Amidst the middle of this pandemic, I made the questionable choice of upgrading to a new rig. This past May, I came across an older DCE/Pro Sled and 3A arm package that was within my budget, and fit the bill for me finally making the jump from a Zephyr to a full sized rig.
The package was coming from a younger Operator in Mexico City and I asked him about the history of the sled and what components it was made up of. He didn't seem to know much about the sled itself, except that it was upgraded to HD and the gimbal was serviced before he got the package, which he had owned for a couple years. I asked him about the rest of the package, and he said it was all in good shape, all serviced recently. The battery rack had been modified to a rods system with Anton Bauer plates, and with a 1.5" post I figured I could upgrade some things as need be. I went ahead with the purchase, excited to be moving to big rig. An astonishing $900 in shipping from Mexico later, I received the package.
Upon arrival and inspection, lots of things were off. The top stage was loose as a goose. I checked the set screws that tighten the internal dovetail on the stage, and they were mostly stripped and unable to be tightened anymore. The Monitor was attached with a single 1/4-20 bolt, ready to spin off center and the 3A arm was setup goofy with the socket pin bent in place. A rig that's seen many years of use and not enough love.
Of course I reach out to the former Owner/Operator and ask him what the heck is up. His response? "Oh that's strange, I've never seen any of those issues. That must've happened in shipping." Really?! The Steadicam was well packed and shipped in a foam cutout pelican, and since socket pins don't randomly get bent in a case like that, I knew he was flat out lying.
At this point I was pretty frustrated and ready to file a claim with Paypal. When I brought this up to him, he said he really couldn't afford to have the the package returned because he needed the money for surgery. Obviously I felt bad that this maybe the case, and I knew we both would lose a lot of money in wasted shipping fee's. I wanted to work with him, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and option of resolving it by refunding part of the purchase price, which despite his claims of having no knowledge of these problems, he easily agreed to.
I built the rest of the rig fingers crossed that everything else would check out. The gimbal indeed felt good, and the arm (setup goofy) felt pretty solid as well. I hoped I wasn't undershooting what any other repairs might cost and waited on the refund.
A few weeks pass and I hadn't heard anything from the seller. I ask him about sending the money and he said he had issues with the refund process, so I initiate a claim with paypal for a partial refund. Weeks go by, no refund, no real responses. I had to escalate the claim with Paypal, and in the end Papal settles the dispute with me receiving a partial refund. Just enough for a used PRO DB-2 top stage, which was my first step in upgrading this Sled to reliable working condition.
Fast forward a few months and I've gotten the new donkey box installed and reconfigured the monitor to be based off the lower rails, with a Camjam or Smart system mount in the future. The rig fly's way better than I first received it, and the upgraded top stage probably turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Excited to keep bringing this classic rig into the modern era, and learn more about the history behind the parts in play.
Build 1 with original scissor monitor mount. Build 2 with the lower monitor mount and new extended rails.
So to bring this story full circle, I researched most of the old posts I could find about DCE systems, and am super interested to know any info that can be shared. My conclusions as of now seem to be a Pro 1 top stage (originally) and gimbal, with DCE post, D-box, junction box, and lower battery rack remnants? This could be totally wrong, but here are some photos of the rig to help with identification.
Also some bonus 3A arm photos, serial #312, and Chris Fawcett's old custom leather LX vest from Steadicam. Cheers!