Out of the blue a few weeks ago I received a phone call from Kirk Gerbracht, one of the organizers of the Gathering at the Oaks car show. He invited us to bring the SOHS Amphibious Fire Engine to his third annual event on September 12. The show takes place on the lawn at the Rogue Valley Country Club.
It seemed a slightly odd invitation--our 73-year-old paint job isn't exactly show quality, especially on the hood, where generations of raccoons raised their broods--but it was a rare opportunity to get the fire engine and the historical society before the public during a pandemic.
Showing the fire engine isn't uncomplicated. It's a good idea to wake her up the day before, start the engine, make sure the battery is still charged, and hose off the barn dust. Reliable Mike Trump helped and got the turn signals working once again. We did replace all the wiring a couple of years ago, but we're still discovering how the rebuilt, resurrected and aftermarket parts we used don't like working together.
Assembling and positioning dozens of valuable cars on a golf course takes several hours and some fairly involved logistics. We were scheduled among the first to arrive, early in the morning--early enough that I watched the sun rise over the Cascades through the windshield while driving the seven miles from Hanley Farm, where the fire engine lives, to the country club.
Medford streets are deserted early on a Sunday, but that doesn't mean the trip was uneventful. There are hills on East Main that are barely noticeable in a car, but become a concern when driving a 75-year-old fire engine. It is now clear that we can't put off replacing our failing head gasket much longer. The old lady can drag her weight through the streets when they're level, but not so much when those streets go up hills. (Downshifting for hills isn't an option with our worn gearbox. We have to double-clutch to upshift; downshifting means coming to a complete stop and starting from first gear again.)
So far there's no actual plan on how to get that engine work done. When we resurrected the fire engine our team was still assembled, and luckily Scott Henselman was able to donate a year's use of a garage big enough to accommodate a 21-foot fire engine. We could pay a professional to do it, I suppose, if we had the money.
Despite the anxious moments we did arrive at the country club without embarrassing ourselves and positioned the fire engine on the lawn, where we tried to amuse ourselves for the next eight hours. Volunteers Bill Mendels and Jim Martin helped watch the vehicle so we could wander the grounds to pass the time.
The Amphibious Fire Engine didn't win any awards, but attendees appreciated her, and we got a nice mention in an automotive journalist's blog. You can read it here: