History on four tires
Capt. Kevin Mutti of the Lynnfield Fire Department has worked on a multitude of different vehicles in his lifetime.
Before becoming a firefighter, he had worked on dirt bikes, muscle cars, motorcycles, you name it. However, when he became the mechanic for Lynnfield Fire, becoming the caretaker of a 1914 Ford Model T fire truck was certainly a new experience.
Before joining the force in 2004, he had pursued a career in carpentry. He and his brother opened and ran a business, K and M Automotives, together and worked on a number of vehicles there for a few years.
“I’ve always been playing with mechanical vehicles,” Mutti said.
That passion and experience fixing and tinkering with vehicles helped Mutti begin his career as a fire mechanic. Though he seemed to be committed to a career in carpentry, Mutti was intrigued by firefighting, and when Peter McGonell of Lynnfield Fire invited him down to the station for coffee, he realized he could have it both ways.
“We we’re just hanging around and I really enjoyed being in this atmosphere and he encouraged me to apply,” Mutti said.
McGonell, who was the department’s mechanic at the time, not only invited him to apply, but helped Mutti learn how to drive and work on the truck along with former firefighter Kenny Burnham. When McGonell retired, he became the next mechanic for Lynnfield Fire, and subsequently took over the reins of the century-old truck.
“They were the ones that taught me how to drive it,” he said. “When Peter retired, I got hired full time as the fire department mechanic, and that’s kind of how I ended up with it.”
The truck is stored at the department’s South station on Salem Street. Its small body is tucked away in the corner of the garage behind a much larger modern day fire truck that would be unrecognizable to those that drove the now antiquated engine.
The truck’s red body paint is lighter than that of the modern truck, but the gold finish on the very front and on the bell, which is front and center just beyond the seating, gives it a classic touch.
The engine roars when Mutti gets it running after a few attempts as it sits in idol on four thin, wooden-spoked wheels.
Any truck that is nearly 110 years old is likely to have somewhat of a unique story. When the town of Lynnfield was two separate communities, an owner of a nearby business that is no longer legal today, decided to make a donation of two Model T trucks to each of the towns’ fire departments.
Knowing where they came from, one department refused the offer while the other accepted, and the truck has remained with Lynnfield Fire ever since.
Mutti said the truck may have “disappeared” a few times in the mid 1900’s, but has always made its way back. Now, he cleans and maintains the ModelT, and teaches others how to drive it.
Surprisingly, the most difficult of the three, Mutti said, is teaching people how it operates.
“It is so different from anything you drive today,” said Mutti. “Your gas pedal is actually on the steering column, your brake is where your gas pedal would be, your reverse is a pedal where your brake would be. It can be confusing when you haven’t driven it for a while.”
With no computers, no chips, and no extra parts that take weeks to be shipped from overseas, Mutti said maintaining the truck is actually relatively easy.
Mutti gets the parts that are needed from two main locations,including a magazine specifically for Model T parts. His other source is a mechanic in Maine who has a barn full of parts for the truck.
“It’s so simple compared to today’s vehicles. You have to make sure it has fuel, make sure it has oil, and just make sure the tires have air. It’s pretty simple to maintain because it’s so basic,” Mutti added.
Now with two decades of driving and fixing the historic truck, Mutti is preserving it not only for the next mechanic who takes over, but as an iconic piece of the town for parades, or even when he takes it a mile down the road for a spin.
As a carpenter-turned-fire-mechanic who took over the reins of an original Model T fire truck, Mutti says he has had a great time since he became its caretaker and loves the historic impact it has on the town.
“I’ve enjoyed it, I enjoy bringing it out and having people see it. You get a lot of beeps and waves when you’re driving it. I think people enjoy seeing something that old on the road, and that’s what I enjoy about driving it.”