It won't be heading to any fires, but Te Puke Fire Brigade has a new addition to its fleet that's going to be seen around town a fair bit.

Earlier this month the brigade took delivery of a vintage fire engine - a similar model to a fire engine that was in active service in Te Puke until the late 1960s.

While the fire engine was built in 1938, what happened in its first five years is a mystery. It is right hand drive, so would not have been used in the US, but may have originally come from Canada.

Either way, by 1943 it was in New Zealand and was registered with the Upper Hutt Brigade.

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''Obviously it would have been one of their front line appliance because it's got the front mounted pump,'' says deputy chief fire officer Dale Lindsay.

In 1958 it went to Patutahi, near Gisborne.

''It was probably used for a small brigade out there and they had it until 1971 when it basically transferred to the Southward (Car) Museum Trust.

''It's only done 10,741 miles. It's a flat head V8 and it's in pretty good nick.''

Dale's original brigade in Morrinsville had restored its own 1936 V8 Ford.

He has been with the Te Puke brigade for 22 years and has always harboured ambitions to find a suitable vintage truck for the brigade.

''It would have been lovely to track our old one down, but we just couldn't find it - I did put some feelers out and tracked it down to bush brigades in Kaingaroa or Ohura, somewhere down there, but lost track of it. It was still acting as a rural forestry brigade pump as recently as the 90s.''

''They are tried and true,'' says senior firefighter Steve Hennum. ''They don't need much and as long as they have been maintained, they will keep going and that's why they are still a functional vehicle now.''

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Dale says in the past 10 years he has become a bit more serious about finding a suitable truck.

''My contact in Morrinsville, who looks after their truck, he put the feelers out. I was over there a few weeks ago and said 'I'm still looking for an old truck' and he said 'I know a guy who's got one for sale'. I said 'what year is it?' and he said '38' and I said 'we're looking for a 38'.''

The ''guy'' had bought the fire engine from Southward Car Museum to add to his collection of Fords.

''He's a Ford nut, but wanted to get rid of it and he didn't want it to go to someone who might tear it down, take the motor out of it and let it rot away.''

First up the brigade wants to build a shed at Te Puke Fire station to house the fire engine, then restoration can start.

''Our intention is to restore it and get it back, not to showroom condition, because we want to drive it, but restored to we can use it as a community asset,'' says Dale.

''The plan would be to get it stripped down, get the coachwork all nice and then get it repainted.

''Probably the biggest thing we need to do is the coachwork, because that's an old school skill and I suspect there won't be very many people around who can do old school coachwork. So anybody in the community who does it, or knows someone who does it, we really need to hear from them because that's going to be the key.''

Brigade members are likely to be able to do much of the work.

''We've got quite a good skill base here, but I would say we are putting feelers out to the community too to see what response there might be,'' says Steve. ''There might be people out there who have got old gear or parts that we might be missing because you can't just go and buy new.''

Once restored, the plan is to use it at community events such as the A&P Show, Santa Parade and Christmas in the Park, and also possibly as transport to the school ball or for weddings.

''There is potential for it to become self funding, but we just need a little bit of help to get it across the line,'' says Steve.

''This is something that can put back to the community that supports us,'' says Dale.

''Yes we are there for the community, we volunteer, but at the end of the day, if we need go out to the community for fundraising they are amazing and we are grateful for that.''

Many other brigades have vintage fire trucks.

''They create so much interest,'' says Dale. ''Every time we've had it [at the fire station] we've had people walking past, stopping and looking at it and taking photos and when we have driven down the road, everyone waves at you and stops and stares and that is in the state its in - when it's finished its going to be a real head turner.''

Anyone who might be able to help can call Dale on 021 229 0226

SIDEBAR
Te Puke Fire Brigade took delivery of its first 1938 Ford V8 truck in 1939.
Unlike the vintage truck, it didn't have its own pump, so a pump had to be trailered behind it.

The truck replaced a 1923 Model T Ford fire truck. Minutes of a meeting held in June 1938 suggest the Model T had become well out of date and dangerous and made the brigade something of a laughing stock. The truck was so slow, boys on push bikes were able to pass it when it was on its way to a fire.

The 1938 Ford V8 fire engine served the brigade until 1968 or 1969 when it was replaced by a new Bedford fire engine.