Vintage fire truck gets new heart

Thanks to a band of volunteers the City’s 1929 International ladder fire truck will have a newer engine and drivetrain.

Larry LaPointe (standing on truck) and firefighters Murray Robertson and Paul Relkoff are volunteering their time

Larry LaPointe (standing on truck) and firefighters Murray Robertson and Paul Relkoff are volunteering their time

Thanks to a band of volunteers the City’s 1929 International ladder fire truck will have a newer engine and drivetrain. The volunteers are mostly made up of current firefighters, along with Larry LaPointe at the helm of the project.

The truck carried ladders and equipment like shovels and axes for the fire fighters of the day. A water pump sits on the front.

The truck was originally being worked on at the Public Works yard, but a concerns from the City lead to the project being moved to LaPointe’s garage.

LaPointe explained that the purpose of what the engine and transmission swap is to deal with a number of issues that the 86-year-old fire truck had while running.

“They’d have trouble in the parades, it ran hot and was hard to shift and those kinds of things,” he added.

For instance, the truck had a manual gearbox that required double clutching, which was difficult to do smoothly. The engine was also not very cooperative at staying running in the parades, LaPointe said.

The old engine won’t go to waste — with plans for a cosmetic restoration and a display spot on the fire hall.

“It had the original engine and tranny up until now, but it was getting to the point where it wouldn’t run through a parade or we couldn’t keep it running, so that was the idea, to swap it out so that we could still use it around town,” explained Paul Relkoff.

The original engine was a 1929 Lycoming flathead six engine.

In 2001, they did a similar project to the City’s vintage 1924 fire trunk. The new engine comes out of a 1980 Mercury Cougar.

“There was a lot of fabricating to make it work,” LaPointe said. “But we don’t butcher anything on the truck. We don’t do any cutting or welding on the frame or anything.”

For instance, the engine mounts on the newer engine were fitted to plates that lined up with some of the bolt holes already on the frame. They did have to drill a few holes, but opted for as clean looking of an install as possible. That leaves the option open for the truck to be restored to the original drivetrain in the future.

The wiring was also converted from six volt to 12 volt.

The City of Cranbrook actually purchased the truck brand new in 1929. It was bought by the City of Edgewater in 1955, but then was purchased back and returned to Cranbrook in 1979.

At that time it was fully restored. A part of the frame that was removed was restored and it was brought back to as close to original shape as possible.

Helping the project along are Murray Robertson, Paul Relkoff, Cody Swanson, Ken Gaudreault and Bryan Home.

They have also had great support from businesses around town that have been glad to help out.