Gas-Propelled Mechanical Elephant

Powered by an Anglia 8 HP engine, Jumbo the gas-propelled, mechanical elephant is a head turner

| March/April 1981

  • Anne Webber on Jumbo
    If you're looking for ways to liven a parade, we suggest Jumbo, the gas-powered elephant shown on the cover.
    Larry C. Gavette
  • Jumbo's
    Jumbo's "innards." Originally Jumbo's head moved in relation to the walking motion, but its connections had been welded solid by the time the elephant came into Larry Gavette's possession.
    Larry Gavette
  • Jumbo on Parade
    Jumbo on parade.
    Mrs. Marilyn Weber

  • Anne Webber on Jumbo
  • Jumbo's
  • Jumbo on Parade

If you see an elephant walking down the street in Waterford, Michigan, don't be alarmed – it is probably the gas-propelled pachyderm of Larry C. Gavette, and one of the most unusual mechanisms ever to cross your path.

The gas-propelled mechanical elephant, named Jumbo, is heading for England this summer for a reunion with one of its mates, which is in a museum there. The whole story is delightful.

Jumbo the mechanical elephant is powered by a 1939 Model 948 Anglia 8 HP engine. Gavette, who shows Jumbo in parades and at other public events, tells the whole story in a fascinating letter which we quote for this article.

Peter Sellers, the late movie actor, was shown in a recent Life magazine atop Jumbo – a 30-year old photo. And Jumbo appeared at last year's GOP convention in Detroit, making the tail end of a TV report.

Here is Gavette's information:

"Jumbo was built in England 30 years ago by Mr. Frank Stuart, a theatrical prop maker and owner of Mechanimals, a company formed to develop the elephant as a viable endeavor. It wasn't, as Mr. Stuart went bankrupt soon after completing only a few of these marvels of engineering. Apparently there wasn't much call for a carnival type ride that needed a full time 'keeper.' Through two years of research I have found only two others of this particular model, and only one of those was of the gas-powered variety. The other was also built by Mr. Stuart, but some 17 years later, and is powered by an electric motor and battery hook-up. It's basically the same mechanically with the power plant being the only difference. I had just located the other one like mine when I had talked to you, it is in a museum in Exmouth, England, and a letter has been sent to find out all about that one's history.