Producers find that restoring antique mixers helps recall what concrete delivery was like in the old days.
Whether it's a hobby or a public relations effort, many producers are restoring faded pieces of history to crowd-pleasing jewels. Often it's a key mechanic or driver who accepts the difficult task. When restoration is completed, each producer finds that the time and expense has resulted in something more than a piece of pretty iron. Capturing a piece of history documents just how far concrete production has come in the past 50 years.
Bill Farris, a retired Missouri concrete truck driver owns the antique 1927 Hug mixer truck that everyone wants to touch. An avid automobile restorer for more than 30 years, Farris has gathered more than his fair share of rusting doors, fenders, and special small items. The retired mixer driver from Breckenridge Material Co., a multiplant St. Louis-area company, has a number of other antique units in varying states of restoration, but the mixer holds a special place in his heart.
Since 1973, the Hug Roadbuilder has been a work in progress. Farris' restoration project, which would take 5 years, became a family effort. Farris extended the """family""" restoration effort to his employer of more than 20 years, approaching the McKean family, owners of Breckenridge Material. In exchange for the promise to paint the truck with the company's black-and-gold color scheme, Breckenridge shared the necessary maintenance supplies, nuts, bolts, welding rods, and grease.
Gil McKean, Breckenridge's current owner, knows just how popular the vehicle is. Even though the company had little to do with the restoration efforts, the producer receives many phone calls requesting information about the unit. """We feel very fortunate to share in Bill Farris' efforts,""" says McKean. """It's been a definite plus for our community relations."""
Another restorer, Jan Hodneland, equipment manager for Central Pre-Mix Concrete Inc., Spokane, Wash., accepted the challenge to find and restore a mixer matching one depicted in a photo of the company's first truck, a vintage 1936 chassis and mixer. Hodneland located a chassis at a nearby fuel supplier. Several months later, a producer in Yakima, Wash., told Hodneland of a wrecked mixer discovered in a ravine. Central Pre-Mix Concrete plant mechanics restored and combined both the mixer and chassis. The result was an award-winning vehicle that continues to draw praise from observers today.
With that successful restoration completed, Central Pre-Mix Concrete President Dan Murphy offered Hodneland another challenge: find and restore a 1954 International. Finally, a friend spotted a chassis in a log mill's scrap area near the Washington-Canada border. The truck was a mechanical mess, since it had been used as a logjammer for at least 25 years. Hodneland found a 6-cubic-yard mixer at a small producer's scrap yard near the Grand Coulee Dam. Even though it didn't have a pony motor, Hodneland found enough parts off other junkers that could be combined to rebuild one unit.
Both trucks display the now-retired Hodneland's contribution to Central Pre-Mix Concrete's success.
All but one of the pre-1950 mixer drum manufacturers have been out of business for many years, so finding replacement parts that are true to the design can be difficult.
If you are considering restoring an antique drum, Shumaker Industries, a manufacturer of replacement drums, and De La Rosa Industries, a California mixer drum rebuilder, both offer one important tip: Send in the old drum with all the pieces attached to it.
The article includes the story of Forty Broom, a designer and sell of portable concrete equipment since the 1940s. Broom reminisces about the changes in equipment through the years.