Retired Fire Chief Scott Ashworth wasn’t always into collecting and restoring antique pieces of firefighting history.
Ashworth’s love of all things automotive came from his racing days at the Golden Spur Speedway in Lakeville, and he even has a garage filled with colorful NASCAR race jumpers (both old and new), as well as the Oldsmobile with which former NASCAR driver Lake Speed won at his only career race in at the 1988 TransSouth 500 at Darlington Speedway.
But about five years ago, Ashworth began to collect and conduct period-correct restorations to antique fire trucks and emergency service vehicles, and he’s showing no signs of stopping after purchasing a 54-foot long 1989 Maxim Ladder truck that was once used by the New Bedford Fire Department. Maxim trucks were built in Middleboro up until 1989, and Ashworth said that it was one of the last ladder trucks they produced.
“I’ve tried to restore the history of fire trucks, and I think I’ve done very well,” said Ashworth at a recent Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. He attended the meeting in order to obtain permission for a special permit for an addition on the garage he uses to house his collection, which also includes a 1938 Ahrens-Fox that was used by the city of Taunton, a 1955 Maxim that was used by the town of Middleboro, a 1951 LaFrance that is a reproduction of a Boston Fire Department truck and a 1956 Cadillac Meteor ambulance.
Ashworth, who served on the Rochester Fire Department for 37 years, has seen a number of fire trucks come and go through the town, and said that most of the trucks that they used over the years had not survived.
“Growing up – in my timeframe – all of these vehicles were used,” he said. “[Rochester] had a ’63, but it rotted out. We had a ‘65, and another [truck] ended on its roof. It got broadsided on Route 6. It skidded down the road on its roof.”
He said that he has no plans of starting a private museum, but enjoys taking the trucks out to Plumb Corner and other classic car runs for other people to enjoy as well.
Ashworth said that the Ahrens-Fox truck is among the most rare fire trucks in existence, having found only three or four of them himself. He believes that the Cadillac ambulance, which often doubled as a hearse in those days, was one of the last ambulances built by the company before they stopped production on the model. He said that he does most of the restorations himself, and occasionally hires someone else.
“It takes time to have it sent out and redone,” Ashworth said. “It’s always expensive. You do it because you enjoy it. It’s time consuming, but it’s what I enjoy. I try to do everything that I can. It gives me pride.”
Ashworth also spoke about the local connection to the Maxim plant in Middleboro and how it still means a lot to some locals.
“If you didn’t have someone in your family who worked for Maxim, you knew someone who did,” he said.
He added that he is in contact with many active and retired firefighters who have the same affinity for fire and emergency vehicles as he does, and he even has some “chomping at the bit to get in the seat” of the rear-steering compartment in the back of his new ’89 ladder truck.
“I was fortunate enough to have a job that I enjoyed. After I retired, I figured ‘what better way to enjoy myself then to have my own trucks with the thought of preserving history?’” Ashworth said.
By Nick Walecka