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Flossmoor fire truck renovation takes center stage on TV this week

  Flossmoor’s antique Engine No. 4 makes its first public
  appearance at the 2016 Fourth of July parade in
  Flossmoor soon after returning from restoration work.

  (Chronicle  file photo)


Flossmoor’s venerable Engine No. 4 makes its national broadcast debut this week when a cable television program, “FantomWorks,” tells the story of the 69-year-old fire truck’s extensive restoration.

The program, which is shown on the Velocity channel, will be shown at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

FantomWorks, an auto shop based in Norfolk, Va., specializes in restoring classic vehicles. Engine No. 4 underwent its restoration beginning in January – it was transported to Norfolk on a flatbed truck – and returned to Flossmoor in time for the village’s Fourth of July parade.

Fire Chief Chris Sewell said he came across FantomWorks while channel surfing at home. The next day he told board members of the Flossmoor Volunteer Fire Corporation,  which owns the truck, that he wanted to propose Engine No. 4 to FantomWorks as a restoration project.


Fire officials had been considering an extensive restoration project for the last couple of years, Sewell said.

“Mechanically the fire engine was at a point that we absolutely had to either get the work done, or park it somewhere for kids to climb on as we felt the vehicle was becoming unsafe to drive,” he said.

After finding FantomWorks, Sewell said he knew “this was a shop we could trust to do the work we were looking for.”

He submitted the request to FantomWorks in the summer of 2015 and, in the fall, heard back from Dan Short, the firm’s owner. They talked about the project and began emailing information back and forth.

It was clear that Short saw the restoration of the 1947 Mack fire truck as a real challenge, Sewell said. Short wanted to make sure he could locate parts before agreeing to take part in the project.

“I eventually persuaded him to take on the project … I know he really didn’t want to do it,” Sewell said.

After the truck arrived in Virginia, Sewell and other members of Flossmoor’s fire service went to Norfolk for the initial filming. In all, they did three film sessions – second at the midway point and the other when they got to see the restored Engine No. 4 for the first time.

Sewell called the FantomWorks shop “an amazing facility.”

“There isn’t anything the FantomWorks team can’t do,” he said. “The shop has metal fabrication, a wood shop, paint shop, even a foundry. If there’s something they can’t get, they can make it.”

Sewell said he has not seen the “FantomWorks” episode about Engine No. 4. He will receive a DVD of the show after it airs Wednesday.

“They are sticklers for making sure things don’t get out before then,” he said. “The same held true to the filming of our ‘reveal.’ None of us were allowed to see the fire engine until the initial reveal because they wanted to film the initial reaction of seeing the vehicle for the first time. “ 

Nearly all of the restoration was mechanical in nature, Sewell said. The Volunteer Corporation has a punch list for future restoration work – additional electrical rehabbing, re-chroming and more work to the interior and exterior – and will do its best to get that done in the next few years. The corporation is expected to raise additional funds so that the restoration can continue.

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