Model T Ford fir­ing up

Mansfield Courier - - OPINIONS/PEOPLE -

WITH a solid wrench and a cou­ple of quick jerks, Mans­field Fire Bri­gade’s 1924 Model T Ford chugs to life – as re­storer Rod Dolan quickly pulls the crank free.

This hap­pened last week, when four lo­cal his­to­ri­ans gath­ered at Main­dample to dis­cuss their mam­moth Ford restora­tion pro­ject.

“We just want to see the old girl up and run­ning again,” Mr Dolan said.

“It’s a slow job, but we are get­ting there piece by piece.”

Join­ing the men for the first time was Peter Thomas, who had flown in from Queens­land for the oc­ca­sion.

Mr Thomas’s fa­ther, Sedg­wick, orig­i­nally bought the fire truck af­ter it was de­com­mis­sioned by Mans­field in the early 1940s.

His me­mories helped the re­stor­ers piece to­gether a more com­plete pic­ture of the truck and how it looked 80 years ago.

“It def­i­nitely had a cab,” Mr Thomas said.

“Made out of wood, I think – I was only five or six when Dad brought it home, but there was def­i­nitely a cab.”

In re­sponse, Mr Dolan rolled his eyes – “that’s another job; we will have to build that by hand out of ply – lucky we like the work”.

The Ford was first used as a gro­cer’s de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle in Mel­bourne, be­fore be­ing pur­chased by the Howie fam­ily for use with the Mans­field Fire Bri­gade in the early 1920s.

It was de­com­mis­sioned in the late 1930s, and now, al­most 100 years af­ter it first came off the pro­duc­tion line, Mans­field’s fire truck is slowly be­ing re­stored.

“It has been to a lot of places, and it has a lot of his­tory at­tached to it – our aim is to have it be a dis­play at the Mans­field Fire Sta­tion, and for it to be driven around Mans­field on spe­cial oc­ca­sions and in pa­rades,” Mr Dolan said.

Of course, talk­ing about the truck’s his­tory soon moved to other me­mories – with Gavin Dun­das re­call­ing his dad us­ing a “fire beater” or “basil”, a tanned sheep hide at­tached to a long stick, to beat the flames down by hand.

“That was be­fore su­per phos­phates be­came com­mon,” Mr Dun­das said.

“In this area, be­fore su­per, ev­ery­one had na­tive kan­ga­roo grass which stayed green through sum­mer – so the fires were fought by hand.

“But in the 1930s, crews had to switch to us­ing wa­ter – su­per meant farm­ers were able to grow Euro­pean grasses, which burnt hot­ter and faster than the na­tive stuff.”

Fred For­rest re­called the Mans­field Fire Bri­gade try­ing to im­prove re­sponse times, with a spe­cial ser­rated pole fit­ted to the front of an early model fire truck.

“In the­ory, it was sup­posed to cut fenc­ing wires when you drove through them,” Mr For­rest said.

“The crews didn’t have to open and shut gates in an emer­gency, they could drive straight through – I think they ended up pulling en­tire fences out; it never re­ally worked as well as the the­ory be­hind it.”

The road to restora­tion is a long one, but all the men in­volved are keen to start with as many orig­i­nal pieces of the Model T Ford as they can get their hands on.

“We would love any­one in the com­mu­nity who might have pieces to give us a ring – tyres, gauges, an ex­haust – we would love the num­ber plate,” Mr Dolan said.

Since start­ing the restora­tion, the men have al­ready re-painted the truck in tra­di­tional fire-en­gine red, re-mounted a fuel tank and, more im­por­tantly, got the en­gine run­ning.

“We have no fixed time line for when the job needs to be fin­ished,” Mr For­rest said.

“We are just putting her to­gether piece by piece.”

If you have any mem­o­ra­bilia that might help Mans­field’s first fire truck re­turn to its for­mer glory, please con­tact Mr Dolan on 0419 316 089 or Mr For­rest on 0427 572 656.

FIXER’UP­PER: Mans­field’s first fire truck, a 1924 Model T Ford, is well on the way to restora­tion thanks to the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of (from left) Fred For­rest, Peter Thomas, Rod Dolan, Jack Pol­lard and Gavin Dun­das.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.