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Family fire truck

A 1956 Dodge fire truck tied to Findlay Automotive Group’s history has a found a home at Findlay Cadillac in the Valley Automall in Henderson.

The vehicle, originally a basic truck, was purchased by Findlay Automotive Group founder Pete Findlay, who journeyed to Detroit in the 1950s to pick up the vehicle and then delivered it to Salt Lake City-based L.N. Curtis and Sons for conversion into a fire truck.

Curtis and Sons modified the vehicle into a fire truck for the fire department in Panaca, Findlay’s birthplace. After many years of usage, the fire truck was stored before being moved to the outdoors in an area with tough winters.

Findlay’s son, Cliff, now chairman of Findlay Automotive Group, got wind that the truck was sitting in Panaca, about 180 miles north of Las Vegas. After placing several phone calls, he purchased the vehicle, had it trucked to Findlay Customs in Henderson and a weathered fire truck is a showpiece in the family’s Cadillac dealership at 993 Auto Show Drive.

“My dad used to work at the fire station in Panaca,” Cliff Findlay said. “They sent him and my uncle back to Michigan to pick it up. Ten years ago, they got another fire truck and stuck this one outside.”

When the old Dodge was brought by trailer to Findlay Customs, it had seen better days. With its rich history in the Findlay family, Cliff Findlay knew it was time to freshen it up.

“We got it fired up and it barely ran, had no brakes, and was in bad shape,” said Joe Monaco, general manager at Findlay Customs at 7725 Commercial Way next to Findlay Toyota.

Monaco’s crew received the fire truck in December 2012 and delivered it fully restored in June to be trucked to Idaho for its debut.

“It started as a light restoration, but seeing how important it was to Cliff and the family, it needed to be a tribute to Pete Findlay. So it became a detailed frame-up restoration,” said Monaco, a New York native, who has lived in Southern Nevada for more than 20 years. “This is more than just a fire truck. It’s Findlay history. We had people from the Findlay family in the shop almost all the time. People from Panaca that were in Las Vegas would come in and ask to see the progress.

“We’re happy to play a big part in preserving something that can now be shared with people all over. It truly is one of our finest achievements. ”

Monaco said the original bill of sale was $4,500. Some of the paperwork even has Pete Findlay’s handwriting.

“We went full-bore with this one,” Monaco said. “In addition, we even added a secondary audio system. One system is for the cab, and one is for parade mode,” Monaco said. “All of the chrome, stainless, and brass was polished. The siren on the fender is original, so we disassembled it, rechromed it, and reinstalled it to full function. Cliff wanted wow, so we installed ‘parade mode.’ Pull one switch and all the strobe lights come on, headlights flash and a hidden audio/PA system comes to life. We are very proud of this.”

Monaco has the original paperwork including letters from George Heiser Body Co. in Seattle dated March 14, 1956; certification from the National Board of Fire Underwriters in New York dated June 19, 1956; and another from the Board of Fire Underwriters of the Pacific in San Francisco dated July 31, 1956.

“Pete Findlay would be proud to see the fire truck now,” Cliff Findlay said. “It runs great. This thing is unbelievable.”

The Findlay family has nine grandchildren (with another on the way) and each loves riding on the fire truck during parades.

Findlay Automotive Group has become known through Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho for its community involvement since it was created by Pete Findlay more than 50 years ago. The restored fire truck fits perfectly into community events as evidenced by the fact that it was featured in a parade July 4 in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, near Findlay Hyundai Mazda and Nissan in Post Falls, Idaho, and it will be featured again July 24 at a parade celebrating Nevada’s 150th birthday at the old Findlay stomping grounds of Panaca.

“This is stunning,” said retired former Farmers Insurance executive Jerry Carnahan, a car enthusiast and an adviser for E&E Vehicles Solutions in Las Vegas. “It’s not only beautiful but also a wonderful way for a son to pay tribute to his father.”

For information on availability of the Findlay fire truck for community events, call Findlay Cadillac General Manager John Saksa at 702-558-2600.

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