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Dodge Fire Engine GXO 480 - Background to the Restoration

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Some things happen by design, some things happen by accident. In this case, a combination of the two resulted in GXO 480 being taken on for some TLC.

Looking back it seems not that long ago, but it was probably more like 1973, when RustyTrucks Snr (AKA my Dad) announced that he had been successful in a sealed tender bid, and that we were now the proud owners of a fire engine.  It is all a bit vague now, but I am pretty sure that not everyone in the household was as keen. I think the purchase price was 87, and there were doubtless other things that could have been done with 87.  What subsequently remember though was trundling up to Kendal fire station one evening with dad and others who, notwithstanding their enthusiasm failed miserably to get the thing to start, despite hitching it to another (in service) fire engine and roaring the pair of them around the back streets surrounding the fire station.

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1979.  Big brother Chris, Dixie the Dog, Mrs RustyTrucks (with No1 Baby RustyTrucks on board!) and me. 

Eventually the carb got a little attention and once the fuel needle was freed from where it had decided to lodge itself, the old sidevalve motor started and ran as smoothly as it presumable always did (and still does for that matter).  Of course this was the days before anyone would worry overly much about things, so we all piled in and it was driven the 20 or so miles home.  It had been stripped of its gear, but seemed sound in wind and limb, and proved to have an indecent turn of speed.

I was too young to drive it, but Dad and big brother were OK.  We kept it for years, and it was taken to numerous rallies in the late 1970s and early 1980’s, including a memorable trip to Glamis in Scotland as well as participation in the Torchlight Procession in Kendal – carrying a jazz band.  The former trip to Scotland included crossing the Forth Road Bridge, where Dad insisted that the toll bill was sent to Westmorland County Fire Brigade for payment, and where we crossed the bridge with the theme tune from The Dambusters blaring out thanks to a suitably mounted wind-up gramaphone.

 

 

Over time a ladder, bell, hosereels and equipment were added, but fundamentally it was as it was when it left the service.  It lived outside, which would also have taken its toll.

Over the years we three brothers all grew up, and we all retained a keen interest in vehicles, but the effect of this was that we all went our separate ways and had our own pet projects.  Add to that the additional and inevitable pressures of setting up homes, work, marriage and so on, and very soon the Dodge was parked up, gathering dust and steadily deteriorating in a field that acted as the centre of our vehicle restoration efforts.

It started to look very sorry for itself, and yet none of us were either inclined, or able, to take it on.  Dad had a go, but it was at that point in its deterioration where it was neither preservation nor restoration.  It needed the latter, but the efforts were more the former.  Dad and Mum moved house, the field went too, and big brother Chris gave the now very derelict Dodge a temporary home, but even that could not provide a long term solution.  As far as I knew, it had been taken on by another Dodge owner who wanted it as a source of spares.

Eventually, even though I had a restoration on the go (a Jeep) I started hankering after something a bit bigger and more interesting (I apologise to Jeep owners at this point – they are cracking vehicles but in restoration terms they are, for me, a bit dull).  I was conversing idly with Chris one day when he said “what about the Dodge?”  What I did not know was that it had not gone for spares, but was sitting in an orchard (and the orchard owner was keen to see it off the premises!).  We went to look, and after taking a very deep breath, decided to go for it.  My interest is in restoring vehicles; not owning them, not rallying them (although those are nice in their own way) but getting to grips with the seemingly impossible.  A man made it – a man can rebuild it is my motto.

 

Out it came, together with a few saplings that had decided to take root and grow up through the chassis and so on, then it was on hands and knees to try and find as many components that may have fallen off as possible.  It was recovered by lifting the whole thing onto a truck then taking it home to see what, if anything could be done with it.  Only at that point did I get the camera, tape measure and notebook out, but even without the additional long grass and trees intertwined with the remnants of the once fine Dodge fire engine it was a very sorry sight indeed.

 

Or, perhaps a better description would be that it was an excellent and unique restoration project!

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