Purchase photos

Wichita car lovers tour Hays





As a kid, Ron Eyres wasn't allowed near the fire truck in his hometown after he was caught playing with the siren one day.

So, 50 years later Eyres took care of that -- he bought the truck, and restored it to its original beauty.

Eyres, who lives in Kechi, near Wichita, is a member of the Wichita Horseless Carriage Club. Its annual Air Capital tour came to Hays this weekend.

"I was actually playing on this truck when I was 8 years old," said Eyres, now 75.

Eyres' bright red 1936 fire truck has a Chevrolet chassis and a LaVerne fire apparatus body.

"This was Lawton, Iowa's first motorized fire vehicle," Eyres said.

Eyres' fire truck was parked Friday in downtown Hays; the car club had its vehicles gathered at 10th and Main for the public to view.

After being banned from getting near the fire truck all those many years ago, Eyres found out it was up for bid by the fire department.

"I waited 50 years and bought the truck," he said with a laugh.

Now, Eyres can play the siren whenever he wants, as he did Friday.

Eyres drives the fire truck in parades; he said his personal record is four parades in one day. He also transports Santa Claus from the post office to city hall every year, and one time he drove a high school couple to the prom.

"I have to say I was born liking old vehicles," Eyres said. "As a kid, there were Model Ts on the road; they were fascinating."

Merle Geyer came over from WaKeeney to take a gander at the old-time classics. What he likes is the cars were distinctive back in the day.

"You can tell one from another," he said. "These new cars, you don't know what they are."

One of the rarer cars on display was a 1910 E-M-F -- they later became Studebakers -- owned by Tom Ruggles of Wichita.

"This particular car I bought already restored, but I have another one like it I'm attempting to restore," Ruggles said.

Ruggles has seven antique cars in all.

"I think it's a disease you catch and can't ever get rid of," he said. "I love these old cars ever since I was a little boy. Just never got over it."

Some of the other vehicles on display included a 1909 Marmon touring car; 1930 Model A pickup; 1929 Ford Model A; 1927 Chevy Landau; 1916 Ford Model T; 1928 Chevy 1 ton truck; 1959 Jaguar; 1981 Mercedes; 1912 Maxwell.

The Maxwell caught the eye of Jerry Dietz of Hays.

"There's a Maxwell up here," he said. "I tell you what, they're rare."

Dietz's wife, Betty, was impressed by the cars she saw.

"I think they're marvelous," she said.

The Horseless Carriage Club continued their western Kansas excursion with a trip to Phillipsburg and back to Hays on Saturday, and the group will tour several Ellis County landmarks today.