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Hahn Motors FC-170 Fire Engine

J.T. Baker Chemical Co., Phillipsburg NJ


 

FC-170

This 1963 Jeep Forward Control FC-170 truck was ordered new from fire apparatus manufacturer Hahn Motors, Inc. of Hamburg, Pennsylvania. It was built to fight potential chemical fires inside the large J.T. Baker Chemical plant in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.

Thanks to Jack Calderone for this 2003 photo.
 

John Townsend Baker Company founder John Townsend Baker started his business in 1904 after realizing the laboratory chemicals he had been using as a student at Lafayette College were not pure enough to yield accurate results. His objective was to produce chemicals with the highest degree of purity commercially available, and the company became well known for providing just that. Baker was chairman of J.T. Baker Chemical Co. until he died in 1935.

FC-170
 
This May 1922 advertisement in The Journal of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry promoted the company's chemically pure products, whose labels carried an actual analysis of the contents.(1)

In 1970, Baker's reagents were considered so pure that they were used to analyze rock samples brought back from the moon by Apollo 11.(2) On the other hand, the company discovered in 1984 that it had for decades been polluting the Delaware River and groundwater in the Phillipsburg area with hazardous waste.(3)
 

NY Times, 9 July 1931 If Mr. Baker and his company were previously unaware of the danger of fire, that changed suddenly when a major conflagration hit the factory in the summer of 1931. This report on page 25 of the The New York Times of 9 July 1931(4) describes the fire that started in a warehouse in the middle of the night and "was visible for miles around." A watchman reported the fire by telephone, but "by the time the first engines arrived the storehouse was a mass of flames." (See the full article.)

It's not currently known what steps may have been taken to improve fire protection following the 1931 blaze. However, in 1963 J.T. Baker, which had by then become a division of drug company Richardson-Vicks, decided its fire department was due for an upgrade, and ordered a custom Jeep fire engine from Hahn Motors. That firm was known since 1915 for larger apparatus on their own chassis designs, but they had also begun building custom apparatus on various commercial chassis, and they were only about 45 miles away, in Hamburg PA.
 

Right side The single rear wheels configuration was ordered to enable the Forward Control to fit through tight spots inside the facility. The truck was equipped with a 500 GPM pump, a 200-gallon water tank, and a 60-pound Purple-K dry chemical system.
 

Front view Being spec'd out for low clearance within the plant, Hahn incorporated a distinctive front emergency beacon light into its nose, rather than any roof-mounted lights.
 

Left side A medical doctor by the name of Robert Briglia was a physician at the plant and would routinely see the truck around the facility. He recalled that it was kept in a small, dedicated building next to the main plant, and that each morning the garage doors would be swung open in the event the truck needed to be quickly pressed into action. He said that most days it just sat there in the garage, but on certain days it would actually drive through the plant as part of routine fire inspections.
 

Left rear Having always had an affection for the truck, Dr. Briglia bought it from the company in 1983 after they retired it from twenty years of service. He paid $3,600 for it in excellent cosmetic and operational condition with about 3,500 miles on it.

Thanks to rwcar4 for these 2015 photos.
 

Dr. Bob Briglia In September of 2021, at 86 years of age, Dr. Briglia (right) sold the truck to a Texas-based car collector who has a passion for the history and preservation of Jeep Forward Control trucks. The collector had made it clear some twelve years earlier that he wanted to purchase and continue the preservation of the vehicle if it ever became available.

Thanks to Will Hill for this farewell photo.
 

Restoration

Paint

The truck has 100 percent of its original paint and equipment. It will be painstakingly detailed, cleaned and serviced, and be housed with a collection of other Jeep FCs. This photo shows the cab paint restored to its original shine by polishing with an arsenal of buffing products (350K JPEG).

See also an outside mirror (250K JPEG) with the stainless steel buffed and the mirror arms repainted in the original silver.
 

Gold leaf Gold leaf is reapplied to the original lettering -- see also "Fire Brigade" emblazoned on the front of the cab (320K JPEG).

Meanwhile, the ladders undergo an amazing transformation from before to after (370K JPEG) as the wood is stripped, hand sanded, bleached and refinished.
 

Thanks to the new owner for his efforts in refurbishing this unique Jeep. Stay tuned for a further look at the results. Thanks also to the following websites for material related to the history of J.T. Baker Chemical Co. -- Derek Redmond

Footnotes

  1. Period Paper
  2. The Morning Call
  3. Casetext
  4. The New York Times


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Last updated 13 November 2021 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
https://cj3b.info/Fire/FireFCHahn.html
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond