Zeta Sigma-Florida Institute of Technology

29
OCT
2014

Zeta Sigma Firetruck History

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by Ed Hess’77

The first firetruck was a 41 Ford flathead v-8 with a manual
transmission that nobody could shift with out double clutching and
yanking and grinding. When I pledged the truck had been sitting as a
burned out shell. The story was the truck had its own garage in earlier
years. The garage caught fire with the truck in side while the garage
burned to the ground. I remember during Ingress when asked what I would
do for the fraternity instead of giving them a bs story like donny
mackellar (ask not what your country (fraternity) can do for you (his
JFK speech), I told them I was going to get the truck running again…

So Paul “Emil” Manecke and myself took on the task of creating a fund to
raise cash to at least get it running once again. A 5$ per quarter per
brother charge was added to all actives quarterly bill. Back in the day
an operating budget of this little was enough to not only get the
restoration moving but would take care of future maintenance and
operating costs.

Emil wasn’t the motorhead type like myself or an avid do-it-yourself
type so he had it towed to Gays Garage. Gays Garage was like stepping
back in time. Nobody there looked to be under 70 years old and neither
did the old signs on the walls or the old parts left on shelves from
past projects. Mr Gay told us he had worked on the old truck when the
fire department still had it in service. I believed it as Mr. Gay
seemed to be older than dirt. The motor was rusted frozen so it
couldn’t even be turned over by hand. He began by rewiring the total
electrical system that had been roasted in the fire. At the same time
each day he added oil through the spark plug holes to eventually
unfreeze the motor. Every few days we would stop by to see progress.
Mr Gay never smiled but one day we stopped in and he was smiling from
ear to ear with, “I got some thing to show you guys”. He turned the key
and the motor rotated just a degree or two, and he said, “Just give it a
little time to unfreeze and she’s going to be running”. About a week
later it finally ran and the firetruck came home.

About a year later during spring break, Ted Kapustka tells me I can use
the shop he works at part time to paint the truck. I somehow persuade
Dean Work to let me use the schools sandblaster to strip the old paint.
We show up to use the sandblaster but instead the dean has instructed
school workers to do the sandblasting for us while we lounge in the
shade supervising & drinking a few beers. The dean even shows up with
visitors to show them a “student project”. I think we offered them and
the dean a beer. While spraying the truck at Ted’s shop I notice this
big red air compressor in the distance but that’s a different story for
another time. Lol As the brothers return from spring break the “shiney
new firetruck is parked on the front lawn, impressive! The next few
weeks everyone in the house volunteered to makes new ladders, rear
flooring, front seat, paint paint the logo and on & on. Very cool to
finally see it “really finished”. But that old flathead motor smokes
more than 10 brothers huddled around dizzyfoot.

A year goes buy and as I return from my part time job and 2 brothers are
in a panic. Everyone went to the beach on the truck. While returning
the motor shut off and they tell me something round fell off the truck
and it’s on the causeway. Asking a few questions for quick parking lot
diagnostics I tell them the crankshaft broke in half and it has to be
towed. Bummer. Momac Precast (honorary brothers) donate a mid 60’s
Dodge Coronet as a driveline donor. I tried to enlist every ocean &
mechanical engineeer in the house to design me a set of motor mounts to
put the 318 and automatic into the ford. I mean these guys are going to
build bridges, ocean retaining walls, oil rigs and all I could get was a
lot of blank stares.

So one day I’m doing nothing (I did a lot of that) shooting the bull
with Ted Kapustka. “ya know Ted it’s a shame we cant just cut the frame
out of the dodge and weld it onto the ford frame rails. Ever had one of
those moments were no one says a word but the lights just came on and 2
people’s brains just went into overload on a project? For a split
second we just looked at each other, no one said a word. Ted grabbed a
tape measure as I went to Momac precast to borrow the cutting and
welding gear. By nightfall the dodge motor was in the Firetruck. We
needed to add some I-beam for a tranny mount and of course a Hurst
shifter. No more grinding gears, as we had a good working automatic
besides a non oil burning more modern v8. So then faced with what to do
with the old broken flathead I had a brainstorm that many reading this
will recall. “just dig a hole and bury it” And that was exactly what we
did. Somebody even made a gravestone out by the tree swing in the front
yard were the motor was buried. RIP Firetruck motor. (I wonder if the
grave marker is still there?)

I believed at that time this setup would allow the brothers to have a
good working truck that any local repair shop could service for them
after I graduated. Of course unless they always made sure to rush a
couple motorheads to keep it going. My senior year Mitch got his dad to
donate a 1955 Maxim pumper truck. With a diesel motor and an industrial
driveline in this setup I had serious concerns how the brothers in the
house could ever take care of this. This was some serious hardware. I
moved to Philadelphia after graduation and I was really bummed to hear
the 41 Ford was sold. Given todays hostile legal liability environment
( if Florida is anything like New Jersey where I live) then I can
understand house corps concerns about potential liability.

But you know what. We all had some great times and as you can see a few
good memories from being a Pike in the greatest chapter house with the
badest firetruck around!

There are actually two engine grave stones that
read RIP FTE. The first stone is located under the tree near the north
lot driveway, you are correct that was from the first ZS Firetruck. But
the second stone is located in the north lot next to the concrete slab.
This location is in fact the location of the engine from the Maxim
firetruck shown above. I know this, because I was the person who put it
there. Both firetrucks shared similar stories. The Maxim got a new
engine during the Spring Semester of 1996. Stan Davoy (My Big Brother)
and Myself, swapped out the original Hercules Straight 6 engine and
transmission with a 1974 Ford 460 Big Block and Transmission.

 

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