Written By Robert Tucker
The story of our 1929 Ford Model "A" engine, like many antique pieces of fire apparatus,
has a long and distinguished history. The truck was originally built by the Prospect
Fire Engine Co. of Prospect Ohio in 1929. Purchased by Perry Township for $4,200,
the truck was state of the art for the era. It featured:
- 350 GPM Deluge high pressure pump
- 80 gallon water tank
- 60 gallon chemical agent tank
- 2 high pressure hose reels
Placed into service in 1929, the truck was the pride of the fleet. The truck was
the primary vehicle for all fire and accident related incidents. The picture on
the right was taken in 1940 when the truck was still in service. Pictured are Conrad
"Coony" Tucker (left) and two other members of the department who's names are lost
to history. Click the picture to see a larger image of it.
The truck was removed from service in the late 1950's and replaced with a newer
piece of apparatus. The truck fell into disrepair and succumb to the elements as
it rusted beside the station for many years. Then, in the early 1960's the truck
was moved to the garage of Coony Tucker for safe keeping. Many members of the department
had several ideas on what to do with the truck. One of the ideas was to use it as
a foam truck. However, after a while, the truck was forgotten and left to rust away
in Coony's garage.
In 1992, when Coony passed away, Howard Tucker, his brother and former member of
the department, approached me and asked what we were going to do with the truck.
Howard's original thought was for he and I to restore it to working order. However,
I was in college and did not have the time, or energy to undertake such a large
project. After discussing this with my grandfather, we decided that I would approach
Fire Chief Mike Messmann to see if there was any interest from the membership to
accept the truck and restore it. As it turned out, several members expressed interest
in the project, so in September of 1992, Howard donated the truck back to the department
and made up a contract that stipulated that we, the membership of the Huntertown
Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., Had until September of 1997 to completely restore
the truck to full working order as it was when the truck was in service. No part
of the truck could just be "for show". Everything had to be in working order. So,
in October of 1992, the truck was towed into the back of our station and for the
members whom had never seen the truck before were in for a shock. See The Pictures
The general consensus was "what have we gotten ourselves into?" The truck was a
wreck. Most of the body panels were rusted and falling apart. The original seat
was gone, the engine was froze up, the tires were all rotted, if there at all. We
had our work cut out for us. Then two former Fire Chiefs of our department stepped
forward and took charge of the Project. Dan West and Bob Bremer (Top Picture, Dan
is behind the wheel and Bob is beside him). They quickly formed what became known
as the "A-Team". The "A-Team" was a select group of members who were to do the majority
of the work. The team members were Dan West, Bob Bremer, Dave Houser and Fire Chief
Mike Messmann. Other members of the department also helped out with the restoration,
but these four men were the driving force behind the project. Bob was a little hesitant
to even undertake this task at all in the beginning.
"I got volunteered." Bob said to me when interviewing him for this story. "I missed
the meeting that the body voted to accept this truck. I would have voted no at the
time. We have had some other projects in the past that have started well and have
lost steam and were never completed." Bob was sure that this truck would turn out
the same way. However, because the department had already agreed to do the restoration,
Bob was determined to see this project through.
A majority of the work was done by Bob and Dan. They worked on it almost everyday,
except most Saturdays and Sundays. Dan was a City of Fort Wayne firefighter at the
time, so he spent his days off working on the truck. They also had to travel to
many swap meets and flea markets to find parts that would work to replace ones too
deteriorated to use. For several months the job was to tear the truck down to it's
frame rails. Each part was evaluated to see if it could be reused or needed replacement.
The engine and radiator was taken into a local repair shop and completely rebuilt.
The same was done to the transmission. After the chassis was sandblasted and painted,
the engine, transmission and pump were remounted.
The "A-Team" also tore down the pump and rebuilt it. It took many weeks to completely
tear down, clean it up and reassemble. Then came the mounting of the existing as
well as new body panels. The only parts of the body that could be reused were gas
tank , engine cowl, rear fenders and the windshield with the original glass. The
front fenders, radiator housing, seat and hose bed were either purchased new at
swap meets or fabricated from scratch.
By the mid summer of 1993, the truck was really starting to take shape. The "A-Team"
decided at the last minute to enter it as is into our town parade. It was a real
hit. Over the next year and a half, the "A-Team" worked feverishly to have the truck
completed before our targeted completion date of September 1997. With the help of
many local businesses that donated time and materials, the truck slowly but surely
began to look more like a fire truck and less like a heap of rust.
Finally, by Summer of 1995, the work was complete. The "A-Team" had completely restored
to working order the first motorized piece of fire apparatus our department ever
owned. Since its completion, our department has won several awards at local musters
and parades. We have since purchased an enclosed trailer to store and transport
it. The truck is used for several special department events. It has been used for
several weddings as well as honoring fallen members by giving them the "last call"
ride to their final resting place.
There was a condition in the contract that stipulated that a plaque would be placed
on the truck, dedicating it's restoration and future use to Conrad "Coony" Tucker.
The plaque is on the passengers side and tells of the dedication that Coony gave
not only to our department, but all fire departments in the state of Indiana.
When you find yourself in Northeast Indiana, please stop in our station and have
a look at history.
Authors Personal Note:
As a member of the Tucker family, I will always be grateful and appreciative of
the hard work and dedication that the "A-Team" gave to this project. Their work
will endure for many years to come.