Getting a Vintage Alberta Forestry Truck On the Road Again
For this firefighting family man with a love of cars, restoring the ’68 Fargo forestry truck was a must.
My dad has three great passions in life: family, cars and fighting forest fires. It’s not unusual for those passions to overlap, such as when he would help out one of his three kids with an oil change or a small repair on their personal vehicle, or when he watched my brother and I follow in his footsteps and work seasonally in the wildfire branch. Nevertheless, the restoration project of his 1968 Fargo Power Wagon was the first thing to meaningfully combine all three of those passions, making it so much more than a simple fixer-up story.
The story begins as many do, with the Internet. My dad had just finished up an 18-day shift on the 2017 Kenow Wildfire in Waterton, Alberta, and was partaking in his hobby of looking up old cars and trucks for sale online before heading back home. Inspired by what he had been doing for the last two and a half weeks, he decided to search “Alberta Forestry Truck,” not expecting to see anything memorable. But, as luck would have it, in the nearby town of Vulcan, someone was selling just that! As soon as he could, he went to visit the 1968 Fargo which, according to its owner’s manual and unit numbers, had been purchased by the Alberta Forest Service in July 1968 and used as a ranger vehicle in northern Alberta up until 1984.
Now, my dad had seen a lot of old forestry trucks in his career and was not even in the market for a restoration project, but as soon as he saw that truck, he felt that it was special. Maybe it was the fact that this truck was an exceptionally rare find, as less than 300 were made in Canada in 1968, or perhaps because my grandfather had owned a very similar truck, which my dad had learned to drive on. Whatever it was, he knew that he should be the one to continue the Fargo’s legacy.
Fixing up the truck turned out to be a laborious and rewarding task. Though the truck came in complete shape, it had been neglected for some time, making for lots of little “gremlins” to deal with, as my dad would call them. Plus, the truck was 50 years old, so the technology was completely different from the vehicles that my dad was used to working on. Despite all this, he was determined to get the truck back into appreciable order. He took a welding course to learn how to repair and rebuild the rusted-out sheet metal and searched out an entire community of vintage truck enthusiasts to learn how to renew every part of the truck.
The day he got the truck running again was a momentous one for all of us, as we had all believed in his progress since the beginning. The greatest challenge came in spring 2019, when my brother asked my dad if he could be driven in the Fargo to his high school graduation. While the truck was drivable at this point, it was not road-ready, especially for downtown Calgary. Still, my dad knew that it was possible, and along with the whole family’s help made it so that my brother had the most suave ride to his graduation. Today, I watch as my dad drives the Fargo to work, continuing to keep the public service legacy of the truck alive and introducing a new generation to the rich history that it holds.
Next, find out how the restoration of this 1930 Cadillac sedan became a family affair.