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California man puts 1935 Duluth fire truck up for sale

Chris Estep (right) and his daughter Danielle, 13, show off the 1935 Ford fire truck that he says once belonged to the city of Duluth. Although it's up for sale, Estep for now has the vehicle parked in front of his business in Vista, Calif. Photo courtesy Chris Estep

A Southern California man is trying to sell a 1935 fire truck that apparently was once used on Park Point.

"1935 Ford D-Gas Fire Truck Engine Duluth Minnesota Water Pumper Parade use WOW" wrote Chris Estep of Vista, Calif., in an eBay listing posted last week.

Over the phone and via email, Estep said he knows little about the truck beyond what he learned from its previous owners. He bought it just a month ago from the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, a nonprofit that has sponsored adult and youth sports leagues in San Diego "since before you were born," according to its Facebook page.

But the club told him it had been built for Duluth's fire department, Estep said. Corroborating evidence is a 1985 letter from the Roper Pump Co. in Commerce, Ga., to M. Peterson in San Diego identifying a pump for the truck as having been built in 1938 "for Duluth Fire Department, Duluth, Minnesota."

Estep also submitted a 1995 letter from Capt. Jerry Keppers, author of the book "Fire and Ice: A History of the Duluth Fire Department," responding to an inquiry about the truck from Kevin Peterson of North Central Adjusters.

According to the Fire Department's 1936 annual report, the truck cost $475 plus $1,740 for fire extinguishing equipment so it could be used as specialized extinguishing chemical truck, Keppers wrote. But the 1938 annual report said the truck was remodeled as a "hose car" with a booster pump to replace an antiquated hose truck on Park Point. It was replaced on Park Point in 1958 and "removed from service" in 1959, according to Keppers' letter.

The 1935 truck was the only Duluth unit given a new pump in 1938, Keppers wrote.

"I do not have a serial no. for this vehicle, but I am positive that this our old unit," he continued.

The Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, which didn't respond to a question via email and doesn't list a telephone number on its website, shows two old fire trucks on the site. They are used to represent the club on parades and at charity events, it says. "These are NOT in-service fire trucks. They cannot respond to fires and neither can the old geezers that drive them."

When he looked at the truck, it was emblazoned with "OMBAC Fire Dept.," Estep said. The sales contract required that he remove the "O" and the "C," so it would no longer be identified with Old Mission Beach. Thus, it's now the MBA Fire Dept. "It means nothing," Estep said, laughing.

Estep parked the truck outside of his business, a collectibles and antiques store called "Vista Trading Post," to attract customers, he said. The tow truck driver who delivered it said he got more "thumbs ups" than for anything he'd ever hauled, Estep added.

But he also bought it to sell it, listing it at just under $20,000 or best offer, and also placing it on Craigslist. It's what he does.

"I buy and sell really cool cars," said Estep, who also buys and sells toucans, the rain forest birds with extraordinarily large, colorful beaks.

He'd like it if someone from Duluth bought the truck, Estep said. But many of the vehicles he sells ends up being shipped overseas.

"Most of them go off to Russia or Japan," he said. "Over there, they're worth four times as much."