SOHS Volunteers Restore 1946 Fire Engine

This blog will document the progress of the rehabilitation and preservation of a 1946 Ford Fire Engine once owned by the Ashland Oregon Fire Department. The Fire Engine was donated to the Southern Oregon Historical Society in May 2017.
History of the Amphibious Fire Engine
 
 

Our new water pumps arrived Saturday. Unfortunately, though we received boxes properly labeled for a left-hand and right-hand 1946 Ford water pumps, inside one of the boxes was a 1953 water pump. Oh, joy. The dealer says the replacement should be here next Monday.

We--Phil, Paul and Ben--replaced the right-hand pump without any particular trouble; with luck we'll be able to replace the left-hand pump next Tuesday.

With our remaining time we took a collective deep breath and removed our worn steering gearbox. This was necessary because there was about 120 degrees of play in the steering--you'd have to run the steering wheel a third of a turn before the front wheels found out about your intentions.

Removing the steering box involves disconnecting the ignition wiring, removing the steering wheel, unclamping and unbolting the steering tube and pulling it out the top. Then we got to unbolt the steering box from the frame and pull the pitman arm from the sector gear shaft. Then we had to jack up the vehicle about a foot and pull the assembly out the bottom. What could be simpler?

The first steps were relatively straightforward and trouble-free. Then we put a gear puller on the pitman arm and cranked it and cranked it and sprayed it with penetrating oil and hit it with a sledge hammer and put a two-foot extension on it and cranked it some more and whacked it with the sledge some more.

We were getting really discouraged when the arm on its own went BANG! and flew off the shaft. As if it had been going to do it anyway--and we needn't have bothered with all the cranking and oiling and whacking.

We then disassembled the steering gearbox, and the internal wear became more than apparent. A repair kit ($200) with new gears, bearings and seals is on its way--theoretically. If it arrives and turns out to be the correct parts, it's looking like it should be a fairly simple repair. In retrospect.

While all this was going on Mike Trump continued to do yeoman work on the wiring. Currently he's working on the spotlights and red warning light. The metal contacts are old and tired and corroded; he's taken some of the lights home to ponder them. No rest for the fire engine electrician.

If you haven't visited the fire engine yet, we work on it every Tuesday at least 11-1:00 (and sporadically and unpredictably on other days). You can find us at 3263 Biddle Road, Medford, in the back. We'll let you run the siren!



Ben Truwe

With the radiator repaired and back in place, Phil, Mike and Joe filled it with coolant and were ready to take it for a drive around the parking lot--which they would have done if the leaks hadn't been so intractible.

Turns out one of the petcocks and one of the water pumps is leaking. This is actually a good thing. The stock water pumps on the old Ford V8s were notoriously inefficient--they did a better job of stirring the water than actually pumping it through the engine. Not a good thing for a fire truck that will spend much of its future idling in parades in the summer heat. We'll replace them both.

I'll drive to Bob Drake's in Grants Pass tomorrow and pick up a pair of redesigned, modern water pumps and we'll install them next Tuesday--if one of our stalwarts will bring a floor jack. Fun fact: the engine mounts are molded into the water pumps, so we need to jack up the engine to replace them.

Mike Trump wired in the turn signals two weeks ago, and Tuesday he fixed them so we'll be able to turn in both directions. More wiring to do: license plate light (it's never had a license plate on it), red signal light and spotlights.

I got a phone call today from the company in Arkansas rebuilding our instrument panel. They say they're on track to have it in our hands the middle of June--with a lifetime guarantee. It'll cost us $750.

If you haven't visited the engine yet, we work on it every Tuesday at least 11-1:00 (and sporadically on other days). You can find us at 3263 Biddle Road, Medford, in the back. We'll let you run the siren!

Ben Truwe

6 new tires and powder painted wheels were delivered today courtesy of TP Trucking and Craig Turner.
 
Retired Ashland Firefighter Sandy Bennett and his wife Judy visited the workshop today.
He may be the oldest surviving  firefighter who was in the Ashland Fire Department before
the Fire Engine was sold as surplus in the mid- 1970’s.  We now know of 3 firefighters currently in the Rogue Valley who have served on our vehicle.
 

Jim Missildine offered to restore our steering wheel … and he delivered it today!  It’s as good as new now.

Volunteer Phil Kessler designed and constructed a 4-passenger bench for the rear of our fire engine. Now we will be able to transport passengers safely during parades.

KOBI-5 aired our story (all 60 seconds of it): 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQVOPEfBjqc

I got a call on Tuesday from Jack Sutherland of Ashland.  He asked if he could come see the Fire Engine.  He explained that he was a fireman in Ashland from 1961-1964 and rode on the vehicle many times.   I was happy to give him a VIP tour.  He and his wife Sandy enjoyed seeing the truck again after so many years.

I received the first WWII Battle Lantern that was missing from the rear sides of our Fire Engine - I found it on eBay and purchased it from a contribution by Clair Thorne of Phoenix (another old car guy).  The lantern is in great shape but will need an “overhaul” to convert it from battleship gray to fire engine red.   We’ll also have to modify the mount on the back side to fit our Fire Engine instead of the walls of a battleship. I’m hoping that Lee Newton can help figure this out.

  • We received the rest of the wiring harnesses - one to connect the dash harness to the headlights and horn and the other to connect the side and rear instrument and compartment lights to the battery.  Those were made by Bauer Electronics in Bend - the same people who manufactured the other harnesses we’ve already installed.
  • “Steering Wheel Jim” has our steering wheel that Glenn Amsberry was kind enough to bead blast and Jim will begin working on it next week for us.  Jim drives for FedEx and comes by the workshop from time to time.
  • Mike Stitt has our generator and is going to replace the brushes and “tune it up” for us.
  • Rick is searching for a new top to our rebuilt carburetor, which has a crack in the top that has been repaired but should be replaced.
  • Phil is working on a design for bench seating in the rear compartment to allow us to transport VIPs in comfort.  

Thanks to all of you who have volunteered to work on this project.  We’ve come a long way in just 7 months.  I hope that we’ll have this baby on the road in 2018 for some parade and promotion duty.

Next Tuesday is a “bye” week for us - enjoy an extended New Years weekend and we’ll reconvene at the Workshop on Tuesday January 9

 

Mike is rebuilding the windshield wiper while Norma paints the inside of the truck bed.

Volunteer Phil Kessler milled the lumber and fabricated new floors for the back of the fire engine.  We just brought them over to the workshop this morning.   What a difference!

 

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