Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dolly #157 Purchased by Filmmaker Steven Mahoney

Introducing my new friend and the new owner of the David L. Wolper, Mini-Crab Dolly #157, Steven Mahoney.

Steven flew in from Auburn, Washington on October 18th and purchased #157. I spent some time demonstrating how the hydraulic lift operates, how to engage the crabbing features and finally how to disassemble the dolly for transport. Steven and I had a great time packing up the dolly, taking it to a local freight dock and securing it on a pallet for shipment. The dolly is now on its way to the Seattle area where Steven lives and should arrive during the next few days.

More information will be following as to the film-project Steven will be working on, which may include using this dolly along with a RED ONE camera system. Steven will become member #12 of the Sarkell Society. Welcome to our group, Steven! Click on any image to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ideas on transporting a Mini-Crab

If purchasing a Mini-Crab Dolly or you're moving a Mini-Crab Dolly out-of-state, here's some ideas.

Before the new owner, Steven Mahoney, arrived to buy #157, he had prearranged a freight company to transport the dolly back to Steven's hometown in the Seattle area. The cost was surprisingly low, about $225.00! Not bad for 300+ pounds of weight!

We transferred the dolly onto a wood pallet. Once on the pallet, we applied the dolly's two brakes to stop any movement. It also helped, as you can see, the wheels of the dolly fell into the pallet-slots for a cradled fit. The bungee cord you see was only to hold the push bar in place (not the dolly!).
Steven took this shot of me and #157 at the shipping dock with his iPhone. If you have any questions about shipping a Mini-Crab, please e-mail me and I will forward your questions onto Steven Mahoney, who is an expert with shipping large items.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Maintaining your ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly

Recently, as I'm preparing to transfer ownership of Dolly #157, I've taken the lower panel off to do a final 'lube-job' on #157's chain and gears. Essentially, I'm preparing the dolly for its new owner, Steven Mahoney.

Please note, when performing any maintenance below the deck, and you're planning on flipping your Mini-Crab over, be sure to position the wheels as shown above (in full-crab mode). This provides the least amount of stress on the wheels/trucks. It also helps to have a good amount of foam underneath as to not inflict damage to the aluminum wall.

When oiling your Mini-Crab, use a lubricant to oil all the gears and lightly oil the entire chain. Don't try to spray everything in sight, then end up having lubricant dripping everywhere. In fact, if you get overspray onto the aluminum undercarriage, I would recommend wiping it off as quickly as possible. Otherwise, some lubricants can have a tattoo effect on the aluminum. Click on any image to enlarge, once enlarged, click again to super enlarge.

Also, it doesn't hurt to lubricate all bolts, Allen screws, strap screws, etc., to keep them from rusting. Remember, some of these dollies are approaching 50 years old, so they will need a little extra TLC.

I'm still quite fascinated on the design and build quality of this dolly. The inventor, William Sargent, is to say the least...a mechanical wizard! No one but Sargent could have pulled-off this sophisticated yet 'portable' design.

Take a look at the above're really looking at perfect harmony! Compact hydraulics, 360-degree crab steering, precision bearings and gears all self-contained inside an aluminum shell that was designed some 50 years ago. Way ahead of its time! My hats off to you, Mr. Sargent!

Keeping the Well for the hydraulic lift clean from oxidation and the build-up of old grease helps with easier installation and removal of the hydraulic lift when needed. At almost 1" thick, the Well area has the thickest concentration of solid-aluminum on the dolly.
Once the Well is clean and shiny, I'll apply a thin layer of grease inside. I will also put a thin layer of grease on the hydraulic lift. The white nylon blocks you see here are the brakes that you apply against the hydraulic lift once it's in-place inside the Well.
Lightly lubricate the entire chain. Remember...once a chain gets's worthless.
Lightly lubricate all gears and other metal items.

Originally, I thought there were only 2-factory stampings of the serial number #157. Well, lo and behold, I found a third #157 stamping that's on the bottom of the Well for the hydraulic lift.

So this dolly has a total of 3-factory stampings of the serial number and 4 if you're counting the DL Wolper ownership stamp. I haven't seen this many stampings on one particular item since admiring a vintage Luger pistol, where every piece imaginable on a Luger is stamped!

If you have any questions on maintaining your Mini-Crab Dolly, just e-mail me at:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

David L. Wolper's Mini-Crab Dolly #157

I've been meaning to write about #157's previous owners for more than a year now, especially the most famous one of all, David L. Wolper.

Soon after purchasing #157, I was quite surprised when I removed the bottom panel for the very first time. Hidden beneath years of oxidation on the panel was the stamped name of D. L. Wolper.

At first glance, I didn't recognize his name until I did some research. I quickly recalled that Mr. Wolper was one of the most accomplished Hollywood and TV producers of our time. According to his site, Mr. Wolper won a total of 2-Academy Awards (Oscars), 50-Emmy's and 5-Peabody Awards. Undoubtedly, one of the most celebrated producers of all time.

Needless to say, as a filmmaker myself, it's an honor to have had in my possession, one of Mr. Wolper's pieces of equipment. To me, it's like having one of Ansel Adams' Hasselblad cameras. You can see more of Mr. Wolper's work at:

David L. Wolper - IMDb
Some images of the DL Wolper stamping before cleaning it.
It's quite possible the stampings were done at the ColorTran factory in Burbank.
After using a little rubbing compound, I was able to clean many years of oxidation off the stamping. As you can see, the stamping is more legible.

Tip...If you own a ColorTran Mini-Crab, be sure to check the inside of the bottom panel for any stampings. You'll have to look hard as it may be under years of oxidation.

During the conversation I once had with the former president of Berkey-ColorTran, I was told that a handful of famous filmmakers purchased the Mini-Crab soon after its release. I know two of which for sure, Francis Ford Coppola and David L. Wolper. Who knows...with only around 200 or so of these dollies being built, it's quite possible you too may have a famous 'Hollywood' dolly! Check your dolly and let me know what you find!

Click on any image to enlarge.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Breaking News! Mini-Crab Dolly #157...maybe sold!

The famous #157 Mini-Crab, which was once owned by a Academy Award-winning producer, David L. Wolper, will soon have a new home in the Seattle, Washington area!

The ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly that's pictured above and throughout this Blog was first purchased and owned by Oscar winning-producer, David L. Wolper. Presently, #157 is under negotiations to be purchased by Steven Mahoney, a filmmaker from the Seattle area.

If all goes well, Mini-Crab #157 will be going to it's new home sometime in mid-October. Incidentally, there will be a total of two Mini-Crab's living in that area as our good friend and blog contributor, Steven Bradford, caretaker of Mini-Crab #34 also hails from the Seattle area. More information will be forthcoming regarding Steven Mahoney's plans in using #157 and what type of film project he will be using the Mini-Crab for.

I'm also hopeful that Mr. Mahoney will be able to further research and document if #157 was used by it's first owner, David L. Wolper in making 'Roots', 'North and South' or the original 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' movies. There's a good chance that #157 was in fact used in these productions...if it was...this dolly is even more cool!

Congratulations, Steven!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sarkell Society Welcome's Leif Peterson and his Mini-Crab Dolly #118

Sarkell Society will soon be welcoming it's newest member...Leif Peterson, who is the owner of HCD #118 (tag-photo above). More photo's of both Leif and his Mini-Crab will be forthcoming. Leif will become Sarkell Society Member # 11.

Welcome aboard, Leif!

Remember, if you're the owner/user of a ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly...become a member of the Sarkell Society by registering today! For membership information, see archived blog-post from September 3, 2010.

Friday, June 24, 2011

ColorTran Mini-Crab 1966 Debut Article in AC

This is the September 1966 issue of AC debuting the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. My apologies, but the AC issues of the 1960's were over sized and cannot be easily scanned into a standard format. I will work on getting the entire article scanned and will post when finished.
That's Mini-Crab inventor William Sargent, pushing the dolly with his partner Robert Kelljan peering through the BNC viewfinder.
More to follow as there were a total of four pages of this very interesting AC story. Click on any image to enlarge content.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Most Extreme 'Pushable' Dolly Ever Built

Speaking in terms of dolly's one that may have been the largest 'pushable' dolly ever used. This one and three like it were part of the dolly inventory at Universal Studios back in 1943. As you can see, it can hold a BNC camera, a collection of lights, and practically the whole crew!

Thanks to my very good friend and Blog contributor, Rudy Goldberg of Beverly Hills, California for sending this rare image to us.

Pictured here is one the best directors of all time, 'Hitch', standing next to what the grip crew dubbed the 'car-dolly'. According to Rudy, it took about 10-people to push this monster. All but one of these dollies still exists and can be found today inside one of Universal's sound stages.

Thanks for the 'inside-story' Rudy!

If you have stories or photos of using a dolly, especially our favorite and this Blog's namesake...the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly...please send them in! We would love to share them with other dolly enthusiasts.

As on this or any image to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SarKell 'working the crowd' in Los Angeles

Riding high-atop the Mini-Crab Prototype's hydraulic lift is none other than Robert Kelljan. Behind Mr. Kelljan is William Sargent the genius inventor of the Mini-Crab Dolly (partially obscured). Mr. Sargent was operating the lift-control from the dolly's seated position and gave his partner a lift!

Both men were demonstrating the attributes of using the self-contained CO2/hydraulic camera lift on the Mini-Crab Dolly. This early image was taken during the dolly's demonstration in front of a live audience at the SMPTE show in Los Angeles.

It's plain to see that the inventor and his partner had a lot of fun working together. It's also evident these guys were true professionals and knew how to work a crowd! Click on this image to enlarge..once it's enlarged, click again to super enlarge.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Numbering of the ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly

The manufacturer's tag on the back panel of our dolly. The SarKell designed ColorTran Mini-Crab Dollies were numbered from 1 to "possibly" 250. No one knows exactly the final build-to number, but it's been speculated to be around 250.

There's a total of three stampings on each Mini-Crab Dolly. The dolly's serial number is stamped twice...once on the manufacturers tag which is located on the rear panel of the dolly (top photo) then, the same number is stamped a second time on-top of the dolly's deck. This is at the base of where the steering control fastens into the dolly's internal steering mechanism (photo above). If you look closely, you'll see 157 stamped on the base. Click on any image to super enlarge.
The two images above are of the same stamping.

Now, there is a third stamping and it's an entirely different number than the dolly's serial number. This is the serial number of the hydraulic camera lift (in this case, #144) which can be found on the hydraulic lift just above where the lift meets the internal hydraulic connection.

The hydraulic lift number is not the same as the other two 'identical' numbers found on the dolly. Hope this sheds some light on the stampings you'll find on the Mini-Crab.

If you have a Mini-Crab and have not yet registered with us, please do so and e-mail the dolly's serial number and a photo to:

General Cleaning of the Mini-Crab Dolly

Like all production equipment, the Mini-Crab should be no exception, it should be wiped down, cleaned and checked after each use. We use a detail cleaner made by Turtle Wax (shown) to clean the deck, push bar and tires. We then do a visual check on all moving parts to insure they are tightened and properly functioning.
Aside from cleaning the deck, we'll wipe down all 8 tires, which incidentally, our dolly needed recently due to the fact we had to briefly push the dolly on a 'salted' sidewalk. This was to get it from the drop-off point and into the building we were dolly-gripping in.

As you can see, the rubberized deck of the Mini-Crab cleans very well, maintains the original luster and looks like new...not so bad for a 40-plus year old dolly!

Once we've cleaned and checked #157, we'll put the cover on it to keep the dust off. Mini-Crab #157 is now ready for its next assignment.

Many people have repainted their dollies to modernize and freshen them up. In fact, it's hard to find a Mini-Crab that has not been repainted.
We've chosen to keep our dolly in its original condition with its factory trademark 'ColorTran-Blue' paint finish intact. It's a little scuffed up, but not too bad considering its age. Some Mini-Crab owners have done an awesome job sanding and repainting their dollies making them look good as new.

Given the fact that #157 was once owned by Academy Award winning filmmaker, David L. Wolper, (first owner of #157) tells me it would be best to keep the 'pedigreed' dolly in its original condition. More to a future posting about #157's previous owners including the late and great, Mr. Wolper.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ideas on Transporting the Mini-Crab Dolly

My son and I were again hired out to film another MMA fighting match here in snowy northern Ohio. Here Mini-Crab #157 in 'stripped-down' mode is waiting to be loaded into the back of our Mercury Mountaineer.
It takes three people to safely lift the dolly into the back of the SUV, that's without the heavy hydraulic lift (one on each side and someone in back). I suppose if you work-out...maybe two. If you're lifting the Mini-Crab with the hydraulic lift attached, then four people (two on each side) should be able to do it comfortably "hearse-style", without throwing any one persons back out.
All packed up and ready to go! Mini-Crab #157 and it's accessories is on it's way to do another 'on-location' job. The hydraulic lift is in the red milk-crate. Weighing in at a whopping 71 pounds, the hydraulic lift is braced inside the milk-crate to prevent tipping during transport.
We first thought about getting a 6' garden-tractor trailer to transport the dolly when we're hired out. We found the family's SUV works just as well and has better protection against the elements. After all, William Sargent designed the dolly to be perfectly compact (yes...Mini!) and easy to transport.

Hope these photos/ideas help in transporting your ColorTran Mini-Crab Dolly. Especially, if you're not fortunate enough to own the carrying case that was originally designed by Mr. Sargent.

Incidentally...if you have the carrying case and don't need me and I would be happy to purchase it from you! My son and I seem to have a lot of 'on-location' shoots using the Mini-Crab and we would love to have one! If you have other ideas on transporting the Mini-Crab...please share them with us!

Mail your ideas to:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vintage Ad of the Mini-Crab Dolly

An attractive model taking a bubble bath and the Mini-Crab from a photo shoot...What more could one say? Perfect!

What's inside the Mini-Crab Dolly? Steven Bradford...Keeper of Mini-Crab #34 Shows Us!

Our good friend, Steven Bradford of Seattle, Washington has been restoring his Mini-Crab Dolly. Steven is currently working on the hydraulic system and has carefully flipped his Mini-Crab over and removed the lower panel. Here are some great shots of the 'mechanics' of our favorite dolly! The ColorTran Mini-Crab. Click on any image to enlarge for greater detail.
An image of the undercarriage soon after the lower panel was removed.
This image shows some of the hydraulic and CO2 fittings.
The chain and its intricate path. This truly took a mastermind to design! William Sargent is the genius designer and inventor of this self-contained dolly that was way ahead of it's time.