The Jeep Forward Control 4x4 cab-over-engine truck built by Kaiser-Willys from 1957-65, was a natural platform for conversion to a small fire engine, and a number of companies took advantage of the opportunity.
For some time, this was the only FC Jeep I had run across built by the American LaFrance Company of Elmira, New York. The FC could have been a natural mini-pumper platform for ALF, since the company had a lot to do with popularizing cab-forward fire engines, but this seems to have possibly been a one-off.
Hillandale VFD in Silver Spring MD purchased the unit in 1962 through Fenner Motors in Washington DC. It's not clear whether American LaFrance was contracted by the fire company or the dealer to build the fairly unusual low-profile brush truck. It had a 100-gallon tank, 250 GPM pump, twin booster reels with fog nozzles, and front-mounted winch.
Thanks to Jim Fairweather for these photos.
If an ALF Jeep brush truck was unusual, this 1960 FC-170 crash rescue truck built for Eldorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia really demonstrates how the company was willing to build units beyond the big pumpers and ladder trucks they're so well known for.
Another apparatus manufacturer located outside the midwestern states where most Jeep apparatus was built, was Oren Roanoke Corp. of Roanoke, Virginia, and this 1959 FC-170 is the only example I have seen of an Oren FC. Sandy Spring, Maryland used it primarily for brush fires, although it had more of a standard mini-pumper configuration, with a 250 gallon tank and 200 GPM Hale pump. See a factory photo of the right side (60K JPEG) from Stacey Stone.
The truck was sold to Winfield Community VFD in Carroll County MD, where it was repainted. Oren historian Thomas Herman has it listed as Oren serial no. 1660, originally delivered 14 October 1959, and says it is the only Oren FC he is aware of. Its fate is currently unknown.
Howe Fire Apparatus in Indiana was probably the largest manufacturer of fire service Jeep conversions. Among the many Jeep models they converted was the heavy duty FC-170DRW, introduced in 1959. With dual rear wheels and Dana-Spicer 70 rear axle, it had a gross vehicle weight of up to 9000 pounds. This factory photo from the collection of Steve Hagy shows a 1960 FC-170DRW delivered to Bayou La Batre, Alabama.
For more photos of the large variety of single and dual-wheel trucks built by the company, see Howe Jeep FC Fire Engines.
One of the rarer FC fire engines is this unit built by Boyer in Logansport, Indiana, on a short FC-150DRW chassis. It's perhaps surprising that the FC-150 wasn't used more often as an alternative to the Universal Jeep conversions, since it had the same short wheelbase but more room in the rear bed.
See Boyer Jeep FC Fire Engines for more photos and details of this unit and their larger FC-170 trucks.
Very stylish body and front bumper on this FC-170, manufactured by the Diamond T Motor Company in Chicago, who built fire apparatus based on their own trucks and apparently on the Jeep FC as well. It was sold to the Tri-State Fire Department in Hinsdale, Illinois, and was well-equipped, with front winch, bumper nozzles, turret gun, portable lighting and two-way radio.
Thanks to Craig Brockhaus at The FC Connection for the photo.
Hahn Fire Apparatus, also known as Hahn Motors, manufactured apparatus in Hamburg, Pennsylvania from 1916 until 1989. This FC-170 was custom built in 1964 for the nearby Reiffton Fire Co. (who had previously owned a CJ-2A, and as of 2023 still have a CJ-5 and CJ-8 in service, under their new name Exeter Township VFD.)
Designed with Fire Chief Jack H. Gechter, the FC's low-profile body and pair of inboard booster reels were very distinctive. It carried 230 gallons of water plus hard suction hose, 600 feet of 1-1/2" hose, four backpack pumps and a 16-foot aluminum ladder.
In service, the Reiffton FC carried an auxiliary pump at least some of the time, possibly set up for drafting with the hard suction hose and supplying a higher volume of water than a high pressure pump would be capable of.
Hahn used its own chassis for many of its fire engines, but they had previously had experience with a FC-170 cab and chassis in 1963 for the J.T. Baker Chemical Company in Phillipsburg NJ. Equipped with a 500 GPM pump, 200-gallon tank and 60-pound Purple-K system, this custom truck is now owned by a collector in Texas. Thanks to Jack Calderone for the photo.
See more on this Hahn Motors FC-170 Fire Engine.
Trenton National Trailer (TNT) was a small company in Trenton NJ which built fire apparatus and ambulances on various truck platforms from the 1950s through at least the 1970's. Victor Booth in Marathon NY sent this nice photo and said, "I have an FC170-DRW fire truck that I got in 1992. It is 1964 s/n 61568-13 10974 with a T98 4-speed transmission.
"The fire body was built by Trenton National Trailer. It has a generator for lights, a 250-gallon booster tank, and crew seats in the rear. The fire company I got it from thought it had been at the NY Worlds Fair, but some things don't add up, like the different builder. It does have a little blue on one of the reel motors. The truck weighs 8500 lbs. in the picture and would be around 12000 lbs. with water, equipment and crew. Good downhill truck if you don't have to stop."
A photo of the pump control panel also shows the Trenton builder's plate. Thanks to Bob Ellis for the photo.
Trenton National truck bodies were also sold under the brand name "Kutz," and they built "Huntco" apparatus for the James B. Hunt Mfg. Co. This large, dual-booster-reel Kutz FC-170 pumper from 1959 appears to have been designed for an urban department. See the hose bed, cab interior, rear lamps and builder's plate (100K JPEGs).
Located in Jersey City, NJ, this company's claim to fame was building the three 1964 New York World's Fair fire engines. But those were clearly not the only Forward Control trucks they converted; this Dual Rear Wheels FC-170 carries less equipment but has some features very similar to the World's Fair units. It passed through several owners before being bought by the Bruno, Minnesota FD. See also a front view (60K JPEG), rear view (70K JPEG), the enclosed booster reel (80K JPEG) and the pump panel (180K JPEG). Thanks to Shad and Wenda for the photos.
Valley Fire Truck of Bay City, Michigan apparently built only a small number of FC conversions, with 500 GPM pumps and 200-gallon tanks. This factory photo is from Andrew Harvey's collection. See also the rear view (70K JPEG).
This 1965 Valley FC-170, reportedly the last FC built by the company, was originally sold to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for access through narrow streets.
See more photos and details of this truck in Valley Fire Truck FC Jeep on CJ3B.info.
Aside from their connection with Valley Fire Trucks, the Darley Company in Chicago also built similar FC pumpers under their own name. The 1959 FC-170 in this builder's photo from Steve Hagy's collection has a 60 GPM high-pressure pump, and 200 gallon tank. This rig was delivered to Inland Steel Company of East Chicago, Indiana.
Another midwest apparatus manufacturer who delivered Forward Control Jeeps was John Bean of Lansing, Michigan. Their trucks can often be identified by distinctive covered booster reels (30K JPEG). This 1963 FC-170 Bean Piston Pumper was originally built for McGuire Air Force Base, then later sold to the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey F.D.
See more John Bean Co. Fire Jeeps.
Need a little more capacity? This Ed Effron photo of another unusual and possibly unique rescue squad, was found by Steve Hagy. Clearcreek Township at Springboro, Ohio (just south of Dayton) purchased this DRW truck built by Reading Truck Body in Pennsylvania, around 1960. In addition to the large equipment storage area, the rig had a small-capacity front-mount booster pump.
The Welcome Volunteer Fire Co. of the Borough of Oaklyn NJ purchased a new Willys FC-170 in 1958. Asst. Chief Joe Dooley Sr. designed a rescue body, and Reading built it to his specifications. It had a removable rack for the company's rescue boat, and to clear the way there was an early Whelen Rota-Beam beacon (180K JPEG) with a pair of little Federal sirens flanking it.
See also a photo of the rescue truck with the company's 1952 and 1963 Ford/Great Eastern pumpers (280K JPEG) and on parade duty (270K JPEG).
Welcome VFC merged with the Oaklyn Fire Co. in 1976 to become the Oaklyn Fire Department, which has an excellent Department History online.
Deal Fire Company #2 in Deal, New Jersey has to deal with large oceanfront homes at the end of long, narrow driveways. They set up this 1961 FC-170 with 500 feet of 3" hose which could be laid down a driveway from a large pumper at the road, to feed two attack lines or a deck gun with three 3" inputs. The truck also carries lighting and a generator, and is still in service as of 2018. Thanks to Mike Nowacki Jr. at Jersey Shore Fire Photography.
Jon Denney took this photo of a 1960 Jeep FC-170 at a 2018 car show on Saltspring Island in British Columbia, Canada. The builder is unknown; the ladder rack is similar to some FCs built by Howe Fire Apparatus, but there's no Howe badge on this truck.
Also a mystery is this 1958 FC-150 brush truck belonging to Berwyn Fire Company in Chester County PA. It has a midship pump installed, but with a minimum of custom bodywork. Thanks to Jim Fairweather.
Photos from the archives of the National Museum of Forest Service History show an FC-170 with an even more bare bones approach. Looks like a Jeep right off a dealer's lot, with a pump and tank added on a skid unit.
The only other special equipment is a big PTO winch on the front. Thanks to Nick Dowling for finding the photos. Anybody know where they were taken?
Paul Barry at Willys America has this 1959 FC-170, serial no. 61568-16924, from the Pembina Volunteer Fire Dept. in North Dakota. It has a Hale pump driven by the central PTO. Paul says, "I think it rolled off the line as a pick-up and had the bed removed and the hose bed and PTO pump installed by a small independent fire apparatus builder. The interior of the cab is painted green as well as the upholstery is green. You can see the green bleeding through the red on the front below the windshield."
Many fire trucks were built on the dual-rear-wheels version of the FC. Joe Esdale brought this 1964 FC-170DRW from Pennsylvania to the 2003 Spring Midwest Willys Reunion with rear frame exposed, providing a good look at the drivetrain including T98 transmission. See also the rear chassis and the heavy duty front wheel (100K JPEGs.) Photos by Wes Knettle.
East Meadow Fire Department on Long Island NY had a small aerial ladder truck built on an FC-170 DRW chassis.
Anybody recognize the trucks in this unidentified archival photo? A pair of FC-170DRW Forward Controls pull tank trailers, apparently at a refinery.
Jim Canavan restored this unusual 1958 FC-150. It was apparently converted as a foam truck which would be used in conjunction with a tanker or other source of water. The funnels (see a rear view, 80K JPEG) are filled with a high expansion foam, which is mixed with water coming in the 2-1/2" lines from a pumper/tanker. Jim fabricated the gleaming new diamond-plate bed in his shop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Here's an FC-150 with a dry chemical tank from Ansul Chemical of Marinette, Wisconsin. They also installed a 1000-lb. unit on an FC-170 chassis. See Ansul Chemical Crash Trucks.
This is something unique and very cool. It's not exactly a Forward Control truck, but this FJ-3A Fleetvan is a cab-over-engine Jeep, and the only example I know of where one of these little two-wheel-drive vans was put into service by a fire department. Great idea for a compact, maneuverable unit with lots of interior storage.
Gilpin Township VFD in Pennsylvania purchased the FJ new in 1961. It was used a a rescue truck, squad truck and cascade air truck, and was in service until 2003, when it was sold to a private owner. Current location is unknown.
Note: Charles Underwood has told me that another Pennsylvania department used a later FJ-6A Fleetvan as an equipment truck circa 1990, apparently after it was retired by the US Postal Service. A rare photo (220K JPEG) shows the FJ-6A in the green and white of the Heidlersburg Fire Company in Gettysburg PA. Kaiser Jeep built about 3000 of the longer, wider two-wheel-drive FJ-6A during the 1966 model year, and supposedly on the CJ-6 chassis.
Thanks to Gary Dreyer, Craig Brockhaus, Ken Buchanan, Stuart Warner, Andrew Harvey, Steve Hagy, Jim Allen and Shad Seibert. -- Derek Redmond
For more about Jeep Forward Control trucks, see Brooks Stevens' Forward Vision on CJ3B.info.
See more FC fire trucks in Fire Service Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
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