Ever since he was 5 and served as a mock victim in rescue drills, Koren Ernst has been passionate about the fire service.
That interest continued into Scouting when Ernst, now 20, joined Troop 1188 and Fire Explorer Post 1.
It was during training exercises with Post 1 that Ernst first noticed the General — a faded, rusting truck parked behind Fire Station No. 1 in Rowlett, Texas.
In its glory days, this 1956 Chevrolet was a sight to see. The gleaming red vehicle was the first truck ever purchased by the Rowlett Fire Department. After its retirement from active service, the General began a second life as a showpiece for the department. It puttered along in parades and ceremonies for years.
About 14 years ago, the General received an honorable discharge. It sat behind the station in hopes it would some day be restored.
That’s when an Eagle Scout candidate named Koren came along.
For his Eagle Scout service project, Ernst completed a full external restoration of the historic truck. He knew the task would be monumental, and he knew he’d have to lead a group of fellow Scouts and adults each step of the way. But he knew that if he could pull it off, the result would be something huge for his community.
Considering the scope
At first, Ernst wanted to complete a full restoration, inside and out. That would mean both restoring the truck’s external beauty and getting it running again.
Once he grasped the magnitude of that undertaking, Ernst decided to focus on the body restoration alone.
He hoped completing that arduous task would inspire someone else to complete the mechanical work. As you’ll see later, that’s exactly what happened.
Ernst didn’t complete this project alone. The entire community chipped in.
He raised $2,800 through a GoFundMe site and individual contributions. (Read about crowdfunding for Eagle projects here.) A Valspar retailer donated paint supplies, a nearby Herb’s Paint & Body shop offered technical expertise and spray equipment, and a Rowlett firefighter provided lettering for the side of the truck.
Some 20 volunteers spent more than 900 hours working on the project over a span of 13 months.
Completing the work
The first step was to clean out the junk that had accumulated in the truck’s cab and bed.
Next, Ernst purchased a portable garage so he could work on the General without worrying about rain or extreme sun slowing him down.
Then came the tedious step of sanding the truck down to bare metal. By the time they were done sanding, Ernst and his helpers had gone through six electric sanders and thousands of sheets of sandpaper and blocks.
After applying the primer, a local towing company (Cathey Towing and Recovery) transported the truck — for free — to Herb’s.
Volunteers taped and prepped the truck for its final coat of bright red paint. The actual painting was done by a team of professionals at Herb’s.
Back at the portable garage, Ernst and his helpers reassembled the truck and carefully applied the graphics. They added a bed liner and gave the entire truck a final polish.
The finished truck, as you can see in the photo below, looks beautiful. It took a ton of work, but Ernst and his team did an awesome job.
- Ernst’s wish that others would be encouraged by the external restoration paid off. A pair of Rowlett firefighters, Brett Grant and Tony Boroughs, are working to get the truck running again. They plan to have it ready to appear at this year’s Christmas parade, driven under its own power.
- Rowlett is scheduled to start construction on a new fire station within the next two years. Part of the plans include an enclosed display area for the fully restored General.