Restored truck fired up for Viking Fest

POULSBO — A year ago, what was left of the Poulsbo Fire Department’s 1924 novelty fire truck was nothing but parts in a box, stored in a dark corner at the district’s Surfrest station on Falkner Road.

Now, in place of the box is a newly restored Model T chassis, which will make its debut in the Viking Fest Parade this Saturday.

Since last fall, members of the Kitsap Peninsula Model T Club have been working with local auto businesses to bring this piece of PFD history back to life. Members of the club and local businesses have donated and restored parts as well as volunteered labor to put it all together.

“We’re looking to make it drivable,” said Model T member Pete Matuschak.

The club was expecting the cost of the project to be about $10,000 but after all the volunteer effort from members and businesses, it is looking at only spending about $2,000.

“I’d say that’s really good support,” Matuschak said.

Since December, members have rebuilt the chassis, using the original frame and drive train, dropping in a working 1917 engine and restoring two original oak wheel spokes while having two new ones created to match. The spoke restoration was done so well, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between the new and old and Matuschak won’t say which are which.

Original parts include the frame, drive shaft, axles, drive train, differential axles and gas tank, which has been noticeably bumped around.

“Yeah, even the dent (is original),” Essig said of the gas tank.

But there is no gas pump, oil pump, water pump or distributor, which weren’t part of the original car.

The original 1924 Model T was used by the fire department from the 1930s to the 1970s as a novelty/clown car, primarily driven around town to promote the district’s Firefighter’s Ball and attract new volunteers to the department. It’s only known origin is that it came from Bainbridge Island as the first vehicle to cross the Agate Pass Bridge prior to the bridge’s official completion, when it was made of wooden planks.

But when it started to fall into disrepair in the 1970s, it was placed under a tarp at the district’s Surfrest station and all but forgotten. That is, until PFD Fire Chief Jim Shields started researching last summer what it would take to revive the aging beauty, with the hopes of using it in parades and taking it to schools for educational purposes.

“I can’t thank this Model T club and its members enough,” Shields said. “I’m so impressed with what they’ve been able to do.”

After Viking Fest, the club will get drawings of an original Model T Darley Fire Engine (which is what it was initially) and build a new body for it.

“That will be for the next Viking Fest Parade,” Matuschak said.

It’s just a matter of taking old Model T parts, both original and donated, sanding them down and restoring them to match one another, Matuschak said, noting that the body and paint work will cost more than the engine.

And to make sure it doesn’t rust and fall into disrepair like it did before, members are putting a protective rust sealant on the car.

“This is not a rusty old T,” Essig said.

“And it’ll never rust again,” Matuschak said.

“And it wants to be a Darley,” Essig added with a chuckle.

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