1931 Chevrolet Series LT 1½-Ton Triple-Combination Fire PumperVERKOCHT

1931 Chevrolet Series LT 1½-Ton Triple-Combination Fire Pumper by Boyer

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Rare surviving 1930s triple-combination pumper
Well outfitted; recommissioned as a parade vehicle

Until late in the 20th century, most fire apparatuses in the U.S. were built to order. Giants in the business were American LaFrance, Ahrens Fox, and Peter Pirsch, all of which often built engines from scratch. Smaller fire departments would frequently select a commercial truck chassis as the basis, with outfitting the vehicle left to numerous small and medium-sized companies located throughout the country. One of these was the Boyer Fire Equipment Company of Logansport, Indiana.

In 1905, J.T. Obenchain of Logansport, an inventor and owner of a flour mill, patented a new design of chemical fire extinguishing apparatus. After his death in 1909, his son Matthew took over the business, and an employee, Steve Boyer, formed the Boyer Apparatus Company as a sales organization. In 1916, the firm, now known as Boyer Fire Equipment Co., built its first motorized equipment by mounting a chemical tank and ladders on a Model T Ford chassis. As time went on, other automotive chassis were used, including Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Cadillac, and the like. By the 1920s they were turning out triple-combination pumpers (pump, hose, and water tank) on truck chassis from the likes of Chevrolet, GMC, Reo, White, and International. The company survived into the 1990s.

In 1931, Boyer Fire Apparatus built nine fire engines on Chevrolet chassis. Some of these went far afield, like no. 8452 supplied to the DuPont Chemical company in Wilmington, Delaware. Others were sent closer to home: Wakefield, Nebraska; Sterling and Glasco, Kansas; Dell Rapids, South Dakota; and Brayner, Missouri. Even closer to St. Louis was Boyer no. 8257, sent to the Worden Volunteer Fire Department of Worden, Illinois, about 30 miles east of St. Louis, across the Mississippi River.

As described in a 2013 history of the Boyer company by firefighter, historian, and apparatus collector Rodger Birtchfield, engine 8257 was constructed with two 40-gallon chemical tanks and a Barton pump. Number 8257 appears in two photographs from 1971, when it was owned by Henry Malon of Florissant, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. The photos match remnants of lettering that remain on the vehicle, although a number of attachments have been changed. While full numbers-matching provenance is unknown, it is most likely that this truck is the one delivered to the volunteer firefighters of Worden.

As it appears today, the truck has been converted by substitution of a 300-gallon water tank for the chemical tanks, and the pump, originally front-mounted, has been removed. Other accoutrements, some added since the 1971 photos, include a Siriniti Sterling siren, a bell, searchlight, soda-acid fire extinguisher, and some nozzles. A Vibro-Jet auto horn flanks the standard Chevrolet horn. While the original Barton pump has been lost, a period Darley Champion pump of a type used on other Boyer apparatus of the period is included.

In all, it is a fine example for a collector of historic fire apparatuses from America’s heartland.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/gc19.

Reference Number 568321

as of 5/11/2019

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Car 1931 Chevrolet Series LT 1½-Ton Triple-Combination Fire Pumper
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