Restoration of
Kamloops City Ambulance Part 3
Story by Dick Parkes
Photos by Dave Dickinson

    I am very pleased to announce that, after almost nine years, we can write the final chapter on our Austin Sheerline ambulance restoration project.  Jack Woolard's second article left off at the end of 2011 and these last two years have been spent giving our project the final finishing touches, which always take longer than anticipated. 
    The early months of 2012 were spent fitting all of the doors, priming the body and sanding, sanding, sanding.  It is a fairly large vehicle, so scaffolds were erected each week along both sides so that several of our members could be working on it at the same time.
                             Don Potts and Andy Cordonier check a door.                                   Clark Borth, Ken Finnigan & Ray Henry check the roof molding
Here is Don Potts sanding on two different occasions (He sure was particular)
    Julain Slotylak, Ray Henry and Doug McCloy, our glass man, measured and ordered all new glass and installed it, trying to keep out of the way of the bodywork crew
    Ken Finnigan spent countless hours trying to sort out the wiring, using mostly the original harness, splicing in new wires as required.  Ken also reconditioned all of the dash instruments and fit them in when required.
Jerry Wallin's woodworking crew began installing all new flooring and cutting out new paneling for the rear compartment.  Unfortunately, most of this had to be done twice when a minor flood in the shop soaked the edges of the new panels leaning up against the wall and the wood was discoloured enough to be unusable.

Craig Beddie and the mechanical guys were continually busy completing the installation of engine components, vital fluids, braking system, etc.
Keith Galbraith decided to tackle most of the work on refurbishing the wooden dash panel, which required repairing the frame as well as applying new walnut veneer to the entire front face.  Many more hours were required to sand, stain and apply several coats of urethane varnish. 

Keith Galbraith & Jim Tulloch
As you may have surmised, having about ten to twelve members working on the one vehicle during each work session created a constant traffic jam, but we needed every one of these helpers and we got through it without any major mishaps.

    While all of this was going on, several of us decided that we should head back to New Zealand again to attend the 2012 Vero Rally in Wanganui, North Island.  As Jack mentioned in his second article, our first trip to "The land of the great white cloud" netted us all of the engine components we needed plus assorted manuals and trim items.  On our second trip, we once again tracked down a few Austin Sheerline owners there to try and find a few more missing items.  Damian Lee-Johnson in Aukland had a beautiful Sheerline sedan that he had recently sold and had a garage full of leftover parts that he let us go through and take what we wanted, all for no charge.  Mike Marshall, another Kiwi friend that we had met on our last trip, has a large shed full of Austin Sheerlines and Princesses and he gave us some missing instruments, switches, cables and another horn ring.  Once again, we came home with our suitcases bulging with heavy metal!  Air New Zealand was very patient and generous with us as no additional baggage fees were levied.

     As summer approached, there was a mad frenzy on to try and have the bodywork ready for paint over the summer when our shop sessions were shut down for June, July and August.  After some false starts and a few hiccups, a painter was eventually found and when we started up the shop sessions again in September, 2012, the exterior paint had been completed and the job of re-installing all of the components began. 

Although we were able to just clean up the grille and the windshield frame, about 30 pieces were sent off to the chrome shop and as we began re-fitting all of these nice shiny parts, the vehicle really began to sparkle.

     The roof of the ambulance is fabric over netting and wood slats, much like a Model A Ford, and, in fact, we used the same vinyl fabric.  We owe many thanks to Peter Udesen of Kamloops Upholstery, who provided all of the padding and upholstery materials and came over to the shop and installed the roofing for us, doing a fantastic job with assistance from some of our crew.  Peter also built us a headliner for the cab and installed it in just a few minutes one evening.  Watching the professionals at work is always an eye-opener!
Peter Udesen {Kamloops Upholstery}                            
     I'm sure there must be hundreds of stories that our ambulance could relate that happened while it was in service with the City of Kamloops Fire Department, with caretaker, Ian Newby, and during the time that it disappeared.  One item we are able to relate is the story about the bell.  When the ambulance came into service it had a large brass bell mounted over the left side of the bumper.  In conversation with the Fire Department's retired mechanic, Norm Stoodley, he told me that the drivers would ring the bell when going to a call, but nobody would pay much attention, so they eventually took it off and placed it on a shelf in Norm's office.  The doctor who attended a lot of the calls admired the bell on the shelf, and when he retired, it was presented to him.  Through some detective work, I learned that the doctor had moved to Vancouver and when I contacted his daughter, she said that he had passed away and she remembered the bell being passed back to the Kamloops Fire Department, but they had no record of it.  
When the plight of the missing bell was learned by the local chapter of  The Old English Car Club, they managed to find one in England via E-Bay and they generously bought it and donated it to the project.
     It was decided to enter the ambulance as a "work in progress" in the annual Hot Nite in the City car show.  It was a big hit and attracted a lot of attention as well as earning the "Best Vintage Truck" award.
     It was also the first time that it had been driven any distance on its own and some teething issues arose, mainly sticking brakes and overheating, which was probably caused by the very hot day and the stuck brakes!  Part of the problem may have been that the braking system was installed years ago, but it was decided to completely redo the entire system with new brake linings, all new rubbers, drums arced to fit the shoes, etc. 

    Hindsight is always very revealing, and if we knew back in 2005 that it would take nine years to complete the project, it would have been a pretty hard sell.  However, as we are down to the last finishing touches, we can all feel pretty good about what we have accomplished.  Our statistician, Dave Dickinson, has recorded that 56 different members have logged over 6,000 hours during 283 shop sessions, plus many more hours put in working on individual parts at home.  
    We have spent about $19,000 of our Chapter assets on the restoration and also received the generous assistance of many local businesses that have donated products and services.  We also owe a big vote of thanks to our good member, Andy Cordonier, for the use of a corner of his shop and his tools for the duration of the project.  The end result is that we have saved a very rare vehicle with significant local history and I think I can say that the participants probably all learned a few new skills and had a lot of fun in the process.
Dick Parkes
Restoration Project Chairman

I decided that now the Ambulance was finished there should be an re-enactment of the picture
of the city receiving it when it was new in 1952.

Getting Ready for the picture taking

Ambulance arriving for it's photo op

{l to r} Mayor Jack Fitzwater, Local Austin Dealer Stuart Wilson,
Fire Chief Charlie Miller and Alderman Wilf Jordan

Acting  Mayor Ken Christian, Dick Parkes {Restoration chairman}
Retired Fire Chief  Don Campbell and Club President Bob Gielselman

Me being interviewed by CFJC TV for the Midday news
Retired fireman that actually drove the ambulance
when it was in service for the city.
Some of the club members that worked on the restoration.

Picture taking finished now it is time to head home.

Thanks to all that played a part in the restoration