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#1 Gtractor ONLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2015 - 04:33 PM

Wednesday the weather was perfect. I was off work and needed to "try out" the firetruck to make sure it'd make it through the upcoming Christmas Parade.

This belongs to the local museum.

Its been stored at the museum for nearly two decades,  but the city was being wishy-washy about ownership.  Things got rather ugly as the city was claiming they still owned it and wouldn't let the museum people touch it.  Most all the older firemen have retired or passed on and the younger firemen had no connection to the truck or its local history so it sat being ignored in a building on museum property that isn't generally open to the public. 

I am on the museum board of directors and am one of only 4 people insured to drive their vehicles.

The truck wasn't operable,  needing some minor repairs and maintenance, and the museum wasn't going to spend one cent on it if it still belonged to the city. 

There it sat - for several years.

Last year the museum president told the city to either officially donate it to the museum or get it out of our building. 

The city came and removed the truck. 

For 4 months the truck was stored at different city departments - with none wanting it around. This caused a big riff about what to do with it. 

Finally a former city councilman stepped forward and told the current council that the city offically donated the truck almost 20 years ago when he was part of the council.  No records of the donation could be found by either the museum or city.   Someone at the local newspaper then found an article where it was donated way back when sealing the deal.  With the city having nowhere to store the truck it was returned with official word from the city of "its yours"

The main reason it wouldn't start was the starters bendix gear was about 1/10 ground off and the flywheel ring gear was about 1/2 gone in both of the two spots where the engine stops every time.  The museum tried to find someone that would pull the tranny to put on a new flywheel ring gear.  No local shop would touch it because it still has the pump and all the related plumbing to deal with on a tranny removal. 

Once I studied the problem I noticed it had a spacer between the starter and bell housing that could be planed down so the teeth would get more bite.  AT BEST this thing only had 1/2 of its teeth width meshing when it was being used and was allowed to run like that for years accelerating the wear.  I took the starter off and took the spacer to the local machine shop.  Told the guy to plane 3/8 of an inch off the spacer.  $25 later we had a starter that would actually turn the engine.   

The oil looked like roofing tar so I changed that complete with a diesel fuel flush, and new canister style oil filter.  Fires right up but still not hitting on all 12 cylinders.  I rigged an electric fuel pump and sucked 7 gallon of brown nasty gasoline out of the tank.  Put in new gas [with Stabil] hoping the new gas would make it hit on more cylinders.   Starts easy, idles great and running good enough to pull itself for now.  I'm going to check into the ignition system a little farther and also do a compression check some day soon but at least I know it'll run through our Christmas parade. 

Wednesday afternoon, with permission,  I drove it all over town.  People really wave at a fire truck!

Two people followed me around for quite some time and one of them flagged me down in an attempt to purchase the truck.  I parked and gave him a complete walk around tour. 



1957 American LaFrance model 700 pumper

526 cubic inch V-12 gas engine - 24 spark plugs. 

2 distributors - both with dual points and condensors.

2 starter buttons with 2 seperate solenoids w/each having its own 12 volt battery. 

4 speed tranny - single speed rear end - hydraulic brakes


Now for the good stuff!

fire truck.jpg ,fire truck V12.jpg


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#2 Gtractor ONLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2015 - 04:52 PM

I might add that this truck wasn't bought new by the city.  Rather it was bought as a factory reconditioned "training unit" with some miles and hours already on it in early 1964.  It replaced a nearly identical unit that was totalled out in an accident in late 1963 while responding to a fire.   A city policeman was responding to the same fire call in his then-new 1964 Ford Galaxy cruiser and the previous firetruck met at an intersection.  The resulting impact killed the police officer and totalled the cruiser, firetruck, and a 1957 Studebaker Transtar pickup that got caught up in the mess while sitting still at a red light.   My friend Richard was sitting in the Stude.  He was only 12 years old at the time and his dad was driving.  They got a first-hand view of the carnage.

Edited by Gtractor, October 16, 2015 - 05:04 PM.

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#3 wvbuzzmaster OFFLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2015 - 05:03 PM

Great old truck. Thanks for sharing.
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#4 chieffan ONLINE  

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Posted October 16, 2015 - 05:30 PM

Neat looking old truck there Kris.  Sure takes a lot of work to try and keep these museums open and running.  I have to get in and do some work on the window wells of our facility.  then get a back seeded won with Crown Vetch.  Always something.

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#5 classic ONLINE  

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Posted October 16, 2015 - 05:50 PM

Great looking fire truck. It's good that you took the effort and had the interest in getting it up and running again. I took a pic of neat old piece of history at a nearby show recently. The turn out at the show seems to be less and less every year.

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  • 20151004_121901-1.jpg

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#6 KennyP OFFLINE  



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Posted October 16, 2015 - 06:33 PM

Glad you could get it going again!

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Posted October 16, 2015 - 07:56 PM

That's awesome that you took it upon yourself to get a piece of history back up and running . Very cool

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Posted October 18, 2015 - 06:42 PM

Wow Kris, what a history including the terrible accident the former one was in! Great job helping the museum with the whole ordeal and coming up with an affordable method to get it running! Can't tell for sure in the pic, is the lettering gold leaf?



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#9 daytime dave OFFLINE  

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Posted October 18, 2015 - 07:13 PM

That was an interesting story Kris.  That's a great looking fire truck.  The museum is luck to have you.

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#10 Gtractor ONLINE  


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Posted October 15, 2016 - 11:08 PM

Wow Kris, what a history including the terrible accident the former one was in! Great job helping the museum with the whole ordeal and coming up with an affordable method to get it running! Can't tell for sure in the pic, is the lettering gold leaf?



Sorry Doug, 

I missed your question until today.  Three days shy of a year later...... :wallbanging:

Had the truck out today for the first time since this time last year.   That made me revisit this thread.

The lettering is not Gold Leaf.


Last year I had the truck all ready to go in the Christmas parade.   It starts easily and runs - but not very good.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd gear are OK but not enough power to do anything in 4th.   Last year I did a compression test and 6 of the 12 cylinders have none!   I can tell by the rust stains around the top of the radiator that it has been boiled over many times over the years.  I suppose if you are fighting a fire and it boils over you just shoot some water in and keep fighting the fire.  No time to stop and cool down.

Most of you understand what happens when you inject cold water into a boiling hot engine.  Usually, they crack the block, heads, or both.  If you get real lucky, you only blow the head gasket. 

When I told the President of the sit-chee-a-shun,  he asked what we could do for it.  I had already looked online and found a place in Texas that specialized in these engines.  A rebuildable  block is totally cost prohibitive for these trucks - let alone a full rebuild job.  I read online where someone dropped a 460 Ford in one and it was easy to do. 

Anyhow  the truck runs good enough for parade duty so it was all set.

Then the company I work for decided I needed to work the Saturday of last years parade. 

After all the work I done.

That made me happy.

They did give me the opportunity to be off but laid a guilt trip on like I've never seen before. 

So I worked. 

Basically I agreed because one of my bosses wanted to take his granddaughter to the parade. 

If I didn't work he would've had to.   I have a soft spot for lil kids.  :angel:

Another co-worker also had to work that day and he was to drive one of the other trucks.  So nothing from the museum was in last years parade.

I'm trying to do better this year.


Wonder if one of those El-Cheap-O  HF camera scopes would see enough to find if its head gaskets or cracks in the block/heads through the spark plug hole????? 

Edited by Gtractor, October 15, 2016 - 11:42 PM.

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#11 MH81 OFFLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2016 - 06:48 AM

My work has one of those scopes.
They have a bigger barrel and shaft than I was expecting. Not huge, but make certain it'll fit in there. Also, the turn radius won't allow you to look back up at the head... 6"ish radius from what I remember.

As for the image, it's not bad. Clarity ok, light ok to a maybe 3-4".
Disorienting in its orientation, but that would be any of them.

You might put some lite air pressure in a cyl and see where it goes? You could be dealing with stuck valves? I wouldn't think 6 at a time, but who knows.
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#12 DougT OFFLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2016 - 09:42 AM

I'm with Alan on the air check of the cylinders. With the truck's history of sitting for so long, 6 stuck valves wouldn't surprise me. They may have been the ones opened when it was parked. I'm not familiar enough with the engine to know if the pistons would have kissed them if they were open. Another thought would be rust on the seat keeping them from sealing.  A head gasket should cause overheat issues just cruising around or idling. 6 holes pumping into the radiator should pressurize it real quick and want to blow coolant out the top.

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#13 Gtractor ONLINE  


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Posted October 16, 2016 - 01:09 PM

Thanx Alan,  never thought about the need to bend the camera 180* to look around in such a tight hole.


Couple of decades ago I did a very short term career as a radiator builder at a Modine MFG plant.  We had a scope camera and had to pull a rad. off the assembly line every so often to look inside it.  You could see everything with this camera.  I'm sure it was a top-of-the-line scope.  Wondered if a HF unit was any good.  Be handy even if it wasn't the best.


Thanx to you too Doug.   You get time check this engine out.  Valves won't get kissed [or slammed] because as you can see from the  link the valves are horizontal and well above the pistons.  Odd design but that's what I like about it.  Low compression to say the least.

I remember seeing the valves through the spark plug holes. With dual spark plugs I think there is a plug hole above [to the side since valves lay flat] of every valve.  Never thought to push on the valves while I had the plugs out for the compression test. 

 Looks like its be easy to remove the "valve head" [for lack of a better term] and maybe could see cracks/problems that way. 

Only problem is I'd still need new gaskets and I'm sure they'd be high $. 



Edited by Gtractor, October 16, 2016 - 01:09 PM.

#14 toomanytoys84 OFFLINE  



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Posted October 16, 2016 - 06:11 PM

We have a Milwaukee bore scope at work. It works great but it's also 699 dollars.

It was the cheapest decent resolution one I could find.
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#15 Austen ONLINE  

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Posted October 17, 2016 - 01:40 PM

Neat old fire truck! Thanks for resurrecting it.

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