By Mitch Kaskie
While it may not have responded to an emergency in years, this 1962 Seagrave Fire Truck looks better than ever parked in Roeland Park resident Mark Babcock’s driveway.
The old fire engine is a long way from its home in Champaign, Illinois, where it was last used in the Boy Scout’s Explorers program for kids interested in fire safety. Babcock, who bought the truck last September, found the fire apparatus on eBay motors as the city of Champaign was trying to sell it. He promptly bought it and had Midwest Tow move it to his home where he spent the winter restoring it.
Babcock, originally from Butler, Mo., spent four years in the Navy before getting his Associate Degree in electrical mechanical technology from Penn Valley Community College and then on to UMKC to pursue a BS in Business Administration. Since then he has spent about 25 years with Keller Fire and Safety and works part time for the Roeland Park Police Department.
It isn’t the first time Babcock has taken on a project like this. His interest in electronics began at an early age and continued during his time with the Navy. Whether it was building a railroad in the backyard of his Grandview home for kids to ride, or restoring a couple of old 1952 Willys Jeeps, Babcock has always found a way to put his skills to use.
“Other people hunt and fish,” Babcock said. “But for me it’s just kind of just been things like this.”
A couple years ago Keller Fire and Safety had a 1955 Ford Fire Truck, which Babcock reconditioned in his off hours. He says this is where he got the idea for his most recent project, the 1962 Seagrave Fire Truck.
“After that was over with I just decided that maybe an old fire truck like that may be kind of a unique thing to do,” Babcock said.
After re-wiring, replacing parts, and a fresh coat of paint, Babcock has put the antique fire engine in multiple events including Old Shawnee Days where it took first prize in the unique vehicle category. He says there are still a few improvements needed to made including replacing all of the hydraulic hoses. Other than that, the future looks bright for the old fire engine.