The street-parked old cars I photograph in my Denver neighborhood live at one mile elevation, give or take a few feet. Drive about 100 miles southwest from here, however, and you’ll end up in Leadville, which stands at two miles above sea level. Last weekend, I ventured out to Leadville and found this painfully original 1947 Dodge brush fire truck parked downtown.
Technically speaking, Leadville is 408 feet shy of two miles high, but even just 10,152 feet of altitude means that oxygen for internal combustion is in short supply. Fortunately, this old Dodge has Chrysler flathead six power and super-short differential gearing, which means it can still climb a steep goat trail in a blizzard, oxygen or not.
The owner, whose facial hair is remarkably similar to my own (we might have to sign him up for 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court duty), found this truck in a barn on a cattle ranch, where it had been sitting since the middle 1980s. All its equipment was more or less as it had been during its 35 years of fire duty at the ranch, and it came with a parts truck.
The siren still works.
The tube-operated VHF radio, which was used to communicate with fire-fighting aircraft back in the day, is still installed and functional.
You want original? Here’s a 1949 Colorado tax sticker.
There’s even a vintage bullet hole in the windshield post. The slug is still embedded in the weather stripping.
The truck was sold in Leadville and hasn’t been anywhere near sea level since. The owner uses it it for daily-driving use around town, but avoids highways due to the gearing-limited 45 MPH top speed.
In my opinion, this is the best-looking grille of all the quasi-postwar Detroit trucks.
We’ll check out the neighbor’s nicely preserved Corvette in a future DOTS installment.
Most of these photos were shot with my stereo camera rig; if you have any sort of 3D glasses, head over to Cars In Depth and check out this Dodge rampaging in three dimensions.