Fire Truck’s Rebirth Will Aid Firefighters

By Emily Groves

Plainfield man donating money from sale of ‘old girl’

Plainfield, CT — A Plainfield man has turned around a truck sinking into the ground, and several local fire departments will benefit from his efforts.

Charlie Grab said when he found the 1951 former Haddam Volunteer Fire Department truck, it hadn’t been touched in 20 years. Its tires had sunk several inches into the dirt floor of a barn.

He said he didn’t think the “old girl” was repairable when he bought it in September, but figured he would give it a shot.

A mere eight months later, the truck’s red paint shines in the sun, the horn blares with force and the engine confidently rumbles when the truck is driven down the street.

Now Grab is making plans to have some fun with the restored truck this summer in parades and at fundraisers for local organizations before selling it later this year.

A company in Canada that specializes in selling antique trucks has told Grab he could expect as much as $14,000 for the truck, though he believes that total will be closer to $10,000.

He plans to donate all of the proceeds from the sale to volunteer fire departments in Central Village, Canterbury, and Brooklyn. Grab said he chose those departments because he either received help from their members during the project or has family members who volunteer.

Cory Kasacek, chief of the Canterbury department, said especially with the economy, donations are always needed, and news of Grab’s project was both surprising and awesome.

Kasacek said a donation from Grab could go toward replacing a recently recalled mini-pumper service truck, but there are other equipment needs, as well.

His one and only

Grab, of Charlie Grab Design, said restoring old cars is both part of his professional life and a hobby. He’s restored a 1966 pickup truck and several Chevrolet Impalas and Camaros. But the fire truck project has been the most fun.

With only 20,000 miles, the truck came to Grab in pretty good condition. He said the first difficulty he faced was in determining the truck had two of everything: fuel pumps, ignitions and the like.

“I really didn’t realize what I was getting into when I bought it,” Grab said.

He said despite the years of neglect, the truck had been properly prepared for storage and most of what he needed to do was a basic tune-up, such as install new spark plugs and change the wiring.

He buffed the paint and repainted rims and some of the silver trim, as well as installed a new bumper.

Brooklyn resident Alan Nichols was one of several people who worked on the restoration with Grab. Nichols remembered the shape the truck was in when Grab first brought it home.

“To see where it has progressed, it’s quite a thing,” Nichols said.

Grab said he plans to sell the truck online, because it fits within a niche market. He said he has had some interest from some fire departments both in Connecticut and other states.

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