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Restored truck to ride in parade
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The newest addition to the Rockdale County Fire Department’s fleet of working vehicles is, in fact, not new at all.

After a year of restoration the RCFDP will offer a glimpse into the past as it introduces a 1951 Ford Peter Persch truck during the Conyers Christmas Parade today.

The truck, bought by Rockdale on Dec. 7, 1951, has been getting a total refurbishment for about a year after it was pulled out of storage in December 2010.

Since then, the department has been busy re-wiring, fabricating, cutting, grinding and repairing the truck in Station 8, while seeking sponsors and people who could help locate parts outside the firehouse.

Several people and businesses in the community have responded to that call and donated both money and parts to the effort, headlined by Deputy Fire Chief Dan Morgan and firefighter Stacey Smith.

"The big reason me and Dan wanted to start this project was to help morale and show that businesses would still help us," Smith said. "Even though the economy is bad, they were still willing to contribute on a project like this for us."

Along with the materials, Smith also recruited man-power help, in former RCFD volunteer and Ford mechanic Tony Freeman.

Freeman worked on the 1951 truck when it was in service during the 70’s, with his biggest project being to replace its valve seat in the engine.

Thirty years later he was back under the hood of the 1951 Peter Persch, and this time it was a lot more than just the engine. Early on in the process, there wasn’t even a hood to be under for Freeman and Smith.

The truck was stripped and cleaned up from the frame on up, and the engine was completely rebuilt.

When he worked on the engine this time, Freeman didn’t have to just work on the valve seat, but had to rebuild a blown head gasket, add a carburetors and change all the wiring to 12-volt.

"Mechanically it wasn’t too bad, once we got the parts for it." said Freeman of the 1951 truck that had just 10,000 miles on it. "The electrical part was time consuming thought. We had to make most of the stuff, because they had an aftermarket wiring harness that had wires for power locks and power windows."

Along with the mechanical and electrical stuff was also refurbishing the outside of the truck with such things as the original lamps, fire extinguisher and pumps.

Smith was constantly at station 8 the last year, working on the truck when he wasn’t off duty.

"These guys put up with me hanging around a lot," Smith said. "I did not do a whole lot of work on duty. It was off duty, and the other shifts had to put up with me grinding and cutting and taking parts off."

It was more a labor of love for Smith, who has worked on trucks and tractors before, and has wanted to work on the ’51 since he first saw it in 1985.

"This was probably one of the most passionate restorations I’ve done," Smith said. "It’s been something every day for the last year."

With it finally finished Smith will be waiting at the finish line of the Christmas parade to see the truck come riding down the street. Freeman will have a different perspective, behind the wheel, driving the parade route.

There will also be plenty of other contributors, people who donated money or parts, watching from the sidewalks. Those are the people that Smith said they really did it for.

"It was a very fun project," Smith said. I’ve met a lot of good people doing it.

"It gave me another sense of respect for the citizens in this county, the businesses and the firemen. They really stepped up to the plate and were very supportive."