Car Show Classic: 2013 Historic Commercial Vehicle Club Show – Fire Engines

Who doesn’t love a fire engine?  There were a few former fire engines at the Historic Commercial Vehicle Club’s show at the Sandown Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia, so lets take a look starting with this 1970 International Acco C1600 that will be unfamiliar to anyone outside Australia.

Here is the back of the ‘hose carriage pumper’ appliance with suction and discharge connections and pump controls.  The body is built by HA Grummet & sons of Thomastown (in the north of Melbourne) along the lines of British fire engines with a timber frame covered by steel sheetmetal, and was commissioned in by the Melbourne Fire Brigade in 1972.  It has a 1,000 imperial gallon water tank (4,500L or 1,250 US gal approx) that could feed 1,000 gallons per minute of foam to two hose reels, plus far too much other fire fighting and rescue equipment to list here.

This appliance was based at the inner-suburban Windsor fire station no. 35, just 3 miles from the city centre, and the longest call-out distance was 7.5 miles (12 kilometres).  In 1983 it was sold to the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, based at Queenstown, and later to a private logging company who later transferred it to a plantation in South Australia.  It was retired in 2008 with extensive rust and electrical issues, but has since been restored – I can only imagine the work needed not only for the physical restoration, but also to locate the appropriate period equipment.

The truck itself has International’s 281 ci 6-cylinder engine with a 4-speed transmisson and 6.166 ratio differential.  The truck has a 6-seater crew cab, which contains the 2-way radio sitting above the engine doghouse that added $600 to the cost of the truck!  Originally designed for the Australian Army, the Acco truck was adapted for civilian use and came in a large number of configurations – more on these later.

This 1962-ish Austin Loadstar is one of many trucks that were in service with the Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigades from around 1960 to a time that I think depended on the ability of the individual fire brigade to fund a replacement.  They were definitely used well into the 1970s and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear 1980s for the last ones.  It would have a 6-cylinder petrol engine, I presume the same 4-litre one that powered the Austin Sheerline limousines.  These trucks could be had with a gross weight rating of up to 8 tons or so, but I don’t thin this one is that heavy.  Note the sprinklers mounted on the front bumper – a long way from current trucks which are equipped to serve as a refuge if a crew gets stuck in a fire.

The Country Fire Authority was set up following the Black Friday bushfires of 1939, which burned roughly 4.9 million acres and took 71 lives, to coordinate the 1200-odd fire brigades across the state (outside the Melbourne suburbs at the time).  The above Austin is an earlier version, and perhaps more typical of the unit used by rural fire brigades.  These had a 6 hp pump and 1600 litre tank, and typically replaced WW2-era trucks, often ex-Army units.

This is a 1969 or 70 Dennis D600 fire engine, one of 72 bought by the NSW Fire Brigade.  They had a 6-cylinder 4.2 litre Jaguar engine, 5 speed manual gearbox, and a 600 gallon per minute pump (that’s imperial gallons, so 710 US gall).  As you might imagine, the Jaguar engine had to work extremely hard and had a consequently short life between rebuilds (20k miles?).  The appliances were subsequently repowered and/or relocated to rural towns with less frequent call-outs.  The body construction of fibreglass over wood for the cabin, with aluminium at the rear, was also a problem and perhaps why the last few in service were sold to the Army for target practice!  Despite this, and perhaps because so many had been sent to the country, quite a few have been preserved.

To bookend this piece with another International, this is a later Acco C1800.  It is hard to get an exact read on the age of this truck, because production has not stopped since 1972 although there have been a lot of changes.  This would seem to be a relatively early type because of the built-up nature of the cabin; later versions were a little more integrated.  I am not sure what engine this has, but the Inter 345 V8 and Perkins 6-354 diesel are common.

This is another retired fire truck; they are quite popular as there aren’t a lot of crew-cab trucks kicking around.  There is a 392 V8 logo added under the model badge (which I can’t make out) behind the rear door.  While this truck also uses the one door, you can see how the cabin is much more integrated than the previous truck.  I’m not sure about that, but this truck would have been factory-built.

What would you like to see next – US trucks?  Buses?  Military trucks?  Tractors?  The really rare and unusual stuff?  Ford F-series trucks?  I’ll do a couple more posts from this lot soon, then probably give it a break for a while.