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Mechanimals "Wendell" the Mechanical Elephant

Lot No. 4167

Auctioned on Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sold for $275,000

  • 1939 Model 948 Anglia 8-hp engine
  • Three-speed standard transmission with reverse
  • Fully operational
  • Built by Mechanimals
  • Known ownership history
  • Comprehensive restoration finished in 2015
  • 12-volt electrical system
  • Water spraying trunk
  • CD player and speakers


Wendell (formerly known as Jumbo) was built in England by Mr. Frank Stuart, a theatrical prop maker and owner of Mechanimals, a company created to develop the elephant as a viable endeavor. Unfortunately it never caught on and Mr. Stuart went bankrupt soon after completing only three of this particular model, only two being gas powered according to research.

Wendell was then imported by Cunningham Drug Stores as a promotional tool to advertise Jumbo photo-prints and also Jumbo Milk Shakes and would transfer ownership several times, spending five years in Michigan and then sold and utilized in New York City. In 1961 he was repurchased by Cunningham Drug Stores but was then only used as a static display. Wendell was reported to still be operational at this point in time, however, since he wasn’t being used his mechanical workings began to lock up. Ownership changed again and Wendell could then be seen at a riding stable as an attention grabber but was never ran or moved during that time.

Larry Gavette would then discover Wendell some 10 years later in 1978 and leaped at the opportunity for a full restoration project to be completed over the winter. Wendell would eventually be started and the 1939 Model 948 Anglia 8-hp engine would need to be pulled for internal work. That spring, with all parts working, Wendell would come off his trailer for the first time since 1962 and provided rides for the neighborhood on Memorial Day of 1979. Wendell was also used for Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential campaign and Ronald Reagan’s campaign during a rally in Chicago along with several conventions and parades promoting the Republican Party. Wendell would then be sold to Tim Trager of Oak Brook, Illinois.

The power on this elephant is conveyed to the legs through a standard three-speed transmission. However, instead of wheels, it connects to a chain drive lever assembly, which provides the forward and reverse motion. The actual direction in which he goes is determined by a hydraulically operated blocking clamp that allows his small wheels to rotate in one direction and lock on the return stoke. Each brake is governed by the location of the leg as to whether it is needed or not. Because diagonal legs are always going in the same direction there are always two of them powering the elephant.

Purchased by Donnie Gould and Rob Myers in 2013, Wendell underwent a year and a half long restoration using local upholstery specialist Tom Davis of Interiors by Thomas; and local mechanical specialist Brian Reike of Brian’s Automotive. Synthetic vinyl was used to cover the frame and Pat Herrington airbrushed the vinyl to give it a more realistic texture. Davis would also rebuild a larger head and hindquarters to give it a more proportional appearance. The mastodon-like trunk was also replaced with a curved design and inset eyes were made to replace the original painted ones. The electrical system was also upgraded to a 12-volt system. Wendell now boasts the ability to shoot water from his trunk, thanks to retrofitting a five-gallon water tank. A CD player and speakers has also been added giving Wendell the ability to play music and sound effects.

As part of Auctions America’s commitment to give back to the local community in which it operates, a portion of proceeds from Wendell’s sale will benefit Kate’s Kart, a Northeast Indiana not-for-profit organization founded in memory of Katherine Anne Layman, (affectionately known to family and friends as "Baby Kate"), that supplies free new books to hospitalized children in the area. For further information on this deserving charity, please visit www.kateskart.org.

Addendum

Please note this lot is being sold on a bill of sale only


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