News Column

Imagination, mechanics go into artist's miniature fire truck

August 21, 2014

By Dave Nicholson, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Aug. 21--Robert G. Woods has faced a lot of difficult tasks in his more than 10 years as a metal sculptor.

But nothing was quite like the 1/2-scale fire truck he built for a client in Tampa.

"I never turn away from a challenge and this was definitely a challenge I wanted to take on," he said. "I had to make everything by hand from the ground up."

Woods spent three months designing and building the replica of a 1930s fire truck -- placed around a motorscooter -- for Darren Impson, who owns Paul Davis Restoration & Remodeling of Tampa.

Impson said he was amazed with the artist's work.

"It went way beyond my expectations. I was blown away when I saw the truck. It was perfect," he said.

Impson said he bought the scooter two years ago with no specific plans for it. The scooter was in disrepair and "it was gathering dust in the warehouse."

Woods' wife Zuesette is Impson's marketing director, and at a holiday party, Robert Woods and Impson began to discuss what could be done with the scooter that was stored at the business off U.S. 301.

They settled on a fire truck replica because Impson's company's services include fire restoration, and the firm sponsors charity events supported by Tampa firefighters.

Woods said the fire truck was the only true vehicle he has created; the closest he came before was a sidecar for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The 53-year-old artist found photos of an old fire truck online, and used those as a guide.

At the heart of the fire truck is the scooter.

He took the front wheel off the scooter and fashioned an axle so the wheels would turn with the handlebars.

Woods said he wanted to make it look authentic, so he created such equipment as fire hoses, a fire bell and fire axes. He also fashioned a working sprayer hooked to a tank that can carry 15 gallons of water.

Woods said he had to be ever mindful of weight because the motor scooter's 8 horse- power engine wasn't powerful enough to propel a big load.

Impson said the 4-foot-high, 12-foot-long red truck will be used in parades, festivals and company promotions.

The truck was unveiled in public for the first time at the Brandon Fourth of July parade, where it was awarded Best Decorated Vehicle honors. Woods drove the truck and Impson's 5-year-old daughter Bella and her friend Kylie Coloret rode in a seat in the front and waved to the crowd.

Zuesette Woods said the company plans to enter the fire truck in many events, such as the Veterans Day parade in Town 'N Country, Plant City Christmas Parade and Gasparilla Children's Parade. It will also be on display at next month's Woofstock music festival to benefit the Humane Society of Tampa Bay at Hyde Park Village.

Paul Davis Restoration is a national franchisor and provider of water, fire and mold cleanup and restoration services.

Robert Woods' art can be found all over the region, but his best-known work in Plant City is a sculpture with an abstract clock that marks the spot where a time capsule was buried in 2011 in a small city park in the 100 block of Collins Street, in front of the Heart of Plant City mural. He is a member of the ART Lounge, an artist co-op in downtown Plant City.

"It's all self taught. I didn't go to college for it," Robert Woods said. "I tinkered with art for a long time before I made it my full-time business."

Twitter: @dnicholsonTBO

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Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)

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