If you’ve ever dreamed of owning an old-fashioned, bright red fire engine, this weekend you might get your chance to fulfill that childhood fantasy. Mike Strasser, a farmer from Garden City, did so about 10 years ago, and now he’s ready to give someone else a chance.
The F&E Collector Auction happens Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Great Bend Expo Complex, 455 W. Barton County Rd. Organizers Chris Froetschner and Chad Ehrlich are returning for the third year, and the show has been steadily growing since its inception in 2016.
This year, amidst the hundreds of classic and unusual cars, hot rods, motorcycles, and plenty of automobilia and petroliana collectibles, one vehicle stands out as particularly unique.
Along with a handful of his other antique and classic cars, Strasser is bringing his 1965 Chevrolet fire engine, nearly pristine in condition with only 1,932 miles on it.
About 10 years ago, Strasser bought the truck through an eBay auction. He had a good milo crop that year, and so he had a little extra money, he said.
“I figured, either I’m going to spend it on beer, or something else,” he said. “I figured none of my other friends had a fire truck, so I bought it.”
He bought it from the Spearville Fire Dept., the original owners. The details about how they came to sell it are unclear, but Strasser recalls it was a hard item for the firefighters there to part with.
When he bought it, the truck only had 1,723 miles on it. He planned to put a grain bed on it and use it as a work truck on his farm. He went to pick it up, and was surprised to find it in practically new condition.
“It was too nice to tear up,” he said. “Basically, it’s been sitting for the last 8-9 years.”
But, not before he had his initial fun.
The first year he owned the truck, he drove it to Manhattan to visit his nephews, then 3 and 4 years old. He told them Santa gave it to him, and they believed it for many years, he said. Later, he and his friends decided to play Santa. They went to their local discount store and bought about $50 worth of coloring books each. Strasser dressed up like Santa and they drove around town giving out coloring books to the children. They were stopped once by local law enforcement who asked them to limit the use of the siren — still loud and clear as the day it was put into service.
“It was a blast!” he said.
Since putting it away, he said, many of his close friends forgot he even had it.
The condition of the truck in and of itself is noteworthy. Add to that the fact there are so many original items and accessories included, that takes this find up a notch or two. Scattered throughout the many compartments typical of a fire truck are the original oil can, an instruction manual, firefighter backpacks, cots, chemicals in their original, unopened containers, over 700 feet of vintage hose, the original triple wooden ladder and much more. Even more fun, all the lights, sirens and spotlights work.
Strasser has put some work into it in the past few months. After years sitting in one of his many sheds, the truck was cleaned up, had the brakes replaced, and given a tune-up. All total, he has $6,500 into it, and that’s what he hopes to get out of it. He’s had his fun and now it’s time to let the next person have theirs. He needs space for his extensive collection of tractors, over 100 at last count, which he restores and enters in tractor pull competitions.
The F & E Car Auction sneak preview starts Friday, from 4-8 p.m., with refreshments, a social hour and prize drawings. Proceeds from the preview event will benefit the SRCA Dragstrip. Saturday morning the doors open at 8 a.m., with automobilia and petroliana selling first starting at 10 a.m. Vehicles will sell next, starting no earlier than noon. For more details, see the online catalogue.