Alaska man lists 18-foot hydraulic mecha on eBay

Minimum bid is $35,000, plus $5,000 to ship the robot suit

Posted: Friday, July 01, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Anyone who's ever yearned for a hulking mecha with flame-throwing skills and red glowing eyes is in luck.

Carlos Owens Jr. has listed his 18-foot handmade hydraulic exoskeleton on the online auction site eBay. Minimum bid is $35,000, plus $5,000 to ship the 3,000-pound structure from Alaska. "The World's First REAL Mech ever built!" he proclaims on the bidding site.

Owens is selling the rust-red machine to fund construction of his next project: a mobile amphibious mecha that would run on wheels or tracks.

"That's the only reason I'm parting with my baby," the 27-year-old apprentice ironworker said Wednesday. "I've thought long and hard about it."

Even for eBay, the listing is one-of-a-kind, said Hani Durzy, a spokesman for the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

"Wow. It looks really cool," Durzy said as he checked out the bid site. "I would say it's safe to say there's not exactly a glut of 18-foot mechas on eBay."

Owens, a former heavy equipment mechanic with the Army Reserves, took almost two years and more than $20,000 to construct the mecha in his parents' back yard in Wasilla, just north of Anchorage. It's the pinnacle - so far - of two previous attempts and a lifetime fascination with all things technical, especially those in the robot realm, although he's quick to point out that mechas are not robots because someone operates them from inside the frame instead of remotely.

He had hoped to accomplish more with his "Neo-Mech" steel and fiberglass prototype. He envisioned it in arena battles and demolition shows, and even arranged to debut it this summer as a car basher at a local racetrack. It was supposed to be equipped with a computer, cameras and sound effects, but that never happened.

"With what I know now, I could build it three times faster and not have to worry about any of the mistakes I made," Owens said. "The next one will come out a lot closer to being the perfect mech and be ready for the arena."

But he has managed to take a few "baby steps" with this mecha after correcting a problem that made it tip over. He said the 20 hydraulic cylinders woven throughout the contraption give it 40 possible movements. An 18-horsepower gasoline engine supplies the hydraulic power and a 12-volt electrical system lights up the eyes, limbs and torso.

One of the features of which he's most proud is the mecha's ability to shoot flames from the wrists. Owens uses propane but said any kind of air gas will work. Owens, who is 6-foot-5, said he's a bit of a tight fit in the "cockpit," but even much shorter folks - like a friend a full foot shorter - can operate it.

Here's another feature for prospective buyers to keep in mind: Owens still plans to install nail-shooting guns in the mecha's shoulders. But otherwise it's ready for a new home, lying flat on the ground just waiting to be shipped.

"This is a huge collector's item because it's the first, not the last," he said. "Buying it would also be helping me to further the research."

According to his dream, future models would have greater value beyond a science fiction novelty or arena attraction. He imagines them joining wildfire crews, repairing outer space stations, even fighting enemies at war. His soft voice dips to a whisper as he discusses the possibilities.

But the humbler version he's already built has generated plenty of talk among techno bloggers.

"This is definitely a first, a huge first," Owens said. "This is the Model T version."

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