2014 Feature Vehicle & Car Show

A Short Story About My 1952 Chevrolet Fire Truck - by Chad Lilly

My Dad has always wanted to build an antique tow truck. In 2009 he found a much neglected 1951 Chevrolet tow truck that needed everything. The hunt was on for a parts truck!

In April 2010, I found an all original, low mileage 1952 Chevrolet fire engine in southern Missouri. We immediately sought more pictures and information. We decided that some of the sheet metal was correct but the fire truck, being a much larger chassis, was just too big to use for a parts donor.

Although it was not what Dad was looking for, I found myself unable to forget about the truck. After a few more emails, pictures and measurements, we concluded that it would just barely fit on our trailer. I decided to purchase the truck myself.

Prior to becoming a member of the Lilly Family Fire Department, this 1952 Chevrolet fire engine, made by Central Fire Apparatus of St. Louis, served Pinckneyville, Illinois for 17 years before going to Mill Spring, Missouri to serve as a front-line Engine for another 36 years. After fighting its last fire in 2005 at the farmhouse of the Village Council President, it was officially retired when a brand new engine, provided by a county wide consolidation, arrived. It sat inside the newly constructed firehouse for a few more years until another new truck arrived. It was then moved to a vacant lot down the street to sit out the winter. Afraid to see it weather away, the Village Council decided to find it a new home.

Having just started a new job three months prior, I had no way to get extra days off work to make the trip which would be over 13 hours and 800 miles each way. Dad and I decided to drive non-stop down and back on my two days off, Saturday andSunday. Wednesday morning we emailed fellow SVRAACA member, and close friend, Dick Black to obtain advice on extra supplies and routes we may want to take on our journey. After providing advice and a list of supplies and spare parts, he reminded us that we were crazy to attempt such a trip. Friday, he called to ask what time he needed to be there the following morning, as his bag was already packed.

We arrived in Mill Spring, Missouri (Population 219) just before dark. Within minutes of our arrival, a thunderstorm rolled in and proceeded to rain for the next 15 hours while we loaded and drove back towards home. Fortunately, the rain stopped near Zanesville where we broke an axle on the trailer. After several hours, a local underwater welder made repairs and had us back on the road.

Since bringing the truck home, it has provided many hours of fun and many memories. Always a hit at local parades, it is often the oldest fire truck in the crowd. It received its AACA HPOF award at Hershey in 2010. It went on to receive its AACA HPOF-Original designation, the highest award available to unrestored vehicles, at the Eastern Divisional Spring Meet at Carlisle in 2013.

With 9,300 original miles, this truck is fully functioning and fully equipped with period correct hose and equipment and still runs and pumps like the day it was new. It has a 500 gallon per minute Waterous pump and 500 gallon water tank. It even wears the same set of US Royal tires as the day it was delivered in 1952!