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Argentine Firefighter’s Drive 1925 Brockway Truck Seventeen-Thousand Miles to Trade It In

In January of 1959 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the De La Boca Volunteer Fire Department, located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, four of the Department’s Firemen (Bomberos) set out on an extraordinary journey with their 1925 Brockway fire truck to Cortland, New York. The reason for the amazing seventeen-thousand-mile trek to the Brockway Truck Company located in Upstate New York was to trade in “El Viego (The Old Man)” in on a new Brockway truck after the arduous fifteen-month long road trip.

The truck and the four crew members Albert Bonillo, Pedro Centrone, Felix Dimango and Leonardo Antico suffered through three broken axles, multiple burned out clutch and brake linings, and other breakdowns along the way on the grand adventure.

When finally entering the US at the Texas border on April 15, 1960, the story was picked up by the news media and the nation followed their drive until their arrival in Cortland on May 7, 1960. At that point it was reported that the truck was only capable of traveling at five mph.

After sprucing up “El Viego” at the Brockway Factory the crew members and the machine were treated to a hero’s welcome. City residents, Firemen, and the Brockway Motor Company organized an immense parade and celebration that included a large number other fire departments that traveled many miles to attend.

Brockway accepted “El Viego” in a straight across trade for a new 1960 truck and shipped it by boat to Buenos Aires, and the crew was treated to a flight back home. The vehicle remained with the Company until it closed in 1977. The Cortland Fire Department now owns the truck which is on display at the Central New York Living History Center in Courtland, New York in the Brockway Truck Museum.

Learn more in the June 13, 1960 issue of Life Magazine at Exploring Upstate New York and in a video by Explore Courtland.

The photographs are courtesy of the New York Heritage Digital Collections.

8 responses to “Argentine Firefighter’s Drive 1925 Brockway Truck Seventeen-Thousand Miles to Trade It In

  1. That old Cadillac in the back looks all used up. Speaking of used up, the truck’s tires are nice and smooth where tread ought to be. You have to wonder how many tires it took to make that trip .

    The obscured white car on the left looks like maybe a Falcon Ranchero? ’63?

  2. They were a volunteer fire department, so they probably didn’t have a tremendous amount of financial support. Just fuel and food for four men for a year adds up, not to mention the other expenses. They probably had to write the factory for replacement parts for some of the breakdowns. I’m having a hard time finding an appropriate map, but almost any route would have involved them crossing at least one border between two countries that were at war. Paved roads were probably a rarity. Weather would have been a big issue.

    No chase cars, no camera crew, no fixers scouting ahead. Just four guys in an open truck.

    Tierra del Fuego to Texas is one of the “extreme” motorcycle journeys in the 21st century; many of the riders just give up and fly home after a few weeks or months. And these guys still had a long way to go when they crossed into Texas…

    17,000 miles, 450 days. They averaged 37 miles per day. This, my friends, was a freakin’ *adventure*. Half again as far and more than twice the time it took for the New York to Paris race of 1908. The yacht people figure 21,600 miles to circumnavigate the entire world. Only takes them a few months, but they’re moving 24/7, and don’t have to worry about bandits, breakdowns, or bureaucrats.

    Dude, we got your “extreme” RIGHT HERE.

    • I have a feeling this was a well orchestrated, pre-arranged publicity stunt that benefitted both parties. Were they truly an impecunious podunk FD what if there were a fire while they were gone? I’m not sure what the pay was for four men for a year back then – not to mention the gas food and lodging – and how that related to the cost of a new truck, but just the salary and benefits for four firemen these days would easily top a quarter million. But then fire trucks aren’t cheap these days either.

      Left unsaid in this piece is how they got that truck across the Darien Gap.

  3. Stories like this are very enjoyable !!! When you consider 1959 and road (???) conditions between: The Pampas of Argentina , at THAT time, (parts of it Not any better in 2018, just different revolutions & different bandits now) . Specific Older Brockway Trucks were kept & maintained by the Dept. of Water & Power of Los Angeles, California, because they could Handle moving the larger Transformers at Distribution Stations and these trucks also handles the extremely large (water or power) components of the maintenance of the 200 inch , 200 mile long Aqueduct from the Hugh Sierra mountains . Whenever you saw the Older Brockway Trucks, they were always slowly hauling something larger (with red flags & lanterns all over it), — than the Right lane!!!

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