OAKVILLE — The lettering over the driver’s door on a newly restored 1949 Crosley firetruck reads, “Pop’s,” and provides a hint of what Ted DellaCamera, life-long resident of Oakville and owner of Yankee Crosley Parts, has managed to accomplish this past year. He told Voices, “My dad always wanted to restore a firetruck with me. He was a salesman for GMC and designed a lot of trucks for fire departments. At one time, we bought a truck and were bringing it home from Hartford, but the rear end blew out and I thought that was the end of that dream.”
When Mr. DellaCamera found this firetruck in 2000, he had doubts about its origin. “You just don’t find Fly and Harwood “Little Chief” Crosley firetrucks. They only made about 50 of them, using the Crosley pickup trucks as a starting point. Most were one long truck, but this is unique because the tanker is separate. I think this was the only fifth-wheel ever made by Fly and Harwood.”
He noted that the long body was difficult to maneuver and the detached tanker was an improvement on the original design.
During its service as an amusement park ride, children would hop into the long trailer as the little firetruck pulled them around Beech Bend Park, a family-owned amusement park and raceway in Bowling Green, Ky.
Mr. DellaCamera recently took his firetruck to be photographed at Quassy Amusement and Waterpark in Middlebury.
Ron Gustafson, director of marketing and public relations for the park, explained the relationship between the two properties. “When the UConn Huskies faced the Kentucky Wildcats, we made a friendly wager and, when UConn won, that flag was raised on top of the Kentucky Rumbler, the wooden roller coaster at Beech Bend.”
He added, “This is a great industry and we’re very supportive of one another. Quassy is happy to have Ted bring Beech Bend’s firetruck and this great piece of amusement park history to visit.”
When the little truck had reached the end of its career at Beech Bend, a professional clown purchased the firetruck, but fell ill and died before he could restore the vehicle.
Another two decades would pass as other projects and priorities pushed the little truck aside in Mr. DellaCamera’s garage.
“I was inspired to finish it because I was spending more time at home. This is a complete frame-off restoration and every nut and bolt was touched. I made new floor pans and splash panels, did the paintwork, fabricated the floor mats and everything but the seats.”
He said he wanted to do the work himself and, as he restores a vehicle, “The car starts talking to me, telling me what needs to be done. That’s when ideas start popping into my head.”
One of those ideas was to fashion a fire nozzle into the shifter.
Luck also played a part in the restoration. “I bought a station wagon and, when I opened the hood, I saw a siren in the engine bay. That went onto the firetruck.”
The bell on the hood and light on the roof were critical components as he started to display the firetruck, most recently during Sunday in the Park, the annual concours event of the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park.
“That’s the whole point of working on it. This is a one in a million find with a lot of history. I want kids to see what we had growing up. Well, this was a little before my time, but they can get into the seat and ring the bell. I think they had a ball.”
He looks forward to woodworking and painting the tanker, noting a bit more lettering on the firetruck. “I had another firetruck that was named Mo. In Pennsylvania, it was a tradition to name the apparatus that way, Big Mo, Little Mo, etc. I’d give my daughter, Ashley, a hard time, telling her I’d pick her up from junior high in my first firetruck.
“She’ll be getting married next month and I wanted to let her know I didn’t forget her growing up. So, I put Ash Mo on this firetruck. I think she likes it.”