1956 Open Cab Chevrolet NAPCO Fire Truck

One of the first vehicles acquired by the museum is also one of it’s most unique. A 1956 Open Cab Chevrolet Napco 4×4 Fire Truck.

Prior to being able to purchase a four wheel drive vehicle from the factory, the only way to get a civilian model 4×4 was to buy or perform a conversion on a two wheel drive vehicle. One of the earliest 4×4 conversion companies was called Napco, who started offering bolt in four wheel drive systems known as a “Power-Pack” around 1949. The majority of Napco conversions were done on one ton Chevrolet and GMC trucks right at your local dealer. Some conversions were also performed on Studebaker and Ford pickup trucks, and a far smaller amount of conversions were done on 1 1/2 ton and 2 ton trucks of various models.

In the 1950’s Chevrolet produced a very limited number of “Open Cab” trucks that came from the factory without a roof or doors. Most of these trucks were purchased and used by Good Humor Ice Cream. However two are known to have been completed as fire trucks.

The MORA Napco is one of the two known firetrucks built on the Open Cab chassis, and the ONLY known 4×4 conversion to be performed on that platform, as the other known truck is two wheel drive. Of added interest, our Napco is a 1 1/2 ton model, making it a rarer sight yet.

After living a long life in Maryland, our Napco was retired, stripped of it’s firefighting equipment, and used for many years as a sand hauler. It was then given back to the fire department, and eventually sold to a private collector where it has been in storage for over 15 years until the museum took ownership. We are currently looking for period correct equipment to re-outfit the truck, and we are also looking for sponsors who would like to be involved in the restoration and preservation of this extremely unique vehicle.

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1980 Eagle Wagon

Currently on display is one of the world’s oldest unrestored factory condition Eagle 4×4 cars. A brainchild of the now defunct American Motors Corporation, the Eagle series was the first successful mass produced All-Wheel-Drive car based vehicle in North America. 

Using the Concord platform paired with designs by Ferguson Developments out of the UK, along with time tested parts from their Jeep division, the Eagle was an immediate success. So much so that Lee Iacocca of Chrysler took notice, ultimately resulting in AMC being absorbed by the larger company in 1987. In many ways, the success of the Eagle resulted in the final death of the fourth largest auto manufacturer of the time. 

Kaiser Jeepster Commando C-101

Designed to be a crossover vehicle in Jeep’s line, the Commando was redesigned each time Jeep’s corporate structure changed in the early years. The first generation was created by Willys and was 2wd only. The second generation, of which we currently have on display, was 4wd only and was designed by Kaiser Jeep. After American Motors takeover, the Commando was redesigned one final time. 

The C-101 we have on display is a local celebrity of sorts. Even though it is in rough shape, many residents of the Memphis Michigan area enjoy seeing it. Owned by the town doctor from the 1960’s until the early 2000’s, he allowed youngsters to learn how to drive with it on his farm. Because of it’s use as a training vehicle, first gear is completely worn out! 

1947 Willys CJ2A

Built for World War Two, the now world famous Jeep entered the civilian market as the war subsided. The first offering was the “Civilian Jeep” CJ series, which was based heavily on wartime designs, with some added amenities and options. On display we have a beautifully restored 1947 CJ-2A, which features almost every factory option available at the time, including an extremely rare capstan winch and rear mounted PTO driven air compressor. 

Restored by Bill Norris, publisher of The Dispatcher magazine, he also restored and paired the Jeep with a period correct Bantam accessory trailer that is also on display. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to see one of the world’s nicest flat fender Jeeps!