The actor Robert Duvall was once asked by a young actor; “What do you do between jobs?” Duvall responded; “Hobbies, hobbies and more hobbies.”
We spend a third of our lives working and a third sleeping, so in that remaining third, a distraction like a hobby helps us relax and stay focused on something we enjoy. For many biomeds, who are already technologically and mechanically savvy, the lure of restoring an old car or truck just makes sense. From a full ground-up restoration to some simple customizing, the joys of seeing the finished product is always rewarding.
One HTM professional in St. Paul, Minn., didn’t stop with his auto restoration project. He also built a functioning robot; a Dalek to be exact. Chris Cheney, CBET, a field service biomed for Penlon, has found a rewarding hobby in doing both.
“I am the MERA (Medical Equipment Repair Association) Tech, which means I represent the manufacturer as a factory-trained tech to the end user,” Cheney says of his job. “I am trained on more than 50 different machines plus general biomed. I travel mostly Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, but I can be sent all over the country to back up other techs.”
Cheney has been a biomed for about eight years. He attended tech school and thought he would repair computers. He did electronics with the phone company originally, and when that ended a friend who teaches X-ray technicians, suggested the biomed profession.
Rust Bucket to Hot Rod
Cheney isn’t new to the street rod scene. He recently sold a 1929 Model A coupe hot rod to a buyer in Sweden, and used some of the money to take his wife on a trip to Italy, when the urge to start a new project hit.
“A friend of mine was cleaning up his property and had a couple of these trucks, so I asked to buy one, which he only asked $300 for,” he says.
Cheney ended up with a 1950 Chevrolet pickup truck.
“Well my plan was to hot rod this truck, and when I got it home, (I) took it apart to see what I would need, which was a lot,” he says.
“The only parts I kept were the cab and doors, hood, and frame,” Cheney adds. “The rest was too beat up and rusty. I started on the frame and stripped it down and added independent front suspension and ‘truck arm’ suspension in the rear, all on (an) adjustable air ride suspension. Then (I) added a 354 cubic inch HEMI from a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker, (and a) rear end from a 1960 Ford.”
The next step in the project was to put together a pickup box and rear fenders. Cheney painted them 1969 Chevy green. Last year, he had the cab stripped and sandblasted so he could start the bodywork on both. The cab then got a coat of primer. He got a 1984 pickup seat and removed the center portion to accommodate the cab size of the older truck cab. The new upholstery will be tuck and roll with green piping.
“I found a set of front fenders that were in really great shape for cheap, and was able to sell the extra parts, so they only cost me about $20,” he says.
When the truck is done, it will get to be seen by a lot of people before Cheney starts on his next restoration project.
“I will be taking this truck to the ‘Back to the 50s’ show here in St Paul, Minn. About 12,000 cars show up every year; it is the big show in Minnesota, but I also hope to attend many others also,” Cheney says.
“And when this truck is done, I will be doing some repairs and updating to my 1965 Rambler Classic, that was my first car. I also restored a 1971 Moto Guzzi motorcycle, which I have rode to Sturgis about six times,” Cheney says.
A Slice of ‘Doctor Who’
From building a hot rod to building a robot may seem like a stretch, but fabricating is fabricating. It was an introduction to the mysterious “Doctor Who” that led to the Dalek project.
“I first saw the show on public television here in Minnesota. I enjoyed the show a lot, as it had great stories and characters,” Cheney says. “The sets were a bit cheesy and all, but I was hooked. When I moved in with my friends, I found they too liked the show and we would always try to watch (it). When they brought back the show, they had really put a lot into the sets and everything and now I think it is more popular than ever.”
After he decided to start building the Dalek, he starting attending some science fiction conferences. He had visited the BritCon, the Minneapolis Comic Con and some smaller shows.
“Well first, I have to give credit to the web forum I joined call Project Dalek. Without their help, I would have never attempted this. It is a 2005 — new style Dalek (NSD).”
Cheney used mainly plywood, MDF, fiberglass and resin to construct the robot, or for purists, the cyborg. He constructed the dome and shoulder section from fiberglass. He used 4-inch stainless steel gazing balls to make the arm and gun pivots.
Some creative jerry-rigging allowed for construction of the rest of the Dalek.
“The hemispheres on the skirt are half of a 4-inch plastic Christmas ball, the plunger on the arm is a plunger, the detail around the hemispheres are a resin cast of a truck oil seal,” Cheney explains. “Things like that.”
“The insides of the wood parts are reinforced with fiberglass, and the lower fender will be painted in truck bed coating,” he adds.
When the Dalek is completed, will it actually work?
“Yes this will be very functional, I will be able to ‘trundle’ in it and turn the head dome and use the arm and gun, and speak like one, with the lights on the dome lighting up also,” Cheney says. “Right now I am looking for a cheap old electric wheelchair to power it so I won’t have to use my feet.”
The truck is about 50 percent complete and the Dalek is about 75 percent done. Cheney hopes to put the finishing touches on the truck by summer of next year.
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