The doors of an old barn swung open, and there she was – a bright red 1936 Ford fire truck, complete with a wooden ladder hanging over its side and fitted with brass fittings.
At the scene was a truck from Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, ready to load the precious cargo and transport it from its home for the past eight years, a private property on McGettigan Road, to Blanchard’s home. In Blanchard, a group of volunteers was ready to begin work to make the truck roadworthy again, with the hope that by this time next year, it would have a place of honor in Wilton’s Old Home Days parade.
The truck sat forgotten for years in a barn owned by Louise Caswell, after mechanical problems caused the town to take it off the road. She made occasional appearances at city parades and rally events. When the town got an offer to buy the car and the option to sell it came up, resident Tom Schultz said his ears perked up.
Schultz said the idea of selling the truck didn’t sit well with him.
“It’s been owned by the city since it was brand new, so it’s been in the city for almost 90 years. It’s the only historical piece of fire equipment that’s still left, other than the hand pump in front of the fire station. It’s a relic,” Schultz said. Basically the twentieth century.”
Schultz began trying to garner some support to keep the truck, including reaching out to residents on Facebook and email, and asking for volunteers to come forward.
One of those who received the email was Jennifer Beck.
I said: Wait, this is part of our history. This can’t be that difficult. “We have a lot of people in town who know about antique vehicles, and a lot of people in town who are talented mechanics,” Beck said. “You mean Wilton can’t salvage its fire truck?”
Indeed, there was a group of people who were willing to volunteer to restore the truck, including some who worked on the truck before it was stored in 2015.
Dana LaFleur, who runs Blanchard Auto, towed the truck to Caswell Ranch in 2015 and said he wanted to see it stay in the city.
“I think it’s important that we hold on to it if we have the space or someone who wants it,” LaFleur said. As it turned out, LaFleur had the space, and offered to house Blanchard’s Auto to house the car and provide a work space for the restoration and even some parts if they were needed to return the car to working condition.
“I love old cars, I love old trucks, I love history,” LaFleur said. “I think it’s an important piece of history.”
Mike McGonigal, one of the volunteers who will work to restore the truck, said he is a long-time “professional” who was recruited for the cause.
“I’m on the economic development committee with Jennifer (Beck). Of course, when you’re 20 feet away from Jennifer, she volunteers to do things, and I volunteered for this,” McGonigal joked. “But I enjoy it. I’ve been a leader for years – decades – and it’s not often you get a chance to work on something like this.
McGonigal said he often works on his own car, which was produced in 1968, but he said this was his first time handling something as old as a collector truck.
“I think as a society, we’ve become more comfortable getting rid of old things. Keeping something like this, something that’s easy to work on and fix, I think is important — even just to show the younger generation that you can do things with old things,” McGonigal said.
At first glance, McGonigal said the truck’s frame appears to be in good condition, but volunteers can expect a large number of small repairs, and they will review almost every major aspect of the truck’s mechanics.
The town and Blanchard’s Auto Salvage reached a memorandum of understanding that stipulated that Blanchard’s would tow the truck free of charge from the Caswells to the auto lot, and that they would keep it on the property until the town determined the truck’s future or a more suitable home. The city will maintain access to the truck with prior permission for volunteers, city employees, firefighters or the press.
LaFleur said he hopes that after the restoration is complete, the truck finds a home that allows for easy public viewing of the vehicle.
Ashley Surrey can be reached at 603-924-7172, ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.