NEW ORLEANS – The National World War II Museum next to a fire engine made for the military home front in 1943, and expect the reels and ready for the screen in two or three years.
When the 25-meter-long Ford-American LaFrance fire truck was new, it would have carried four firefighters, two of them standing on the rear running board of directors.
Steve Owen of Pell City, Alabama, donated in 2009. “I can’t tell you how happy I am, that I know that they have to restore it,” he said Wednesday.
At the moment it is a weathered red, with pieces of the previous painting to see clearly, but will be restored olive grey. That is the color of all AMERICAN military fire engines were painted after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, said Tom Czekanski, the museum’s restoration manager.
He said that a color change was ordered because the red fire trucks were bombed first. Honolulu is the civil fire brigade responded .
The museum is not yet able to learn where the truck is, made in 1943, and served during the second world War. It was definitely military because that was the only reason for that vehicles can be made during the war, Czekanski said. He is of the opinion that it was used on an army base in Alabama.
Owen, whose father was a firefighter, saw the truck sitting in front of the Dallas-Selfville Volunteer Fire department in Trafford, Alabama, in 1984 or 1985 with a “for sale” board.
“I turned around and I bought it on the spot,” he said.
He can’t remember the cost. “It was not a terribly large amount or I would not have bought,” he said.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed it. It was the sound and smell of the fire trucks that I remember riding when I was a little boy. You was not supposed to ride around on the truck, but I would sit at the top of the fire hoses and they would cover me with a tarp, because I like to take a ride in those things,” Owen recalled.
“I stopped performing for a number of years and I’d be children around,” he said. “Then I leave it too long in the garden and was run over.”
Owen said that he had been thinking about donating when Pell City sent him a notice to get the truck running or of his yard.
“That was the kick in the pants I needed,” Owen said.
A flatbed took the truck to a warehouse a few blocks from the museum — the current restoration headquarters.
The work began in January. Nearly every piece will be unbolted, inspected, repaired if necessary, cleaned, re-painted and in working order. The chairs, with their vinyl covers in good shape, but the springs are partially filled with what were probably mouse nests, leaning against the front of an aircraft tractor.
Large parts are shelved or if the fenders and the pieces of the cap are piled up on the warehouse floor; the smaller ones are in labeled Zip-Loc bags. The engine is still on the chassis, but was replaced at some point with a model other than that of the original, so the museum is looking for the right model. It is a lot of work, but worth the effort.
“We were intrigued,” Czekanski said, “to the idea of a vehicle that is used on the home front during the second world War.”