The Southampton Village Fire Department is raising money to make repairs to its century-old motorized ladder truck—the department’s first.
The truck, built by the Elmira manufacturer American LaFrance, was purchased by the department in 1912, a time when firefighters in the department were still using horse-drawn or hand-drawn apparatuses, explained firefighter Craig Raynor, who sits on the department’s antique truck committee. It was a “demonstrator,” meaning it was fully loaded with all of the “modern” features available at the time in a new motorized truck.
Over the years—with the help of Southampton resident Henry Austin Clark, a car collector and the founder of the now-defunct Long Island Automotive Museum, which had been located on County Road 39 near the intersection with Sandy Hollow Road in Southampton—the fire department rehabilitated and restored the truck while keeping it as close as possible to its condition when it first rolled into the village.
It is particularly significant that the truck was kept by the village, Mr. Raynor pointed out, because when the United States entered World War II in 1941, a lot of outdated trucks were taken apart so their parts could be melted down and made into bullets and other parts to help in the war.
It’s unclear how much the department originally paid for the American LaFrance truck. Over the years, he estimates that the department has put some $50,000 into keeping the truck running.
The department is working to raise money to replace the heads on the four-cylinder engine inside the historic truck. Mr. Raynor said he expects the work to cost a total of between $12,000 and $13,000. He explained that while each head costs only about $5,500 to replace, in order to have an authentic restoration, old tools from the early 1900s must be used for the installation.
On Saturday, the Southampton Village Fire Department held its second annual Comedy Show to raise money to help with the restoration of the truck. Mr. Raynor said the show received a good turnout, noting that they raised a little more than $1,000.
The village also has four other antique fire trucks: a 1915 T Ford Chief Car, a 1937 GMC fire truck, a 1939 Ford Maxim and a 1941 Mack pumper truck.