Fashioned from old truck parts, the character — named Robbie the Robot — is the work of auto mechanic and self-taught artist Steve Caffey, owner of owner of Caffey Automotive, 1303 E. 11th St.
“The first day I put it out there, within two minutes, there was a man clogging up the intersection because he was digging through his glove compartment” in search of a camera, Caffey said.
After Robbie took up his post, the owner of the Corner Café, located just across 11th Street, commissioned Caffey to make him a robot. That sculpture – a waitress with long, flowing hair made from old timing chains — holds a tray that spins, advertising the daily special.
“I’ve actually had several people approach me that they wanted me to make them one,” Caffey said.
He generally charges $400 to $600 for a sculpture, he said.
Car parts aren’t Caffey’s only medium. He also does rock etching and woodworking, creates sculptures from old Coca-Cola cans, and sculpts in cement.
“I am artsy,” he said. “I play the bass. I play the keyboards. I am artsy myself. No formal training by any means.”
Caffey began working in cement about 15 years ago, when a friend gave him a concrete cheetah with its paw, ears and nose broken. After repairing the cheetah, Caffey decided to sculpt a Siberian tiger from scratch.
“After that, I thought I wanted to do something big,” he said. “I made a velociraptor dinosaur that is eight and a half feet tall, 21 feet long, (made from) 110 bags of concrete, mixed by hand, applied by hand.”
The project, which stands in his backyard in a quiet midtown neighborhood, took three years to complete.
After sculpting the legs and tail, Caffey wanted to move the dinosaur, but it got caught on a fence he was building and wouldn’t budge – so he built the fence around it, designing it to look as if the creature is breaking out.
Caffey also collects Coca-Cola memorabilia, which he displays in his office. His collection includes every imaginable type of advertising material.
“Kazoo, harmonica, shoehorn, bowling balls, marbles, Monopoly. I’ve got 160 Coca-Cola vehicles,” he said, along with a jump rope, telephone, egg timer, fishing pole, 35mm camera, stapler, ruler, flashlight, 1968 AM radio, bank shaped like a Coke machine, pair of golf shoes, old uniforms, and several Barbie dolls. “There’s nothing Coke didn’t put their name on.”
Visitors can see Caffey’s collection during regular business hours, which are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.