Bringing Ole’ Streaker Back To Life

Streaker Front 2 cropped

Streaker Front 2 cropped

By Liz McNeal and Gerald Reining

In 2019, volunteer firefighter Gerald Reining was inspired to spearhead the restoration of an antique fire engine after participating in a joint escort with the Coppell Fire Department for a burial service of one of their own. Fire Chief Jim Kitchens, a Lucas resident, was the first paid Fire Chief for the City of Lucas after he retired as a Battalion Chief for the Coppell Fire Department. Reining felt, “We need to honor the dedication and years of service of our own by providing a parade vehicle representing the community they served.”

When Gerald first proposed the idea to current Fire Chief Ted Stephens, the City of Lucas was considering auctioning off the antique fire truck that he wanted to restore. Reining, still an active department member at the time, approached City Manager Joni Clark and Fire Chief Ted Stephens with the idea, and together with City Council Member Wayne Millsap, they pitched the project to the Lucas City Council. Reining’s plan was supported by many retired local Lucas Fire-Rescue Chiefs and Firefighters, saving it from the auction block.

This 1949 Ford F7 Detroit General Fire Engine first saw service with the city of Dallas and was sold to Seagoville sometime in the 60s. In 1973, Chief Frank Hamlin bought it for the Lucas Volunteer Fire Department as a first-line engine for an all-volunteer firehouse from 1980 until 1992. It served as a reserve engine until 1992 and was eventually retired to parades and special event duty. In 2008, a volunteer fire firefighter-mechanic attempted to rebuild the carburetor, but additional issues arose, contributing to the 1949 Ford’s demise.

When it was originally retrieved from Seagoville, it was “naked” – without gear or hoses, hence the name “Ole’ Streaker.”

Lucas City Council agreed to match funds collected from donations. “We were very lucky to have local support in both labor and donations,” Gerald said. Phoenix Manufacturing Inc. donated material and labor to replicate an original piece of the hose bed that was not salvageable. Complete Customs and Homes by J. Anthony sponsored a Car Show fundraiser in May of 2022 with the City of Lucas. To date, Tony Prutch, owner of J. Anthony Homes, has been the largest individual donor. Craig Zale has contributed labor and the expertise of Craig’s Car Care team. Craig has spent countless weekends working alongside Gerald and other volunteers during the tear-down, rust removal, and repair process.

Beneath the Rust and Dust – Tear Down Begins

Retired volunteer Chief Engineer Gary Johnson, retired volunteer Battalion Chief James Tellier, fire-rescue volunteer David Rhoads, and Captain Ian Evans completed the tear-down work, removing the bulk of fire apparatus and grinding the welds that held it to the Ford frame.

Gerald feels, “We have the best volunteers. All ages, all with some sort of attachment to Streaker. It takes time to do what these volunteers are doing. They show up rain or shine. The planning meetings took time. But now the process of restoring our truck is in full swing.”

After work began, the pandemic hit, and due to an overwhelming concern for health, work was halted for several months. Then, only two volunteers would work at a time to ensure safe distancing was maintained and still followed work hazard safety protocols.

Chief Ted Stephens, Garrett & Ret. Chief Craig Zale completing engine disassembly prior to magnaflux testing.
Chief Ted Stephens, Garrett & Ret. Chief Craig Zale completing engine disassembly prior to magnaflux testing.
Once the front end was disassembled and the engine was removed, a crack in the original engine block was discovered.  Instead of repairing, the subcommittee opted for a modern engine for reliability, safety, and power. Craig Zale designed and fabricated mounts to accept the new engine.

Also, when removing the fire hose pump components, it was discovered that the mounting brackets were welded to the bed instead of attached with bolts. The welds had to be cut, and the remaining welds had to be ground down smooth on the fire apparatus and the bed. This issue was an unexpected setback to the team’s original timeline.

Charles Corporon welding on frame
Charles Corporon welding on frame

The design of the original wheels, a Firestone 15-degree “Widow Maker” split rim, became a safety concern. If someone accidentally overinflates the tires, the rims can be separated by the pressure, which could lead to a blowout or, even worse, the entire wheel becoming airborne. American Wheel Specialists in Washington State helped locate outer tubeless rims that would accept the Ford inner rim from 1949. Gerald and Barry McNeal completed the wheel assembly recently. Z-Fab Custom Welding in Princeton completed the final welding.

With lots of hard work from retirees, volunteers, and Rich Verbal of Legacy Classic Car, the final disassembly of Ole’ Streaker was completed in early 2021. After additional rust mitigation, prep of the hose bed and welding in new steel, the hose bed was removed to start the frame restoration.

Spring and Summer of 2023

The Crew: Ret. Chief Craig Zale, Clayton Reining (driving tractor), Barry McNeal, Nathan Reining & Shawn McNeal moving frame to be sandblasted.
The Crew: Ret. Chief Craig Zale, Clayton Reining (driving tractor), Barry McNeal, Nathan Reining & Shawn McNeal moving frame to be sandblasted.
It took three years to disassemble down to the frame, and for the last two years, Reining and his sons, Nathan and Clayton, and volunteers Barry and Shawn McNeal have spent at least two to three weekends a month grinding, welding, and sanding on individual pieces.

Rich Verbal of Legacy Classic Car and his team have sandblasted the 1949 Watrous Fire pump, hose bed, the original running boards, and bumper. Throughout July and August, the body and frame were sandblasted by DC Media Blasting. Upon completion of all sandblasting, all components were primed and prepped and are now ready for the final coat of paint, which will begin in the early spring of 2024.

Craig Zale, Ret. Chief Gary Johnson & Nathan Reining mating new transmission to engine
Craig Zale, Ret. Chief Gary Johnson & Nathan Reining mating new transmission to engine

The Remaining Build

The subcommittee estimates the time to reassemble is between 250 to 300 hours.

Assembly will require wiring, block and fill-in divots of welds, new side rail fabrication, and engine installation before the front end and fire apparatus can be remounted. “We are really shooting to deliver a completely restored Ole’ Streaker to the City of Lucas and Lucas Fire Department by October of 2024 for the Founder’s Day parade and the department’s annual open house, even though the estimated completion date is slated for December 2024.” said, Gerald.

The search is on for Texas license plates to complete the soon-to-be fire engine. Needed are two 1949 plates in good condition – no rust and must be readable, but they do not need to match.

Lucas Fire-Rescue has come a long way in the last 10 years and is now comprised of 15 career firefighters/paramedics, three volunteers, two assistant chiefs, an administrative assistant, and the fire chief. The department strives to provide the highest level of service to everyone who lives in, works in, and visits the City of Lucas. The Friends of Lucas Fire-Rescue is so very thankful for the support of the City of Lucas and the community and is a 501c organization. All donations are tax-deductible.

Follow us on Facebook at Friends of Lucas Fire-Rescue to see updates on the progress until completion at facebook.com/friendsoflucasfr.