The Metropolitan Amusement Ride
By Gary Wilkinson
Owner Roger Ree of Unadilla, NY is
posed with his Metropolitan Tractor Trailer/Fire
Since this vehicle was never designed for public road use, the NYS registration
process was challenging. [Photo by Gary Wilkinson]
It is probably safe to say that not many people have seen a Metropolitan like the one owned by Roger Ree of Unadilla, NY. It is a very unique vehicle. It is one of only 425 ever built by the Overland Amusement Co. of Massachusetts.
How many exist today is unknown. Roger and his brother Russell also own another one.
There are two known to exist in New Jersey. There is one in California that was a promotional vehicle for the former Spaulding Bakery in Binghamton. The only known remaining Met amusement ride is believed to be located somewhere in the Lake George area.
In Overland Amusement company marketing literature, these
‘fire trucks’ were advertised as:
* A unique advertising medium to publicize an amusement park
or other commercial promotion.
* Having a capacity of 20 to 28 people – depending on their size.
* Instantaneous ‘walk-in’ loading.
* Complete safety for the smallest youngster and adequate room for adult riders.
* The availability (an option I assume) of a 12ft. double faced advertising sign
and a 12-volt sound system.
Overland initially used Crosley’s as their base vehicle and then switched to Metropolitans. The buyer of one of these specialty vehicles had to
shell out roughly $3,800 per unit. In the early years, this
exceeded the cost of a Cadillac.
If you have ever visited the Catskill Game Farm, you might recall these ‘fire engines’. In fact, Roger and Russell were able to purchase this unit from the Farm in 1991.
Just in case you were not aware, The Catskill Game Farm, (in business for 73 years and the first officially privately owned theme park to be recognized by the USDA as a zoo) will cease operations in October 2006.
Roger’s Met is an un-restored and preserved vehicle, although it had been painted
at least one time by the Game Farm. This is evident because the No. 1 image
on the hood can be seen beneath the repaint that bears the insignia for
engine No. 2. The Metropolitan still has all the Catskill Game Farm
markings on both the tractor and the trailer.
Roger has done a significant amount of mechanical work on his prized possession. He said, “When this was used by the Game Farm it was never driven more than a few miles per hour, and it very rarely got out of 1st gear.” Today, over the road, this 25 ft. over all length tractor trailer has a comfortable cruising speed of 45-50 MPH (with no passengers of course).
Since this vehicle was never designed for public road use, the NYS registration process was challenging. Of course, insurance is a requirement of the motor vehicle registration process. Getting insurance companies to understand the nature and intended use of this classic was very difficult for Roger.
The Ree car collection is large. It numbers about 20 vehicles. With a few exceptions, they are all MOPARs. The Metropolitan meets the MOPAR criteria due to corporate acquisitions over the past 50 years – Hudson and Nash in 1954 creating American Motors, and Chrysler acquiring AMC in 1987.
Many of Roger’s other cars (Plymouths Chryslers and Imperials) are works in process. His 1931 Chrysler is on the road and continues to be improved as it is driven. One improvement was a replacement rear fender that he just happened upon on the banks of the Unadilla River. His 1957 Plymouths (there are several) are future projects. The 1961 Plymouth (that was his father’s car) has had its engine rebuilt and now awaits body work.
A 1921 Model T owned with Roger’s brother is a one-of-a-kind creation from another era. It has a fascinating history and will be the subject of a future story.
Roger is not into the hobby for the trophies and awards. However, The Metropolitan did receive an award that he is especially proud of –
The Kids Choice Award at a local car show.
The Metropolitan Amusement Ride is an excellent example of American folk art. Putting a value on it is very difficult. For Roger, its value is not significant
because it will never be for sale. As a collector of, as Roger says, “the odd,
the strange, the different and the out-of-step with the ordinary”
he has no plans to ever sell his piece of Americana.
About the author: Gary Wilkinson writes about old cars and trucks.
He also collects and rebuilds them. Contact him via e-mail at
email@example.com or phone at 315-447-8396.
This article first
appeared in the Rome-Oneida PennySaver published on October 12,
[221 Oriskany Plaza, Utica, NY 13501]