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Gallery + Story: Fire department restores its antique fire truck, Ol' Betsy

Beth rickers/Daily Globe Adrian Fire Chief Ray Bullerman stands next to the department's newly restored 1927 W.S. Nott fire truck.

ADRIAN -- The vehicle that now occupies a stall at the Adrian fire hall bears little resemblance to the vehicle that was previously parked there.

The rust and dirt have been replaced by shiny chrome, lustrous red paint and gorgeous wood grain.

The 1927 W.S. Nott fire truck -- referred to as Ol' Betsy by the firefighters -- has been restored to its former glory.

Purchased new in 1929, the Nott was the community's first fire vehicle. It served the Adrian area for a couple decades and was retired in 1950. Sometime in the 1970s, the truck was moved to Worthington's Pioneer Village, where it pretty much stayed put until early last year, when the Adrian firefighters reclaimed their vehicle.

Just nine months ago, Adrian firefighters debuted their plan to restore the vehicle, getting it running well enough to take it for an unsteady ride through the community's Christmas in July celebration.

A couple months later, they hatched the plan to fund the vehicle's restoration by putting donors' names on ladder rungs.

The bulk of the restoration work was completed by Tom Loring of Expert Body in Adrian.

He began the process sometime around the first of the year, according to Adrian Fire Chief Ray Bullerman, and recently finished the job.

"He called and said it was done, and we couldn't believe it," said Bullerman. "We didn't know if he'd even get it done to put it in parades yet this year, and here it is."

Not only was the restoration completed, but it was done to a level that astounded the Adrian firefighters.

"I never thought it could look like this," said Bullerman, surveying the vehicle that probably now looks better than it did when first purchased. "It just needed some tender loving care. I wish some of the firefighters who ran this thing were alive to see it."

Contributions for the project have trickled in throughout the process, and the names of donors have been posted on the wall beneath the department's retired ladders.

Originally estimated to cost about $17,000, Bullerman said the final cost will likely exceed that amount when all the bills are tallied.

"We're still taking donations," Bullerman emphasized. "One hundred dollars will put your name on the wall."

In addition to throwing their own money into the refurbishment fund, the Adrian firefighters contributed elbow grease to the project, cleaning and rubbing many of the metal parts on the truck until they looked like new. Other metallic parts were re-chromed by a company in Sioux City, Iowa.

The original truck had gold-leaf detailing that would have been expensive to replicate, but Brad Behrends of Behrends Signworks in Worthington designed gold decals that were more practical and durable.

"We'd just like to thank everybody who put anything into this," said Bullerman, noting that the restored truck is now a source of pride for all the members of the volunteer fire department. "Some of the guys have been asking if they can take it to parades. We'll put it on a trailer and haul it wherever they want to go."

The restored 1927 Nott will make its public debut during an open house this week at the Adrian Fire Hall.

Hot dogs, chips and beans will be served from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and visitors will get a chance to see the truck as well as new gear the department has purchased through grant funds.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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