I have a confession to make: I do not care for trucks. They’re not vehicles I can relate to. Consequently, I don’t know the makes all that well, nor the engines or anything else about them, really. And the vast majority of them are ugly to me (they’re not designed to be attractive anyways). But there are always exceptions to the rules, especially if they’re my rules.
I saw this fire engine parked outside a small firehouse in Mandalay, as my family and I walked around town. I live in Rangoon, Burma (now known as Yangon, Myanmar) and was in Mandalay on a week-end trip. This truck really broke my rules: it was still in use (not parked there the previous day), obviously ancient, kind of attractive and – miracle of miracles – not a Japanese or Chinese make. Even I knew Dennis was a British company. Few British vehicles are to be found in Myanmar nowadays – let alone fire engines.
So here’s a précis of what I could gather about this truck and its maker: Dennis Bros. of Guildford started making cars in 1901, trucks in 1904 and fire engines in 1908. They dropped cars altogether by 1914 and focused on trucks, fire engines and buses, as well as other products, such as lawn mowers.
Dennis soon had 50% of the British fire engine market. The F-series were launched in 1946 and made in various sizes and denominations until the early ‘70s. The F2 was one of the earliest large F-series designs and seems to have been produced from 1948 to about 1962.
In Britain, many Dennis fire engines are still in operation, as the company still made them until about ten years ago. Currently, the marque is owned by Dennis Alexander Ltd. (ADL), a merger of the Dennis, Alexander and Plaxton companies. Dennis are no longer in the fire engine and truck business though, as ADL are focused on buses only.
As I took pictures of this truck under the noonday sun, I noted the small “8” embossed and painted on the side of the hood. This seems to be a reference to the F2’s engine, the iconic Rolls-Royce B80 straight-eight.
Rolls-Royce launched the B-series right after the war to power civilian and military vehicles. There were four F-head gasoline engines: the B40 (4-cyl.), B60 (6-cyl.), B80 and B81 (8-cyl.). The eights came in two sizes: the B80, as fitted in the Dennis F2, was 5675cc (165bhp @ 3750rpm) and shared the same 88.9 x 114.3mm bore and stroke (3.5’’ x 4.5’’) as the B40 and B60. The B81 was larger at 6515cc, providing 195bhp and more usually found in armoured or earth-moving equipment.
The B80 was used by Rolls in their most exclusive post-war car ever, the Phantom IV – only 18 made between 1950 and 1956. Clients included the Windsors, the Emir of Kuwait, the King of Iraq and General Franco (before he was “still dead”). Does the Burmese Dennis still use the same engine as the Generalissimo’s phaeton? It’s not impossible. These engines are pretty bullet-proof. However, Burmese isolationism – which only just started to fade away – may have forced the Mandalay Fire Dept. to transplant a Hino, Nissan or (horror of horrors) FAW Diesel into this F2 to keep it going.
Here’s a similar F2 found on the interweb, located in nearby Malaysia. This one looks like it’s not seen action for a while. Our Burmese Dennis, on the other hand, remains on call. I screwed up the picture of the cabin (photography is not my strong suit), but can report that the seats are now a wooden bench (teak?) and some of the dials appeared to be originals.
Running water is not so widespread in this country, so I imagine this old gal is used as a cistern when a fire breaks out in those parts of Mandalay that are underserved, likely with a more modern pump truck.
Voilà! This was the first installment of my Weird things in strange places series, where I strive to overcome my photographic shortcomings to bring to CC some of the more unusual vehicles I see in my daily life here in Asia.