|Webmaster's commentary: The following article is shared with us by Randy Yardumian. I personally have never read truer words about buying, owning, and caring for any antique fire apparatus. It is very common to run across individuals in various antique fire apparatus clubs and organizations throughout the US that will befriend you and encourage you to take short cuts which will wind up costing you dearly in the long run. Rarely do you hear from individuals such as myself and Randy that give you the straight scoop on what will happen and what it may cost you. This is due to the fact that we are often shouted down for attempting to present the reality of owing a rig to those that are in a fantasy world "playing fire truck". Granted that I associate myself with responsible individuals that have a firm grip on reality. Beware of those individuals that endanger themselves as well as the public with their antique fire apparatus.|
|Do You Think You Are Ready to Buy Your Own Antique Fire Apparatus?|
| You have asked an excellent question, which unfortunately, many antique owners do not ask prior to making their first purchase. This, more often than not, leads to many owners either storing their rigs outside ( leading to weather decay, vandalism, problems with neighbors, ect. ) or them having to prematurely sell their truck due to being finacially unprepared.
Let's start with the most basic requirement of owning an antique: The almighty dollar $$$$$$$$$$. You gotta have the bucks to have the toys. It's as plain and simple as that. The bigger the toy, the bigger the bankroll you will need. Are you prepared to:
-Buy a rig ( purchase price, taxes, transfer fees, registration, ect. )
-Restore it ( at a minimum, making it SAFE and ROADWORTHY )
-Store your rig
-Insure your rig
-Feed your rig ( gas, diesel, oil, ect. )
-Take care of your rig ( and I don't mean polishing it on weekends, I mean routine preventive maintenance)
The second basic requirement of apparatus ownership is: Time. Self explanatory. Don't buy it if you don't have time to do anything with it!
I will now touch on the points that I have made.
-Buying a rig:
What is it that you are buying? Is it something in a field rotting away with trees growing through the wooden hosebed that will require a major body-off-frame restoration, that WILL cost thousands of dollars and possibly take several years to do, depending on how much TIME you have to work on it? Or will you be buying something that has recently come out of service and is officially an antique, not requireing much work? Example, I know of a 1978 Hahn 1250/750 with a 671T Detroit with an Allison HT740 automatic transmission. It will be for sale in late spring/early summer of '07. In relatively good condition mechanically, but it will require SOME body work in order to stop the cancer. If the cancer is not stopped in its tracks, it will eventually take over the rear half of the body as well as the back portion of the cab (under the jump seats where many Hahns were prone to rot). If you were to consistently work at least 4-5 hours every weekend over a winter, and had adquate resources (metal shop, auto body skills/tools/equipment/knowledge) you could probably rid this truck of the vast majority of the cancer without having to pull the body.
Or, will you be purchasing something that is completely 100% restored in prime time condition? If this is the case, you most likely have money falling out of various orifices of your body, and the storage of your rig is not a problem- you also have money to buy or rent some means of storage!
-Store your rig:
Have you considered where you will put your rig? In the past, this has presented quite a controversy for many antique owners. Many guys simply want to park their rig outside their homes, with no regard for their neighbors feelings or concern for the zoning ordinances/laws & regulations in their community. Oh sure, they will throw some sort of a cover over it, but think about it, a huge truck with an RV cover sitting in someone's back yard or in their driveway month after month (not to mention leaking oil & fluids) would tend to annoy me if I were a neighbor. Many older apparatus owners have the feeling that "It's mine and I can store it in my driveway if I want to!" Tell that to the Judge when the Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer brings you in front of the local District Justice!
Not to mention this violates one of the commandments of antique ownership: "Thou shalt not store thy rig exposed to the elements." One of the worst things you can do (especially to a fire truck that has been stored indoors for its entire life, only to be relegated to some outdoor location overnight) to an antique is to park it outdoors. If you cannot secure an indoor location for your vehicle, consider NOT purchasing it! Your storage location doesn't even have to be heated/air conditioned/ect. As long as it is secure from the wind/rain/snow/ice, you are okay. But don't forget to winterize your truck if there is no heat!!!
I admit to breaking the indoor storage commandment, and I pay dearly for it to this day. I stored my rig outdoors for just about one year, under a good quality, top of the line RV cover which cost me over 300 bucks!!! I'll never do that again. Now all my chrome has rust on it that I just can't get rid of. But at the time, money was a factor -the wife and I were looking to buy a home and needed to save. So I stored it at her fathers auto repair business, which had a secure back lot with an 8' high fence that was always locked. But what a pain in the ass if I wanted to get it out for a parade or other event! Something else to consider -if a friend or acquaintance offers you space, what will the impact be on them/you/and your relationship if you keep bugging them to get your truck out every weekend in the summertime? And another consideration -my wife and I had to keep the truck in mind when looking at homes! We either had to buy something with an existing space for the truck, or something with enough land (and local ordinances that would allow the construction of a garage!!!)
Keep in mind the condition of your vehicle when considering storage space -are you buying something that will need an off-the-frame restoration, or will your purchase require minimal amounts of work, and you only need storage space that is basically the size of the footprint of the vehicle? If you need to do a lot of work on your unit, you will need more space! Take my 1958 FWD for example -the "footprint" (the minimal size storage I need) is 24.5' in length, 8' width, and 8' height. What if I had to do a full off-the-frame to it? Now you need at least QUADRUPLE the space I would think! Analize it: The footprint for the frame. Another footprint for the body and cab. Another footpring for workspace/workbench/ect. And another footprint for your tools/equipment/raw materials.
Now that the storage problem is out on the table -what kind of skills do you posess? Do you have knowledge of: Engines (gas and diesel), Transmissions, axles, springs, tires/wheels, transfer cases/PTO's, Pumps, Electrical systems, Body work, Metal work, Automotive painting, ect ect ect??? Or, do you have money falling out of various orifices of your body and can afford to have someone rebuild AND maintain your truck for you?
-Do you know how to drive a non-synchronized manual transmission?
-Feeding your rig:
Feeding your rig is another consideration. Do you have the money to put gas or fuel in it every weekend in the summer? Parades/musters/car/truck shows/ect...My rig uses 2-4 mpg. (YES, two to four!) on a GOOD DAY! A ride down to the Philly area from where I live in the lower Lehigh Valley area (using 4 mpg for the calculation) can run me 10-12 gallons of gas!!! How about the registration fees for the various shows? I enjoy taking my rig to various antique car shows. These usually have fees that average 15 bucks -this takes care of trophies, advertising, food, and other costs of the event, so I don't mind paying at all. How about the 2-3 quarts of oil I will burn on a ride to Philly and back?
-Insuring your rig:
I highly recommend Condon & Skelly, Inc. for anyones antique insurance needs. They specialize in antique vehicle coverage and have a staff with the knowledge to give us the best "insurance bang for the buck". They are located in Maple Shade, NJ. If you go to your (every day vehicle) currant insurance provider, he/she may not posess the knowledge of how to properly insure an antique! Insurance, from Metropolitan Life, through Condon & Skelly Inc. runs me $68.00 per year. This includes $5,000 value for full loss, and "comfortable" liability protection. The only condition of my policy is that the vehicle can not be driven between dusk and dawn, and mileage may not exceed 2,500 miles per year. This isn't a problem as the most I have done in the 5 years I have owned it is about 600.
Anyway, sorry for rambling on. I just want you to get a full understanding of what happens when you buy an antique truck. It's kind of like when you have your first child -all your friends who have kids say "Oh you just wait to see how your life will change!" And you brush them off. Then, after you DO have that first child, you say to yourself "My gawd they were RIGHT!)
You just can't understand the pros/cons of antique ownership until you do it!
If you need ANY help or advice, please email me.
Randy Yardumian, owner 1958 F.W.D Model F-725 750gpm/500gal Serial F80438 Ex- Bryn Athyn, PA
|Webmaster's commentary: An item that Randy doesn't really touch on is Taking Care or your Rig, as in routine maintenance.
Are you prepared to change the oil in your rig? Your oil change may take anywhere from 5 to 15 GALLONS of motor oil. Can you properly dispose of this quantity of oil? You also must shoulder the cost of your oil and filters. What about other routine maintenance? Lubricating the many moving parts, adjusting the brakes, servicing the pump?
If you are unable to perform this regular maintenance yourself, you may want to take it to a heavy-duty truck repair shop. Keep in mind that these places are used to working on run-of-the-mill Freightliners, Peterbilts, and Kenworths, not your unique piece of antique firefighting equipment. IF, the key word here is "IF", the shop will even accept the work from you, chances are good that they have never seen or worked on anything like it, nor will they stock anything they will need for it. Be prepared to pay their regular labor rate, if not more. Being friendly, having a pleasant attitude, or offering their children rides will not cut you any break. You have brought them something completely odd and in many cases, completely obsolete that they will be required to research nearly everything you ask them to work on.
And if you choose not to do regular maintenance on your antique rig? Waxing the paint and polishing the chrome does not cut it here. Are you prepared to endure the high cost of towing when you have a failure on the side of the road? This normally begins at $500 in most areas. And if something really bad happens??? You blow a motor, your transmission fails, your driveline or transfer case fails? You will be scattering chunks of metal and oil on the road behind you as you hopefully coast to the shoulder. What about the traffic behind you? What if you didn't properly service the braking system of your antique vehicle? What about the traffic in front of you? Think about that for a moment. What if the mishap you are in the midst of has injured or even killed someone?
I have news for you. At this point, you are now driving a commercial vehicle. It does not matter how your antique is registered or what clubs or organizations you belong to. Are you properly licenced to operate this size/weight vehicle? Are you prepared to be prosecuted for negligence? Are you prepared to possibly face manslaughter charges and time in prison? After all, it was you that chose not to properly maintain your antique vehicle. If your antique will not pass a D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) inspection when you are operating it on a public road, you are jeopardizing the safety and well being of everyone around you.
I am not trying to rain on anyones parade here, but to present the actual facts. There are people that belong to various clubs and organizations that will encourage you to take shortcuts and just gloss over your serious questions. Beware of those individuals smiling faces and look at the facts.
You are also welcome to contact the webmaster for any help and advice through email.
Paul Krot, owner of several Crown Firecoaches