Nick Candee’s 1932 Fire Truck

Customer: Richard ‘Nick’ Candee, Campbellsport, WI (family farm) and Belmont, MA

Vehicle:1932 Confederate truck chassis, Car No. 21NA075053, VIN T323679, built as fire engine with Viking pump, and tank by The Village Fireman, Milwaukee, WI (this builder vanished in The Depression.).

How long have you owned this vehicle?
I purchased this car in December of 2011

Where did you get this vehicle?
The 1932 Chevy was parked out in the weather in Fillmore, WI, near West Bend in Washington County, Wisconsin; we’d drive past it often going from our home in Milwaukee to our farm in Fond du Lac County. Retired from the Fillmore Fire Department, it was parked behind Johann’s Tap, near the fire station. My brother Ken recalls kids would play in a nearby sandbox and clamber over the fire engine. Harold Johann, then Assistant Fire Chief, handled the sale.

I wanted to buy an old fire engine, and actually comparison-shopped the Chevy against a huge 1931 Peter Pirsch with rear brakes only that would have been hard to park, and a 1929 Chevrolet roadster chassis that looked like the local blacksmith and plumber cobbled together a pumper. I was attracted to the 1932 Chevrolet because of its clean lines; even the welds in the big rectangular tank were beautifully ‘puddled’. And – the Chevy fit a regular garage space.

Fillmore Fire Department began in 1923; the first unit was a 1924 Ford Model T. In October 1939 they purchased this 1932 Chevrolet truck fitted with pump and tank. At the 1960 Firemen’s Picnic the ’32 Chev sold at auction for $350 to Harold Johann. (In service for 21 years then parked outside for four years).

Note: 1932 was the lowest year of US car production since the years before WWI.

What condition was the vehicle in when you got it?
The paint was badly weathered but overall it was intact. I offered Mr. Johann an extra $15 over the $375 sales price if it was running at pickup with a new battery and some gas, and it did start and run, though the mechanical brakes were frozen and the muffler was long gone. I made it the 15 miles to our farm, and on arrival Dad said “let me drive it.” He drove it a hundred yards, and jumped out saying “This thing is a piece of junk! The brakes are dragging, the exhaust noise is deafening – you wasted your $375 in life savings on THIS piece of junk?” I said “Dad, it only has 1,247 miles on it, one little fender dent, and no rust.”

What work have you done on this vehicle?
Freeing up the mechanical brakes was job one, then the garage got the carburetor to work properly and installed a muffler. In prepping for paint I sanded and sand-blasted, learning the hard way to wear goggles over my eyeglasses to not destroy them. I had a sanding party one day- more fun than efficient.

Summer 1966: I took the truck to Heiser Ford which resprayed everything in Rangoon Red. Brightwork went out for nickel plating. Seats went to Ace Seat Cover, West Bend but in those days the trimming did not match the factory stitching. The best part: a retired painter from Milwaukee Fire Department, Charlie Schachtschneider, re-pinstriped the vehicle with Rustoleum black or white paint as appropriate; I could not afford gold leaf.

I had the plate glass in the windscreen and side windows replaced by safety glass at Slesar Glass, West Bend. I added a pair of auxiliary driving lights too.

Original front tires finally were replaced a few years ago- plenty of tread, but sidewalls were showing age! The four rear tires are original.

Engine has never been rebuilt, although the transmission / PTO has been rebuilt. I have a spare NOS truck transmission from Obsolete Chevrolet Parts, just FYI.

Engine is happier since Koffman Auto Works, Campbellsport, WI installed your improved water pump last year. Now at about 8,000 miles.

Is there any other work that you would like to do on it?

  • Replace welting around roof edge and hood.
  • Service radiator (which may mean a new core from The Filling Station!)
  • Repaint engine correct color (in 1960s I thought Ford blue was correct – oops)
  • Cosmetic paint issues including the 6 wheels

What was the hardest part to find?
Still searching for the left and right door “window garnish moldings” which were lost in a barn fire, when they were removed for refinishing!

What other vehicles do you own?
Besides commuter cars- 1989 Ford Thunderbird Super Coupe with 5 speed manual transmission.

Do you have any advice for people thinking about starting a restoration project?
Treat your work like a research paper that bears a $10,000 fine if you do a poor job – because that is what sloth will cost you.

Join clubs; attend car shows / concours; take notes and pictures. PLAN and budget for good work, since few of us can afford re-work of a shoddy piece of work. Define what tasks are really in your skill set, and which are not.

Are there any other interesting stories that you can share with us about this vehicle?
My 1932 Chevrolet finished 6th in a 1970 road rally for sports cars which was good; we could not go fast enough to get lost. Also in 1970 the truck was photographed at Road America, as it made a fine viewing deck at Turn 7…

This Chevy has spent almost its entire life in southeastern Wisconsin- one exception was “The Great Fire Engine Race” of 1972 in Prairie du Chien, WI when it crossed the river into Iowa. Whoohooo!

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