Introduction: Tow Mater Costume for a Wheelchair
I have been tasked with the challenge of creating a Halloween costume for my 11-year-old nephew. This is a challenge that every parent faces every October but the task requires more ingenuity for my nephew because he uses a wheelchair. I wanted a costume that was recognizable, not hidden by the wheelchair, would not hinder his mobility and be something that he would like. My nephew is a Disney fan but he particularly likes the Tow Mater character from the Cars movies.
I wanted a costume that would be durable, easy to get on and off of the wheelchair and not be bulky in the back where a person stands to push (or in his case, stop) the chair. I also wanted a costume that did not prohibit or inhibit my nephews' ability to push the wheels because this is his ability to have some control. Weight was also a consideration, I wanted a costume that was relatively lightweight so the wheelchair did not get too cumbersome to push.
I decided to make the frame out of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and towels. I would like to mention that not all wheelchairs are created equal. My nephew's chair was designed specifically for him. The size and dimensions of wheelchairs vary. You will need to measure the chair to determine the length and width of the PVC frame. Here is my list of materials.
2 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 32" long
2 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 10" long
2 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 20" long
8 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 14" long
3 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 4" long
2 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 16" long
2 pieces of 1/2" PVC pipe cut 3" long
8 90* three-way 1/2" PVC fitting
4 1/2" PVC "T" fitting
2 1/2 " PVC 90* Elbow fittings
2 Bath towels
2 Hand towels
1 dog tie out lead strap
1 mini paint roller
1 white pillowcase
1 bottom from a plastic planter
Step 1: The Fabric
For this step you will need the towels. I used towels because I already had them and they were the right size. Any fabric would work.
- Take one of the bath towels, fold it the short end over two inches and sew a seam the width of the towel. Repeat on the other side. This will allow the towel to slide onto the PVC frame.
- Next take one of the hand towels. Fold the short end over 4 inches and sew a seam the width of the towel. Repeat on the other side.
- Do the same thing with the other hand towel.
The hand towels will be used for the front and back of the truck while the bath towel will be the front fenders and hood.
Step 2: The Frame
For this step, you will need 2 - 32 inch pieces of PVC pipe, 2 - 10 inch pieces of PVC pipe, 2 - 20 inch pieces of PVC pipe,7 - 14 inch pieces of PVC pipe, 8 - 90* three-way fittings, 2 "T" fittings
- The front of the truck will be 4 - 14 inch pieces of pipe connected in a frame using 4 of the 90* three way fittings. Do not glue this yet because you will need to add the towels. Slide the bottom pipe through the seam you made on one of the hand towels. Slide the top pipe into the seam you made on the other side of the hand towels. Be careful to make sure your seams are not facing out.
- The back of the truck will be 3 - 14 inch pieces of pipe connected in a "U" shape. The top piece will be added later when we add the tow poles. Again, do not glue this yet because you will need to add the towels. Slide the side pipe into the seam you made on the other hand towel, do the same with the other side. Be careful to make sure your seams are not facing out.
- The front and the back of the truck will be connected on the bottom with the 2 - 32 inch pieces of pipe. DON'T GLUE THE BACK TO THE FRAME BECAUSE WE WILL USE THIS TO PUT IT ON AND OFF OF THE CHAIR.
- Connect a 20 inch piece of pipe to a 10 inch piece of pipe with a "T" fitting. Attach the 10 inch pipes to the front of the truck. Position the T with the open end pointing up, this will become the point of attachment for the windshield.
- Repeat step four for the other side.
- Slide a 32 inch piece of pipe through the seam you made on the bath towel. Pull the towel over the top of the frame and slide the other 32 inch piece of pipe through the other seam of the towel. The towel should cover three sides of your truck.
OPTIONAL: At this point you could glue all of the pipes in place EXCEPT the four connectors where the back attaches to the frame. You will never want to glue this because this is how we get it onto and off of the wheelchair.
Step 3: The Tow Hook
For this step you will need the back of the truck you just made, 2 - 16 inch pieces of pipe, 2 "T" connectors, 2 - 3 inch pieces of pipe, 2 - 4 inch pieces of pipe, the tie out strap, and the mini paint roller.
- Put a 3 inch pipe into the 90* connector on the back of the truck you just made.
- Next add a "T" and a 4 inch piece of pipe.
- Then add another T and the other 3 inch pipe and connect it to the other side of the back. This should complete the square for the back of the truck. Position the "T" with the open side facing up.
- Put a 16 inch piece of pipe in each of the "T" connectors.
- Add an elbow to the top of each 16 inch piece of pipe.
- Connect these two pieces of pipe with the other 4 inch piece of pipe.
- Remove the roller and brackets from the paint roller handle. This will be the "tow hook"
- Melt a hole on each side of the paint roller handle.
- Attach the dog tie out lead to the handle of the paint roller using the holes you just made.
- Wind the hook and the tie out lead around the top of the PVC pipes you just connected.
This is the back of the truck. Do not glue this piece to the rest of the truck because we will use this to get the truck on and off of the wheelchair.
Step 4: Putting It on the Wheelchair
My nephew's wheelchair has openings by the front wheel. I think they are there to be able to secure the chair in transport. I used these openings. Not all wheelchairs are made the same, you will need to examine the wheelchair you are using for points of attachment.
- Slide the frame of the truck through the openings by the front wheels.
- Push the frame from the front over the axle until all four pieces of pipe are accessible from the back.
- Attach the back of the truck. I did not glue this in place because I want to be able to take the tow truck off and put it back on the wheelchair as needed.
Step 5: Windshield/Eyes
You will need the remainder of the pipe in this step.
- Cut the white pillowcase so that you have a 4-6" piece of pillowcase with a seam at the top and both sides.
- Use the markers to draw and color the eyes. Position the eyes about an inch below the top seam of the pillowcase.
- Connect the remaining three pieces of pipe. Connect a 3" piece of PVC pipe to an elbow fitting, then attach the remaining 14" piece of pipe, next attach the elbow connector and the other 3" piece of pipe.
- Attach the three pieces of pipe you just connected to the open "T" connectors on the top of the truck.
- Place the white pillowcase over the pipes. This is the windshield/eyes.
Step 6: Detailing
For this step, you will need the two flashlights, some duct tape, the fabric paint, the bottom of the flower pot, and the mirrors.
- Tow Mater has a busted headlight and one working headlight. To get the appearance of a busted headlight, take the lens off of a flashlight. Then tape the flashlight to the frame of the truck, under the towel.
- The other headlight is a working headlight. To get the appearance of a working headlight, tape a working flashlight to the frame of the truck, under the towel.
- Use fabric paint to paint the mouth.
The passenger compartment
- Fold the other bath towel in half so the short ends are together.
- Sew a seam the length of the short ends.
- Put the towel over the seat and handles of the wheelchair
- I used the bottom of a plastic flower pot because it was the right size and color.
- Melt or cut four small holes in the bottom of the plastic flower pot.
- Turn the bottom upside down on the top of the frame of the truck, where the engine would be.
- Using string or thread, sew the flower pot base to the towel.
The side view mirrors:
- I found these great adjustable compact mirrors to use as side-view mirrors. I taped these to the handles of the wheelchair.
Pull the towels together and secure them with safety pins.
Runner Up in the
Halloween Contest 2019