Custom Cruise Friday
The fire fighters who protect our communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week are born heroes. Al Koerner of Bon Accord is a member of that very special fraternity. Koerner was a fire fighter in Leduc for 14 years. The subject of this week’s Custom Cruise Friday post in Koerner’s 1964 GMC 5000 Fire Truck. Purchasing the retired emergency vehicle in 2014, his ultimate goal is to have a unique way to honor his brethren who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. He’s already been receiving quite a bit of support from several different fire departments.
“There’s a special bond between fire fighters,” Koerner said. “A real brotherhood or sisterhood. I have my life in your hands and you have your life in mine.”
Koerner came across the fire truck, originally from California, just sitting in a lot soaking up the sun. Like all fire fighters, he felt compelled to jump in to action.
“I thought I should have my own firetruck,” Koerner said. “So I bought it.”
Saving another life
According to Koerner, the GMC Fire Truck was brought to Canada from Lower Lake, Calif. After working out a deal with the truck’s owner, he had to have it towed home by a semi. The first order of business for Koerner was to get the truck running again. He replaced the tires and brakes and had to put on a new rear end to change the gear ratio. In its original state, Koerner said the truck didn’t have much in the way of flat out speed but the engine was working hard, making too many rpm.
“The engine was just screaming,” Koerner said.
Drawing a crowd
After the mechanical repairs were complete and the truck was properly inspected, Koerner started bringing the truck to car shows and show and shines. Even if the GMC Fire Truck wasn’t a super unique vehicle to start, it would still attract a crowd. As a naturally big and heavy vehicle, Koerner has to have pretty precise timing when displaying the vehicle at a car show. He needs to be among the first to arrive and the last to leave so he can safely enter and exit.
“Kids love it because they can’t get and can’t touch anything (in other displayed vehicles),” Koerner said. “I’ve even had grandmas in it and they put on the helmet.”
Given the curiosity of children and the rush they are probably riding from getting to sit in a real fire truck, the switches and knobs are always getting played with. He’s learned his lesson after being surprised more than a few times by unexpectedly activated lights and sirens when he starts the truck. At the car shows, Koerner is happy to turn the lights on, but the siren generally stays off.
“I woke a guy up at a car show from 100-feet away,” Koerner said. “He came up sideways from his chair. I didn’t know he was sleeping.”
A bit of a rarity
In order to haul all of the fire fighters, their equipment and 600 gallons of water, a powerful engine is required. GMC placed a 478 cubic-inch, V-6 engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. This is a very rare engine and is often a point of contention with passersby at the car shows.
“I’ve had arguments with people,” Koerner said. “I own the truck.”
Supporting your family
Fire departments from all over the map have donated retired equipment to Koerner’s restoration project. In particular, he mentioned a lot of help from fire fighters in Sturgeon County. He has received helmets and hoses to add to the classic emergency vehicle.
The next step in the process is to get the exterior back in shape. As luck would have it, Koerner is the proprietor of AK Restorations, LTD and exclusively works on vehicles built before 1972. Also on his agenda is a plan to retrofit the valves and water outlets with new fittings so he can fill the truck’s water tank and really put on a show. Although that’s not to say some fun hasn’t already been had in the form of the world’s wettest water fight.
Koerner also plans to thank and honor the departments that have supported him in his project by listing those departments somewhere on the truck. This is an extension of a motto his brothers and sisters in the Leduc Fire Department say before literally heading into the fire: “We all go home together.”
If you have a custom, special or project vehicle that you’d like to have profiled in a Custom Cruise Friday post, we’d love to hear about it. Owners can email photos and pertinent information to Don Wheaton Brand Manager, Larissa Kho, email@example.com.