The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 30, 2012


Owner wants to sell vintage vehicle to someone from its origin, Geneva

GENEVA — The gleaming chrome on the 1960 American La France fire engine reflects a lifetime of memories — fires and rescues, parades and funerals, endless hours of polishing and waxing.

Where many fire trucks of its time have gone to the big junkyard in the sky, the Geneva LaFrance is a coveted and much prized possession in Rich Courter’s collection of old, restored service engines.

But the time has come, Courter, 59, of Columbus, said. It is time for the LaFrance to come home.

“I have owned this engine for 17 years,” he said. “I have four engines in my garage and my wife says it is time to thin the herd. It has to go, and I am really hoping someone in Geneva will buy it.”

Courter, who belongs to the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in America, bought the LaFrance from a private seller in 1995, long after the city of Geneva sold it off as a surplus vehicle. He said the truck reflects his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter — a dream realized, but briefly.

“When I got out of high school, I joined my own local fire department,” he said. “I was there for three years and then I went back to college, but my heart never left the fire service. This truck is exactly like the one my city had, just like the one I drove as a firefighter. It was the first antique engine I ever bought. When I saw it, I knew I had to have it.”

Courter said the truck has been the star of many parades, weddings and funerals and would be the showpiece for events in its old hometown of Geneva.

“I brought it back to Geneva for Grape Jamboree 15 years ago,” he said. “I have had it all over the place, from Michigan to Indiana. This truck has literally done weddings and firefighter funerals, fairs and more,” he said.

Courter said the Geneva Fire Department called the old engine back into service one last time with the funeral of former Chief Robert Bancroft. The truck was used in his funeral procession.

The truck is all original and Courter said it was considered a very well-equipped, high-end rig of its time.

“The truck is really cool,” he said. “It has a lot of chrome and I haven’t taken anything off of it. It looks just like it did when it left Geneva. The truck is loaded with equipment — hoses, ladders, extinguishers and more fire department tools.”

While his heart will ache to see the truck leave his driveway and his collection, Courter said the fire engine is for sale for $3,900.

“American La France engines are still made today and at one time it was the most popular fire truck in America. This was the first custom-built fire truck Geneva had,” he said.

The engine is in fair condition, Courter said, and has always been stored in a garage.

For more information on the 1960 American LaFrance fire engine, call Courter at 614-738-4309.

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