1924 fire truck restored with local donations

A Calif. business donated money and labor to get a fire department's 1924 Graham Brothers truck running


By James Striplin
The Lodi News-Sentinel

WOODBRIDGE, Calif. — Jim Trundle can start the engine of a 1924 Graham Brothers fire truck with the push of a button, a feature that replaces the need to use the front crank — though Trundle swears the old red machine can still crank up.

Trundle is a flathead engine specialist with 60 years of experience working on classic cars, getting his start at 17. That skill landed him the job of creating parts to fix an old Woodbridge fire engine this year.

The "Johnny Popper" fire engine, which began its life as a Yellow Taxicab, fought its last fire in 1972 and quit working while it collected dust in the Augusta Way firehouse.

But on Tuesday afternoon, Trundle demonstrated that he could make its engine purr.

Woodbridge Fire Lt. Lawrence Richards said the truck has been with the department since its beginning and hasn't ran since he joined the department seven years ago.

As president of the Fire Association in Woodbridge, Richards said one of his top priorities was to get the old engine running, but he couldn't locate the refurbishers who tackled the job the first time, so he called Vintage Reserve Garage at 121 S. Cherokee Lane, where Trundle works.

"I like making history run," Trundle said. "... I'm a hot-rodder, I always have been."

Vintage Reserve Garage, owned by Mark Lange, put about $600 into the project, and is going to return the vehicle to the Woodbridge Fire Department free of charge.

Trundle is not sure how much labor he put into the project — he worked a little here and little there during the weekend — but he would have done it for free anyway, he said.

The project, which included rewiring a quarter of the truck, putting in new spark plugs and getting the engine to run, took about five months to complete.

The fire engine, which was most likely a first-responder vehicle, has a 30-horsepower engine and can hold around 200 gallons of water. It was built when Woodbridge resident Samuel Sebastiani realized that he needed to protect the town and his vineyards.

With the help of his son Larry, Sebastiani organized the first fire brigade in Woodbridge. The "Popper" was their engine.

Trundle doesn't know how much water pressure the truck can produce, but he said it is nowhere close to the amount of water that fire trucks can spray today. New trucks make the old ones look like garden hoses, he said.

"I like the fact that it's always been here," Lange said. "It's from the area, it has always been here."

Richards was just happy someone got the fire engine running again, and that the public will get to see it during the department's Christmas caroling, he said.

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(c)2014 the Lodi News-Sentinel (Lodi, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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