National WW2 Museum renovating 1943 home front fire truck
National WW2 Museum renovating 1943 home front fire truck Restoration specialists for the National WWII Museum lift off the cab of a 1940's era fire truck, in their warehouse in New Orleans, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
National WW2 Museum renovating 1943 home front fire truck
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The National World War II Museum is taking apart a fire engine made for the military home front in 1943. It expects to have it rolling and ready for display in two or three years.

The fire truck is a 25-foot-long Ford-American LaFrance. When it was new, it would have carried four firefighters. Two of them would stand on the rear running board.

Steve Owen of Pell City, Alabama, donated it in 2009. "I can't tell you how happy I am to know they're restoring it," he said Wednesday.

It's currently a weathered red, with bits of earlier paint jobs showing through. It will be repainted olive drab. That's the color all U.S. military fire trucks were painted after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, said Tom Czekanski. He is the museum's restoration manager.

He said that color change was ordered because the red fire trucks were bombed first. Honolulu's civilian firefighters responded.

The museum hasn't been able to learn where its truck, made in 1943, served during World War II. It was certainly military because that was the only reason for which vehicles could be made during the war, Czekanski said. He believes it was used at an Army base in Alabama.

Owen’s father was a firefighter. He spotted the truck sitting in front of the Dallas-Selfville Volunteer Fire Department in Trafford, Alabama, in 1984 or 1985. It had a "for sale" sign.

"I turned around and I bought it on the spot," he said.

He can't recall the cost. "It wasn't a terrible big amount or I wouldn't have bought it," he said.

"I sure enjoyed it. It had the sound and the smell of the fire trucks that I remember riding in when I was a little kid. You weren't supposed to ride around on the truck, but I'd sit on top of the fire hoses and they'd cover me up with a tarp, because I loved to ride in those things," Owen recalled.

"I kept it running for several years and I would take kids around on it," he said. "Then I let it set up too long in the yard and it got run down."

Owen said he'd been thinking about donating it when Pell City mailed him a notice to get the truck running or get it out of his yard.

"That was the kick in the pants I needed," Owen said.

A flatbed hauled the truck to a warehouse a few blocks from the museum. It’s the museum’s current restoration headquarters.

Work began in January. Nearly every piece will be unbolted and inspected. They will be repaired if necessary. Then every piece will be cleaned and repainted. They will be put in working order. The seats’ vinyl covers are in great shape but the springs are partly filled with what probably were mouse nests. They lean against the front of an aircraft tractor.

Large parts are shelved or — like the fenders and pieces of the hood — piled on the warehouse floor. Smaller pieces are in labeled Zip-Loc bags. The engine is still on the chassis. It was replaced at some point with a model other than the original, so the museum is looking for the right model. It's a lot of work, but worth it.

"We were intrigued," Czekanski said, "at the idea of a vehicle used on the home front during World War II."

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What process will the museum use to get the fire truck in working order?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • jamariw-orv
    5/23/2018 - 02:54 p.m.

    I think this is a very cool thing for people to come look at and understand the history behind it.

  • jeremyj-orv
    5/23/2018 - 02:57 p.m.

    Its great to see these guys restore that truck and also put it on display.... it sure its worth a lot of money...

  • KhloeG-kam
    5/24/2018 - 12:35 p.m.

    I haven't read the passage yet but yet I wonder why is the 1943 firetruck so important?

  • JoseG-ilc
    8/17/2018 - 06:12 p.m.

    I enjoyed read this article because I had been a firefighter. I hope the website post truck's picture when the restoration will finished.

  • AngelicaL-ilc
    8/18/2018 - 05:53 p.m.

    Restoring things like a fire truck you can know the history of your country and the world.

  • TatyM-ilc
    8/19/2018 - 01:52 p.m.

    The museum is planning that every piece will be unbolted, inspected and repaired if necessary. Then every piece will be cleaned and repainted.Large parts are shelved and smaller pieces are in labeled Ziploc bags. The engine was replaced with a model other than the original, so the museum is looking for the right model. The idea is to restore the truck completely.

  • ChristianH-ilc
    8/19/2018 - 10:24 p.m.

    Many parts of the truck are in bad conditions even though the museum is able to repair everything. The museum will unbolt and inspect every piece, so they will check functionality of each one. Some part will need to be replaced and others will be cleaned and repainted. The motor might be replaced because it is 33 years old, so it may not be in conditions to work.

  • GustavoC-ilc
    8/20/2018 - 12:20 a.m.

    They will inspect, repair or replace each part of the truck in order to restore it.

  • MajoR-ilc
    8/20/2018 - 12:40 a.m.

    First, every piece of the fire truck will be inspected, unbolted, and repaired if necessary. After that every piece will be cleaned and repainted. Finally, it will be put in working order.

  • IbethJ-ilc
    8/20/2018 - 01:53 a.m.

    First, the museum will inspect, repair o replace each part of the fire truck if necessary. After, they will clean and repaint each piece. Finally, the truck will be put in working order.

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