Not Your Average Classic Car: Semi Trucks, Fire Trucks & More Highlight Vintage Truck Show | Featured story
ALEXANDER – Some people might dream of ’55 Chevy or ’66 Ford Galaxie.
As for Andrew Balling and his friends? Try a 1979 American LaFrance fire truck equipped with lights and sirens and capable of pumping out 500 gallons in just 40 seconds.
“Camaros, Corvettes and Mustangs are a dime a dozen,” Balling said good-naturedly Sunday after letting a few youngsters explore the truck’s cabin. “How many fire trucks are there?” »
Balling was among approximately 200 people who brought their vehicles to the Empire State Antique Truck Association’s 36th Annual Truck, Tractor and Construction Equipment Show. The event included everything from pickup trucks to vintage tractor-trailers to two-and-a-half military trucks – essentially the vehicles that keep society running as a whole.
A mix of families, collectors and retired truckers explored the grounds, shared stories and had the chance to see the vehicles up close and personal. This year’s event was held at the WNY Gas & Steam Show Grounds. “It was a great weekend,” said Bob Thompson of the Empire State Antique Truck Association. “We had wonderful weather. We had a great turnout. It’s a new place for us and it was great — everyone came for the show.
What’s the attraction? “Some people think they’re cool,” said Thompson, who brought a ’63 and a ’74 Brockway to the event. “But a lot of it is that they kind of have a memory of a truck: ‘My dad used to drive a truck like this.’ Of course, work trucks are trucks that always work, and they like to bring it in and show it off… There are just a lot of reasons to have a truck and be in the hobby.
Bob Zink of Argyle, Washington County brought his 1978 Peterbilt to the event. He’s a longtime, now retired trucker who still loves to drive.
“I am the second owner of this truck,” Zink said. “The first was a good friend of mine. When he retired, I got it from him – but I never worked on it. And shortly after I got it, I retired, and that’s what I do with it now.
“It’s an old man’s toy, I guess you could call it,” he continued. “I go to these kinds of shows and I’m from southern Washington County, about 45 minutes north of Albany.”
Zink began his trucking career in 1963 – when he started, trucks had less horsepower, fewer axles, and were limited to shorter lengths. Power, length and distances increased over time.
What’s it like driving your Peterbilt? “Like the good old days,” Zink said with a smile. “Coming to places like this and meeting new people – the social thing, I guess.”
His truck also attracts the attention of active truckers when he is on the go. Balling’s fire truck also has a story. It was the last American LaFrance vehicle in service in the city of Tonawanda and was retired in 2017.
He and his brother wanted to buy it and keep it in town.
They restored the fire truck to its 1979 appearance – the only very minor difference is a tribute to 9/11 responders on one window.
Balling was accompanied on Sunday by his friends Bob Williams and Jim Haight. Bolling and Williams are longtime volunteer firefighters themselves.
“Everything on the truck works,” Balling said. “It holds 500 gallons of water… The upper deck cannon will empty the 500 gallons in 40 seconds. It will still pump 1,385 gallons per minute.
“If a vehicle in the parking lot caught fire and there was nothing else to do, we have that pump with us and we could put it out,” Williams said.
The truck is now 43 years old and evokes an earlier era. It was taken out of service due to federal regulations – the truck’s rear-facing seats are open to the elements, which is no longer allowed. But like Zink’s Peterbilt, the fire truck gets a lot of attention and makes appearances around the area. Maintenance requirements are basic, but Balling recommends knowing a truck’s history before making such a purchase – making sure everything is working. But it’s more than worth it, with the conversations, stories shared, and the chance to show off cool gear.
“Letting the kids get in the cabin is everything,” Balling said. “It’s to let them see, you know?”
Check www.gernatt.com for more information on the Empire State Antique Truck Association.