Mark Cowling | pinalcentral.com
FLORENCE — After spending more than a year carefully restoring Florence’s 1953 Ford firetruck to good running order and a shiny like-new appearance, Arizona State Prison and Central Arizona College officials proudly presented the vintage vehicle to Pinal County Historical Society Museum members and friends Nov. 29.
“I kind of get the glory for everything,” Florence Complex Warden Kevin Curran told those present for the unveiling, “but Butch (Loudenslager), CAC, my Deputy Warden of Operations Jeff Van Winkle, all the inmates, came together to make this happen.”
Five inmate technicians worked to restore the truck’s mechanical and electrical systems, while inmate students in the college’s auto body class worked to make it look like new again. They put in approximately 500 man-hours in all, according to Terry Stack with CAC. Every light works and the siren emits a loud old-fashioned wail. Although the truck will never respond to a fire again, it has a top speed of 45 miles per hour should be good for the next 100,000 miles, Loudenslager said.
PCHS President Cathy Adam said whatever parts couldn’t be found, Loudenslager, equipment shop supervisor at Florence Complex, made them.
Loudenslager, said the brakes were the hardest part because the springs aren’t made anymore. But not to worry, “The rear axle has custom-made springs on it. … They don’t have to worry about it stopping. We rebuilt the master cylinder, we rebuilt the slave cylinder.” Other parts also had to be rebuilt or remade from scratch. Inmates fixed a coolant leak and made several other repairs, including extensive work to straighten out and organize the wiring.
Surprisingly, there was a thing or two still available off the shelf.
“We rebuilt the carburetor,” Loudenslager said. “The surprise was, they still make that kit. NAPA still has it in their inventory, believe it or not. When I got it I knocked the dust off of it and put it in there. It was OK.”
Curran said he began worrying almost immediately, “‘What am I getting myself into? What kind of headache?’ But everybody else picked up the ball and ran with it. It’s been great, quite an experience.” Prison and CAC officials were heartened that the project might be achievable when the truck actually started late last summer. Curran personally provided the finishing touch, covering the cost of the coated rims.
Curran said it all started with an email from Florence Fire Chief David Strayer.
Strayer told those in attendance last week, “This is one of the coolest projects I’ve ever had the honor to be associated with. … I don’t take any credit for anything, other than I’m thrilled.”
He is scheduled to be driving the truck at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the town’s Christmas parade.
Original article at Florence Reminder: