrors, they all had to be big and cartoony. Everything had to be authentic.”
Getting the details just right meant Walkley and his team watched “Cars” over and over.
“When we started I kept thinking, ‘Man, I don’t remember,’ so we’d go back and watch chunks of it again and again,” he said.
Walkley’s favorite part of the movie is where Mater goes tractor tipping — the cartoon’s version of cow tipping — something the Everett High School graduate admits he tried when he visited his family’s farms.
About 35 volunteers and employees helped build Mater. The truck was displayed at his car show last August and unveiled briefly in October during Railroad Days in Granite Falls. But his appearance in the Snohomish Easter Day Parade on Saturday will be the first since his completion in March.
Mater’s been driven less than 50 miles since he started running. He mostly gets from place to place riding on the back of a flatbed truck.
Walkley said he contacted Disney representatives last year and told them about his plans to use Mater to raise money for local charities. He was told to go ahead with his idea.
Children from the Snohomish Boys &Girls Club will join Mater in Saturday’s parade. Afterward, anyone can have their picture taken with Mater at the Boys &Girls Club, 402 Second Street in Snohomish.
Donations will be accepted for the club during that time, according to Snohomish Boys &Girls Club unit director Marci Owens. Photo packets will be sold for $7.
Of course, “anybody is welcome to come take pictures of their own,” Owens said.
Walkley’s team is happy with the way Mater turned out.
“You can’t say you build one of these every day. It’s definitely something different,” said Ray Brown, who works for Cobra Construction said.
Mater is complete, but the journey isn’t over quite yet.
Walkley bought a tractor and the team plans to make it look just like those seen in the movie.
But they’ll go one step further and build a hydraulic lift so Mater can tip it over.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tow Mater will be part of the Snohomish Easter Day Parade at 11 a.m. Saturday on First Street in Snohomish. Children can have their photos taken with Mater after the parade at the Snohomish Boys &Girls Club, 402 Second Street, Snohomish. Picture packets will be available for $7. Proceeds will go to the club.