It amazes me what happens to the price of truck parts when you put words like “antique” or “vintage” in front of them.  I could find period replacements, I just did not want to pay top dollar for them.  It was off to the junk yard.  Finding a junk 1964 Power Wagon for parts was not going to happen, but I found a bunch of early 1980's ones.  I had measured the original sun visors and found a set that were in good shape and came close in size.  These were much more reasonably priced.

A few days later, Troy cracked the pumpkin on the rear axle and found the shattered gears bone dry.  The earlier conversation we had about checking the oil in the pumpkin now seemed a little moot.  He also pointed out that this mishap may be a blessing in disguise.  I now had the opportunity up upgrade the axles, along with the opportunity to get disk brakes on the front end.  The search was on for used axles, but come to find out, that was not going to be an easy task.

While poking around the internet I found an item that I had not thought about.  Replacing all the old wiring with a new wiring harness!  A discussion with Troy Brady led to the fact that installing a new harness was going to be much easier that trying to fix what had been spliced and diced over the years.  It was back to the computer, and a quick jaunt up the road to Bayfield, Colorado, to have a conversation with a gentleman who has a great deal of experience with not only vehicle restoration, but also with re-wiring issues.

1964 Dodge TASC Fire Engine

Restoration Project - Part One


When the rear-end incident occurred, another victim emerged in the way of the wiring for everything on the back of the truck.  The bundle of wires going to the rear was a yanked-out mess.  The fact that the back-end was going to need re-wiring was obvious.  I was assuming that when the emergency lighting got updated, a new switch box got installed in the cab.  I don’t have a date when the upgrade occurred, but I do have photos from when the engine was still in Mount Holly, NJ and show the newer rear lights and Twin-Sonic light bar installed.

The Road to Recovery

While one-ton dually 4X4 Dana 60 rear axles, with a 4.10 gear ratio, were not too hard to locate, the “cab and chassis” type that I needed were shorter than what was available.  Persistence payed off, and a “cab and chassis” style rear axle was found in Aztec, NM.  The new rear axle was installed, and the engine can at least roll again.  The damage to the front bumper was also repaired.  An updated front axle was found in Bayfield, thanks to Denver Dennison at Thumper n' Co. Racing & Repair.  It is a Dana 60 one-ton 4X4 DRW front axle, 4.10 gears, a passenger side pumpkin and open knuckles.  Work continues, and it seems that my fire engine will live to ride again.

The visor rods from the originals and the replacements were removed and compared.  The original rods needed some minor modification and were installed in the new-to-me visors.  They fit nicely back into the cab, and I can now drive into the sunset without getting blinded.

Lin Coates, who owns Coates Collision Center in Bayfield, runs a top-notch auto body shop.  Lin and his crew also focus on hot rod and classic car restoration.  One of the five areas that Lin’s shop specializes in is electrical.  He was kind enough to point me in the direction of EZ Wiring out of Florida, where he purchases the wiring harnesses he uses in his restorations.  I stuck a photo of Lin’s Rat-Rod in here just because it looks so cool.  As I learned, the number of circuits needed in the harness is dependent on the normal stuff that needs power, such as headlights, turn signals, excreta.  What also needs to be taken into consideration is all the extra stuff.

The one remaining lighting mount was removed and handed-off to LPFD Mechanic, Troy Brady.  Aside from being a master mechanic, Troy can fabricate and weld just about anything.  A duplicate mount should be created shortly.  I also removed the one remaining Unity spot light and located another to replace the missing piece.  While the Federal lights are period correct, I wanted to make sure the I could make them flash alternately (wig-wag) and went in search of an old-school 12-volt flasher.

It’s Official, I am the Proud Owner of a Fire Engine!

This apparatus was originally built for the Good Intent Fire Company #3 in Mount Holly, New Jersey by Trautwein’s Inc. or TASC (Trautwein and Sons Company) in Woodbridge, New Jersey.   The 1964 4-Wheel Drive Dodge Power Wagon (W300) chassis was equipped with a 318 engine and a 4-speed transmission; a 100 GPM High Pressure Pump; two (2) 150-foot booster hose reels and a 225-gallon booster tank; a 14-foot extension ladder; a Model 17 Beacon-Ray emergency light; as well as a Federal  “Q” siren.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Greg Collier of Mount Laurel, New Jersey Fire for locating the old photos of this rig from its glory days in Jersey.

Disaster Strikes

Thumper n' Co. Racing & Repair in Bayfield, CO finished the brake job in January of 2018.  I was excited to get the engine back, with the ability to stop.  On the way to Bayfield, I had a conversation with our fire district mechanic, Troy Brady, about the need to check the rear end’s oil at some point.  One problem was noted when it got picked up was even newly repaired mechanical brakes are still mechanical brakes.  If you have plenty of notice to stop, standing on the brakes work.

I had Troy dive the engine back to Ignacio, to assess what else needed to be addressed to make sure it was running correctly.  We were about two miles out of Bayfield when I saw something occur that I was having a hard time believing what I was seeing.  The back of the fire engine raised off the ground as the rear axle came flying out from under the truck.  The disengaged axle traveled off road as the rear of the fire engine made a hard landing and skidded to a stop.  I stopped my vehicle and made sure Troy was all right.  My heart sank as the damage was evaluated.  When the vehicle raised up, the front bumper got crushed, and the tailboard bent when it made the hard landing.  A tow truck was contacted, and my wounded apparatus was brought back to Ignacio.

The above photo came out of Scott Mattson’s 2002 book, TASC Fire Apparatus: 1945-1985 Photo Archive.  It shows the truck with the Federal Twin-Sonic light bar and the updated rear lights.  Federal Signal introduced the Twin Sonic Model 12X, Series A-1 in 1970.  It is likely that the emergency lights on the engine got upgraded between 1970 and 1978.  According to the caption in Scott’s book, this photo was taken by John A. Toomey.

It is an unbelievable advantage to have the early photographs to see what was on the rig when it was delivered to the Good Intent Fire Company.  It looks like the rear emergency lights may have been Griffin’s or some other type with a wide base.  I was able to put my hands on a pair of Federal BR-2S lights that I found on E-Bay for a reasonable price.  After a little bit of clean-up, both lights were tested and found to be in working order.

To Wig or to Wag?  How About Both?

In looking at the emergency lights on the rear of the engine, it was quite the conglomeration.  The original warning lights that had been installed at the factory had been updated along the way, one of the lighting mounts was missing and the other had been installed up-side-down at some point.  I had removed the updated rear lights when I took the Twin-Sonic light bar off and started the search for period appropriate lighting.

Pulling the fuel tank also exposed some more of the original paint that this rig had when it was purchased by the Good Intent Fire Company 1964.  At some point I’m going to decide on a new paint scheme. 

You would think that something as simple as sun visors would not be a problem.  The originals that were in the cab had just about disintegrated.  My first thought was to take what was left of them to a local upholstery shop.  After being told what the cost of rebuilding them would be, I put my hand over my wallet and ran.  Next stop, the internet!

I made a command decision, and the fuel tank is getting shipped to Greensburg, PA (outside of Pittsburg).  Moyer Fuel Tank uses a “Renu” process that will make the tank virtually rust proof.  As luck would have it I have a friend, Kim Houser, who is the Deputy Chief of the Greensburg Fire Department.  Kim checked out the company, and the report is that it is a dependable firm with a good reputation.  More on the fuel tank when it comes back.

It’s the Little Things…

One of the “Holy Grail” items I have been looking for since I took possession of this piece, was the letter “D” that had been missing from the Dodge hood badge.  After searching in all the dead ends and wrong places, I sent a photo of what I was looking for to the good folks at Vintage Power Wagons, Inc. and got a note back that they had what I was looking for!  Just a before and an after the install shot.

The Fuel Tank

One of the first things that was done to get the truck running again was to flush the fuel tank.  Needless to say, what came out of the tank was just plain nasty.  Flushing and re-filling it with fresh gasoline was just a band-aid, and what to do about the interior rust issue was going to take some research.  Trying to locate an original replacement tank was next to impossible.  Finding a One-Ton 1964 Dodge Power Wagon in a junkyard was going to take a miracle.  Due to the odd shape of the tank, having one fabricated was going to be cost prohibitive.

tom aurnhammer's

Fire Photography

The advent of LED lighting has changed what is available in wig-wag flashers, but with the assistance of my friend Steve Austin in Newark, Delaware, I found what I was looking for. Steve has two fully restored pieces, a 1954 American LaFrance pumper and a 1953 Ward Fire-Police Van.  Steve hooked me up with Jimmy Kimble of Kimble's Truck & Auto Repair in Hagerstown, MD who told me what would work with these older lights.  The correct flasher was found and ordered on Amazon.  A few days later it showed up in the mail.  I jury-rigged the lights, flasher, and a fuse, and low-and-behold I had wig-wags.  Once the new mount is fabricated, and the spot lights are cleaned-up, all the tailboard lighting will be ready to be re-installed.

The extra electronics on the engine were identified as the Model 176 Beacon Ray; the two rear mounted Federal BR-2S lights; the two rear mounted Unity spot lights; the two post-mounted Unity spot lights; the hose reel motor, the pump panel light; the electronic siren box; and the VHF radio.  A twenty-one-circuit harness has been ordered, and the restoration adventure continues.

This apparatus was purchased by the Upper Pine Fire District in Bayfield, CO in February of 1983 from the Good Intent Fire Company #3 for $8888.88.  I found the ad that the Good Intent Fire Company #3 placed in the January 1983 edition of Fire Engineering, when they offered the rig for sale.  This unit served the Bayfield, Colorado area for many years, and was last assigned to UPFPD’s Station #3 on Florida Road.  The Upper Pine Fire District donated the truck to the Mount Allison Fire Department in Arboles, CO around 2002.

The truck came over to the Los Pinos Fire District when the Mount Allison Fire Department got included into the LPFD in 2003.  For at least the last 10 years, the fire engine sat neglected at the Los Pinos Fire Training Facility, outside of the Town of Ignacio, Colorado.  I won the bid on this piece of equipment when it was auctioned off with a number of other surplus vehicles that the fire district was getting rid of.  It was a crap shoot as to if it would run and what other damage sitting so long had caused.

Thanks to the LPFD’s Mechanic, Troy Brady, spending a few evenings working his magic, it sprang back to life.  The fuel tank was flushed and the oil was changed.  Anti-freeze was added, and new caps were placed on the radiator and fuel tank.  A new fuel pump was installed, the carb got rebuilt, and a new set of spark plugs and wires were added.  The old rotted wood in the hose bed was removed, and the modern emergency lights and electronic siren were disconnected and taken off. Low and behold, it started and ran!

After a December 4th, 2017 test ride it was discovered that it starts; it goes forward; it goes backwards; however, stopping seemed to be an issue.  On December 20th, 2017 it was trailered to Thumper n' Co. Racing & Repair in Bayfield, CO for brakes, shocks, and to have the clutch bled-out.  Tires and examining the fire pump should be the next adventures.  Stay tuned…

I pulled the switch box out, thinking that I also wanted to replace it with something more period correct.  Looking at the hodgepodge of wires that were connected to, and behind the box, I thought the re-wiring was going to be way out of my league.  That thought was reaffirmed when I got looking at the wiring under the hood.  The cool thing about not knowing jack about vehicle restoration is that I learn something new every day.