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Driven Collectors

Tom Jackson • Apr 4, 2014 at 6:00 PM

Berlin Heights residents Tom and Georgie Ward own seven rare old trucks, built from 1918 to 1932 by various Ohio companies you’ve probably never heard of. Here are a few of the reasons they love them:

•They have unique design features.    

Pointing to the dashboard of his green 1924 Garford truck, made by a company from Elyria and Lima, Tom Ward said, “That’s the gas tank right there. You get into a head-on collision, you’re dying”

Tom Ward, 73, likes the large “bug eyes” on the trucks, too.

•Some of them are very rare.

The 1932 Differential truck, made by the Differential Steel Car Co. in Findlay, may be the only Differential truck still running. It was essentially rescued on the way to the scrapyard.

“We’ve never talked to anyone who has ever seen one,” said Tom, who has been going to vintage truck shows for 12 years. When he found the Differential, he brought along a friend. The two realized they made a rare discovery.

The friend told Tom, “If you don’t buy this, I’m going to buy it” Tom bought it.

Want to see?

•WHAT: 1924 Clydesdale truck, made in Clyde.

•WHERE: 18 E. Main St., Berlin Heights Historical Society, Berlin Heights.

•WHEN: From the late afternoon to about 8:30 p.m., April 15.

•James Semon, co-author of “The Clydesdale Motor Truck Co.: An Illustrated History, 1917-1939,” will be on hand to answer questions. 

Refreshments will be served, said Amy Hunter, curator of the Berlin Heights Historical Society.   

•Collecting trucks runs in the family. Dominic Vartorella, Georgie’s father, bought the first truck, a 1918 Garford. Vartorella knew everything about diesel engines and trucks, but by then he was 80 years old and could no longer actively work on vehicles. He promised to give it to Tom, if Tom would work on it.

“He got to see it run,” Tom said. “I got it running”

The 1918 Garford was painted a bright yellow, which Vartorella selected. It’s a big hit when it’s on display every year at Greenfield Village in Michigan.

Vartorella actually once worked for Clydesdale, a truck manufacturer in Clyde that made a 1924 Clydesdale truck the Wards own. It will be displayed in Berlin Heights April 15.

•Collecting them is convenient, in the sense they all came from the continental United States, rather than Siberia or Timbuktu.

The Wards, who met at a 1958 high school dance, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in August.

Nowadays, they focus their vacation trips on truck expeditions.

One of the five Garford trucks the couple owns was purchased after they got a lead attending a truck show in Yakima, Wash., although the truck actually was in North Carolina. Tom recognized the truck — he saw it when he and Georgie travelled to Iowa to visit a truck museum.

Acting on a promising tip about another Garford truck, the couple decided to take a vacation trip in north Texas. When they returned, Tom asked a friend in Berlin Heights if the two could go in the friend’s truck to haul the Garford truck home. The friend agreed, then asked where the truck was located. Tom told him it was in Texas. “I said, we need to leave tomorrow morning,” Tom said. “It was five in the afternoon”  

•Buying parts can provide the thrill of a really difficult rummage hunt. “Swap meets are your best chance” Tom said. “A lot of them will concentrate on trucks”

•The trucks all run. “All of these trucks, I have title for. They are all registered to run on the highway,” Tom said. The Wards say they don’t know if they’ll add to their fleet of seven trucks. They also have a 1930s Ford Model A, a birthday present Tom gave to his wife. “We planned to stop at about three,” Tom said. “You just never know” Georgie said.

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