SURREY — Tucked in the corner of a Cloverdale home’s backyard is a workshop, currently covered in snow. It’s not Santa’s workshop – Art Wright is no elf, and he’s certainly not building toys, but there is a little model-art magic happening in that converted garden shed of his.
Over the past five years or so, Wright has carved himself a time-consuming yet rewarding hobby of crafting model trucks – ultra-realistic ones, with working parts and features that resemble the real-deal vehicles that travel Surrey’s roads and highways.
Wright spends countless hours sawing, sanding and painting wooden parts for his in-demand creations, some of which are showcased at the B.C. Vintage Truck Museum on the corner of 176th Street and 60th Avenue.
It’s a hobby that’s turned into something of a golden-years enterprise for the retired forklift operator.
“I’m 74 years old, so I’m hoping my hands stay steady and my eyes stay good so I can keep doing this for some more years,” Wright said with a laugh. “I’ve always loved trucks, so now I get to see them all the time, making them.”
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For 33 years, Wright worked at a Canada Safeway warehouse before he took a buyout, 20 years back. He was always into woodwork, first with furniture, and in retirement turned his attention to making scale-model wagons, which eventually made way for the artful trucks, backhoes, trailers and cranes he now crafts with MDF wood, or medium-density fibreboard.
His models feature many moving parts – the cylinders of a bucket on a Cat tractor, the arms of a garbage truck, the wheels of a semi-trailer.
But make no mistake: His models are not toys.
“Some kids want to play with them, sure, and the big kids do, too,” he said with a smile.
“But some people back right off when I tell them how much they are,” Wright added.
“I made a big long trailer for a guy in Abbotsford and I charged him $750 for it, but that probably wasn’t 10 cents a minute for my time on it.”
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A few years ago, Wright visited the truck museum and struck up a conversation with the guys there.
“I took a few pictures of my work and showed them what I do, and I asked if they’d be interested if I built models of some of the trucks they had there,” Wright recalled. “They said yes, and now they take them as fast as I can build them.
“I donate them, and that’s fine,” he added. “Fred Monckton, a member there, has bought three or four of them from me and put them in the museum. I have a garage full of them, and my wife (Myrna) curses that because there’s no room for anything else in there. So I’m gradually fixing those, improving them, and then taking them to the museum.”
In a display case there, Wright’s name and number is posted for visitors to see, and that has led to phone calls about his models.
With guide photos, Wright often makes models of cherished trucks once owned or operated by retired drivers and mechanics. Myrna helps with the operation, too, by downloading photos from the internet. Wright’s drawings and notes are stashed in a file cabinet for later use, if needed.
“I have about three trucks that guys want me to build, but they can’t be in a hurry because they do take a long time to build,” Wright noted. “It’s hard to keep track of the time taken, but none are less than 100 hours. Everything is handmade. The wheels take the longest.
“Doing these models is a good pastime, and it’s not something I’ll get rich at, that’s for sure, but it’s something I love.”
Wright can be reached by phone at 604-575-8318 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.