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10 June 2013
# 1707

Owned by
John & Peggy Milliman
Bolter #3 owners, editors and janitors
The First 'Bolters
Mechanicsville, MD

This truck is for sale!

1965 GMC-Darley

Tanker Truck


More pictures of this old truck


From John:

We purchased this unit in Octoberrrrr 2006 from the Michigan Motor Speedway to use on our Christmas Tree farm for irrigation. The Tanker Truck has the 305 V-6 motor, a Darley 500 GPM front-mounted pump and a 1,000-gallon tank.

The truck was ordered new in 1965 from a noted fire apparatus manufacturer that's still family owned and run -- the W.S.Darley Corporation in Chicago, ILL. And that's all I knew about the truck. So after bringing the truck home from Michigan, I contacted Darley at a customer service number I found on their web site. The gent who answered the phone was one of the Darley's (aren't they also a Bluegrass band??) and proceeded to be exceptionally friendly and helpful -- which I thought was cool, considering he probably routinely deals with fire departments who purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of apparatus and support.

Mr. Darley asked me for the pump's serial number. Once I gave it to him, he said "I'll be right back."

Over the phone, (which he had laid down on his desk without putting me on hold) I heard his chair wheel over to a file cabinet. He pulled on a drawer and rifled through the folders (being an office puke myself, I know what all these sounds are ). He rolled back to his desk.

"Yep," he said, "I have your pump right here." He then proceeded to give me the highlights, but then he stopped ...

"Ya want me to just send photocopies of all this to ya?"


About five days later, I received a large manila envelope in the mail. Not only did he send me the complete record of the pump and truck, including the original contract for the pump, but also information on the truck, too. He had also sent me a copy of the pump's service manual and ... a hat!

I think I ended up only spending about $500 on parts for the pump -- insignificant, really, compared to what they were selling to the Chicago Fire Department and others. But still -- I was heartened to know that large family corporations with heart still exist in America. It was completely and totally cool.

So anyway, here's the history. The history of the pump *is* the history of the truck. And the history of the pump begins with the Second World War. The War Department issued huge orders with Darley and a few other major apparatus manufacturers to produce thousands of firetrucks needed to rebuild infrastructure in Europe in the aftermath of a devastating U.S. invasion at Normandy and subsequent "scorched earth" retreat expected of the German forces as they retreat from France and the Low Countries.

As it turned out, the brilliant D-Day landings and subsequent lightning fast advance across Europe by Patton's and Montgomery's armies denied the Germans any opportunity to destroy infrastructure -- meaning that there was ultimately no need for the thousands of fire apparatus stockpiled to rebuild Europe after the war. Europe was devastated by WWII to be sure, but not as completely as the War Department expected. Thus, the completed trucks were sent out to the American Heartland to give much of rural America its first community fire protection -- which is why there were so many of these G-series firetrucks in small town fire departments.

Back to my pump.

So, with World War II rapidly winding down, I can almost see the Darley factory manager in Chicago pointing to thousands of pumps that had just come off the assembly line, waiting to go on the front of G-series trucks that weren't going to show up now.

"What am I supposed to do with all of these pumps?" he asked the War Department contracting rep.

"We don't care," the government guy might have said (in effect.) "We don't want 'em."

So my pump, which was built in mid 1945, probably went on a shelf in the warehouse. And there it sat until 1952 when the City of Quincy, ILL, came to Darley needing a small truck. Darley made them a deal on the pump and built a unit around the pump on a 1952 F-600.

In the early 1960's, Quincy traded the pump back in to Darley for something newer and bigger and the pump got rebuilt and put back on the shelf until 1965 when the town of Seymour, ILL came along, with a need for a bare bones tanker truck (common in cities prior to widespread infrastructure like water and sewer systems). What they didn't have, quite obviously, was a lot of funding. Darley spec'd them out a simple water tanker with ... a "Blue Light Special" pump!

That truck is pretty much how you see it today -- the heart of the unit is the Darley Champion 500-gallon per minute pump on the front (put there so you can roll up to a river or pond) and the 1,000-gallon tank on the back. It had two booster reels installed, but one has since been removed to create a storage compartment.

The truck body features a large storage compartment at the back (with a big dump valve) and a three-section 30-foot steel ladder. Odds and ends like hose, fittings, hard line and strainers complete the package, as well as a few Indian pumpers on the back for show.

The Seymour volunteers had the truck (but didn't use it much, considering the truck had 8,000 miles on it when I got it) until the late 1990's when it was sold to the Michigan Motor Speedway's campground and used for putting out campers' fires. (It's come in handy for when we have our humongous burn piles here at the farm, but fortunately, never have had to use it for that!) The Speedway contracted out its fire protection in 2005 and they sold the truck to me in 2006.

Bringing the truck home from Michigan was a saga -- so we wrote a story about it for the Features section)!

It has less than 10,000 miles on it, runs and drives like nearly new and it just an awesome truck! Peggy particularly enjoys the siren!

Since buying the truck, we've done a little body work and repainted the unit. The pump has been overhauled and we've put new wheels and tubeless tires (10R22.5 radials) -- that made everything good to go (for the Boss), so we could participate in the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Firefighters' Parade. The truck made the 300-mile round trip just fine in company with three other fire engines from Southern Maryland.

Because of the truck's age and low-mileage, some other things hadn't gotten upgraded over the years. In addition to still having the wheels and tires on it that it came with from the factory, it still had all of it's other original rubber pieces, too -- like fuel lines which did not stand up well (at all ...) to 21st Century, ethanol-containing fuel. So, we've had to replace the entire fuel and carburation system -- fuel lines, fuel pump and the carburetor. We replaced the original Stromberg single barrel carburetor (after two unsuccessful attempts at rebuilding it after the fuel pump failed and packed the carb full of teeny rubber fragments ...) with a modern Holley 300 two-barrel carb. As part of the carb upgrade, we also lost the governor.

Also upgraded was the distributor -- with installed a Pertonix electronic ignition system in lieu of the original points.

With all of the upgrades to wheels, tires, fuel system and the ignition, we now have a parade-ready truck that cruises comfortably at highway speeds (and gets better gas mileage now, too!). We had a local welding shop fabricate a trailer hitch and we've been able to haul the 1949 Chevy 1-ton to shows as well, now and then.

Alas, all good things come to an end, and now that our long-term project of creating a hardline buried irrigation system on our farm, the original requirement for the truck (watering Christmas trees) no longer exists. (Although we did dump 3,000 gallons of water from the pond into our current compost wind-row operation just this month. FUN!)

This truck has been a great big pile of fun over the years, and there are other trucks we want to play with now. So it's time to move "Tanker 51" on and let someone new experience the fun of living with an antique fire truck.

John Milliman

Yes, John does have a collection of trucks (but not as many as some of you all!). He has the all original 1949 Chevy 3800 1-Ton, "Charlie." He use to have another 1949 Chevy 4400 1.5-Ton (with more details on it in the Project Trucks in the Tech Tips Section) -- but we had to pass that one along after he picked up the 1972 GMC 9500, "Gort" in January 2010. Then there is the 1965 GMC 4400 Fire Engine Tanker with the Darley pump -- the "Firebolt" which kicked off the Stovebolt Volunteer Fire Department. Lastly, although not a Stovebolt, we added a 1971 M-817 5-Ton Dump WO/W "Smedley D." to the fleet. We have a 1972 International 3800 Loader/Backhoe -- plus other trucks, tractors, Gators, wagons... "for use on the farm" Someday, we'll write a fitting tale about the old Farmdawg, too. ~~ Editor

09 June 2008 Update
# 1707

From John :

        This past Memorial Day weekend got off to a great start with the completion of the "Great Tank Project" -- the fabrication of the hose bed. It wasn't as easy as initially envisioned. There was no running over to the lumber yard to pick up the materials. (I was ready to jump at this project 10 days earlier.) Because of the odd size of the boards, and our local hardware store wanted to get a complete order before he sent our's out. We had about a week wait for all the wood to come in. But once it did, ah ha ... it was a great job. Kinda like putting a puzzle together ... but you had to make up your own shapes!

        Spring also stared good since we got the pump back from being rebuilt and repainted. We got the new tires (10R22.5 radials) -- that made everything good to go (for the Boss), so we could participate in this year's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Firefighters' Parade. The truck made the 300-mile round trip just fine in company with three other fire engines from Southern Maryland.

        After that big adventure, Henry Fowler (one of our BW ATHS Bubbas) LENT us his hose nozzle and some extra hose (complete with some pin holes , but it was fine for a test). Here's a good shot using the nozzle to do some pump n roll to water the Christmas tree seedlings (before our 7" of rain dump ... we actually had two weeks without rain).

        And I guess as part of the update, we should include that she played a big part in escorting in the early Stovebolters for the 1st Stovebolt Homecoming here at Stovebolt HQ. Read the Feature!



10 March 2008
# 1707

From John :

        We just got the truck back from the paint shop and we are very pleased with how it came out! The rusty fenders are fixed and the paint looks awesome! It's starting to look like a fire truck again!

        I spent a good bit of the weekend putting the pieces back on -- cab lights, mirrors, emblems, the grille, the parking lights, etc. Ray (the body man) had inadvertently filled one of the mounting holes for the side emblems in, but it was a simple matter to drill it back out from the inside.

        All I have to do at this point is finish refinishing the inside of the tank and get the pump back from the pump shop and it will be 100 percent (after I remount the booster reels and the ladder rack, and replumb a new feed line from the tank to the pump).

        The new wheels (the ones I got from Grigg) are still off getting powder coated. They should be back in time so we can go to the big fire equipment parade in Winchester, Virginia on new tires. Here is a good side shot.





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