April 27, 2012

1927 American LaFrance Fire Engine

Lynn Steele was a hot rodder at heart but he never really knew it.

When I first met Lynn in 1970, he was working on his 1931 Cadillac V-12 Closed Coupled Sedan (Town Car).  He was very particular at making sure that it was put together as originally as possible.  As a Cadillac/LaSalle and CCCA club member, his goal was to put together the ’31 to show at the club’s gatherings.  On the side, he did do some modifications to other vehicles.
At the time he didn’t look at them as classics, only as parade vehicles or fun projects.  He changed the convertible top on his 1961 Austin Healey to add landau bars and made the top as a partial top.  My favorite was his parade car.  It was a 1927 American LaFrance fire engine that he transformed into an oversized speedster.

I can remember riding around the old Packard proving grounds in Utica, Michigan, sitting on the spare tires at 70 miles an hour.  It was green with gold pin-striping and beautiful.  It reminded me of the Stutz Bearcat, only bigger. I was amazed at that chain-driven beast being able to handle very well at that speed.  I was also amazed that I survived when I noticed two of the three leather straps holding the tires had ripped apart.

He drove it in many of the local parades around Farmington, Michigan.  Eventually he sold it, to the disappointment of his kids, to buy a 1936 Cadillac, which also surprised me.  I think he was taking some flak from club members and was embarrassed to show the vehicle.

At the time he was definitely a lover of the classics of the early 30s and 20s.  He once told me that the later 30s cars all looked the same; black.  I guess they must have grown on him, since he had many cars of later years in his collection as time went on.

Years later he told me that selling that fire engine was a big mistake.  He had more fun with that vehicle than any other.  In the family, we still talk about the fire engine; the parades, car shows and the fun they had growing up with it.  We’ve lost track of it nearly 40 years ago.  If anyone knows where it’s at, we’d love to hear from you.  And yes, Lynn was a hot rodder at heart and never knew it.


Matt Agosta is the President of Steele Rubber Products. He is an avid car-enthusiast. When he is not working or restoring one of his classic cars, he enjoys traveling with his wife, local author Carolyn Steele Agosta. 


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