The 1970s show Emergency! was produced by Jack Webb who was a stickler for detail and accuracy. One of the legacies of the show is that it helped make the EMS program well known. This time around we are going to take a look at some of the vehicles from the show.
Of course we have to start with the 1972 Dodge D300 which was Squad 51. After the show it was used as a spare by the fire department and now resides in the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.There were two Engine 51s on the show. The first was a 1965 Crown Fire Coach that was actually Engine 60, the engine assigned to the real firehouse at Universal Studios, station 60. They just stuck a 51 over the 60. Like the squad, it is now in the Los Angeles County Fire Museum.
The second Engine 51 was a 1973 Ward LaFrance P80 Ambassador. This was furnished to the studio by the manufacturer who was supplying the majority of new engines to the fire department. It later would appear in some other TV shows and films and later would serve at Yosemite National Park as Engine 7. If you guessed that it is now in the Los Angeles County Fire Museum, you would be correct.
One of the first ambulances the show used was this high roofed 1970 Chevrolet Suburban. It was crashed in an episode in one of the later seasons. The Los Angeles County Fire Museum is currently in the process of restoring it.
The next ambulance was from the fictional Mayfair Ambulance company. It was a 1972 Chevrolet C-20 with the box manufactured by the Modulance Company. Like with the second Engine 51, it was a bit of product placement.
The next was also a bit of product placement from Modulance with this 1973 F-350. It popped up in some other Universal productions like Kojak where they just stuck some prop New York plates on it.
Initially the show used the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department as the law enforcement agency depicted in the show’s universe. By the second season there was a bit of a falling out between the department and the producers, some say it was because they wanted Jack Webb to produce a show about their department. Due to the liberal use of stock footage, a Sheriff’s car like this 1973 Plymouth Satellite can be seen even after the falling out.
This led the producers to use a generic police department for the rest of the run of the show.
Oh man, how cool! Emergency! Is one of my all time favorite shows, possibly THE all time favorite as my job description for a time was basically “Roy”, without all the high angle rescues which seem to happen way more in LA County in the 70’s than anywhere else in time or space. I guess I am not that big of a fan, though, because I never realized that about the Sheriff dept. I love how some of the early episodes are seen with Cadillac ambulances, too.
“Emergency” was a childhood favorite of mine.
When I was 6, I got a portable CB radio in the form of a large plastic Emergency Squad.
I was very excited about it.
It never worked well as either a CB radio or as a toy.
But it was nice to look at.
The actor who played Roy, Kevin Tighe, always seemed to play bad guy roles in later years. Having made such an impression on me as a kid, it just seemed weird for “Roy” to act evil.
Until I read it here I still thought “Mayfair” was a real thing.
Enjoyable post. Thanks.
Oh man, I loved this show as a kid!
Stock footage and vehicles from this show were used for decades. Any time you saw a fire truck or rescue vehicle on a TV show in the 70s or 80s it almost invariably had a “51” on the side.
Another big fan of Emergency! here as well, a few years ago it was on Netflix in High Definition and I rewatched it with the kids. Always fun to see the LA suburbs before they were completely built up.
This was my brother’s lunchbox when we were little kids, it’s on my shelf now…
I prefer “Adam-12,” but I’ll still watch reruns of “Emergency.” I still laugh every time Jack Webb goes all in on a moral values speech on “Dragnet.” The word “punk” or “punks” is often involved.
Remember that Jack Webb enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II but was “washed out” of flight training.[citation He later received a hardship discharge because he was his primary financial support for his mother and grandmother. He was once married to “Emergency!” co-star Julie London. Some of his “Dragnet” moments might have been campy or corny. Still, I believe, based on films like “The D.I.” (1957) and “Halls of Montezuma,” where he plays a Marine Corps combat correspondent and rifleman, that he was very patriotic and sympathetic to the ordinary soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and regular street cops.
Amen Mike ! .
They used to play ‘The DI’ on late night TV back when local TV stations were worth watching .
He made some hilarious interviews on Johnny Carson .
Great to see so many Emergency! fans here. This was close to my favorite show in the early 70s.
Interesting about the police cars. As truly devout Emergency! fans know, Emergency! was in the same universe as Adam-12, with officers Malloy and Reed appearing in the Emergency! pilot and crossing paths with Gage and Desoto at various points during the series at the hospital.
Those kinds of interactions between series were fascinating to me when I was a kid.
What’s weird to me was that the guys who worked on the victims didn’t transport them. Rather, a Pontiac wagon or Suburban or whatever ambulance would take the victims who needed further care to the hospital. Maybe that was the evolution of EMS.
This is still common today. Contracted private ambulance firms transport, and worry about Medicare/insurance billing. City/county fire rescue vehicle and crew are freed up for immediate dispatch to another call.
The station wagon ambulances of the 60s and earlier did not have room for the drugs and equipment that the EMS trucks do. Some of the ambulance attendants did not have a lot of training beyond first aid.
In Grand Rapids, MI, it was the police department that took on the paramedic role for a while. iirc they started out with 72 Torino wagons, but soon switched to using Suburbans to haul their gear, while an ambulance transported to the hospital. When I lived in Kentwood, I was on a street that had a perfect setup for a speed trap. Quite often I would be heading home from work and a GRPD E-Unit would be sitting in the bushes, that big Suburban completely hidden, waiting for someone to trip their radar gun.
I read somewhere along the line that the old station wagon style ambulances have been outlawed. Ambulance companies now are required to be able to carry the drugs and equipment, and have staff trained as paramedics.
One thing that stuck with me from “Emergency” for years, that I finally got the answer to in the early 90s. I was working in a Radio Shack and a couple EMTs walked in the store to kill time between calls. I remembered what the Docs so often told the paramedics to do, and asked “what is “Ringer’s lactate”? Got the answer! It’s a volume builder. Can’t keep whole blood on the truck, but Ringers has a long shelf life, so, if someone has lost a lot of blood, you start an IV with Ringers to replace the lost volume to keep the patient going until they get to the hospital and are given whole blood.
Who could not watch a show with an actor named Randolph Mantooth?
I watched a bunch of “Laramie” episodes last year. It took a while to realize that the Short Dark and Handsome star Robert Fuller was also the doctor on Emergency!
Watching the opening credits as a kid, when I saw Randolph Mantooth’s name I always thought “Randolph Mandolph” in my head. (still do!)
Of course, my parents were always smoking a lot of pot.
I wonder if Randolph Mandolph and Ralph Malph knew each other.
Adam-12 and Emergency were a couple of my favourite shows when I was a kid in the early ‘70’s. The sirens drove my dad nuts, but I didn’t care. I always went for the action and, of course, the cool vehicles. That big red Dodge was one of my favourites…and now I have the Emergency theme stuck in my head. Oh well. There’s worse TV themes.
On a product-placement note it’s interesting that Squad 51 kept its’ 1972 grille and badging throughout the show’s run rather than being updated in 1974, 1977 and (if the show lasted that long – weren’t there “specials” for a couple years after regular episodes ended?) 1979 when Dodge changed their truck grilles.
I’ve been thinking about this since the top of the post. The grille on the squad changed at some point from all chrome to chrome with some matte black around the headlights and center openings. At least that’s my observation as a lifelong fan of the series. Been watching reruns regularly as they air at lunchtime daily as I work from home.
My dad started his fire dept. career at Los Angles County station 127. The very same one shown in the opening scenes of the show. It is on 223rd in Carson, CA. not far from the intersection with Wilmington. If one looks closely in some shots the squad looks to be an earlier Dodge Sweptline. There are a few shots where one can clearly see the fake louvered hood and in the intro it looks like the squad has four headlights. The LA County fire museum is a great place to visit, my dad was heavily involved some years back.I highly recommend a visit if you get a chance.
Indeed – that Dodge Sweptline is in the pilot. The new 1972 “classic” squad is introduced in that episode, newly equipped with all the gear paramedics will need (for those that don’t recall, the pilot is all about whether or not firefighters should even be paramedics; Dr. Brackett is a total pill about the whole thing but eventually comes around.)
And yes, we did recently buy the DVD box set and are enjoying it as much as when we were kids.
If you stop at Station 127 and knock on the door, the station personnel are more than happy to give a short tour. The interior has seen a few changes, but still looks much as it did during the shows production.
I am very tempted to drive up to Carson and do this the next time I go to San Diego.
If Babewatch, er Baywatch, was still produced today, here are the current LA County Lifeguard trucks. Note the sponsorship. How long that will last now that Toyota Motor Sales HQ fled to Texas remains to be seen.
Didn’t they use 67 or 68 1 ton dual wheel Dodges as squad vehicles early in the series ? I know in the pilot episode the Station 10’squad (before Johnny Gage transferred to 51 as a paramedic) had one .
Far too young to have seen this series originally, but just a few years ago a local “nostalgia channel” began showing Emergency! at noon, so I’ve probably seen a good 3/4 of the episodes over my lunch break. They’ve since switched to Quincy, M.E., which is almost as entertaining, but not as much fun for CC-watching.
Look for continuity errors when the ambulance seen leaving the scene or in transit is the Chevy, but the ambulance shown arriving at Rampart is the Ford (or vice versa).
There’s a lot of amazing stuff to be seen on “Emergency!”. Like that thing where some luckless patient in respiratory distress or overcome by some toxin or another is being worked on…a couple feet from a tailpipe spewing gross amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and lead aerosols.
But yeah, it’s a good one for CC spotting (and listening).
God bless Jack Webb ! .
Here’s a movie had made in 1957 : https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=the+di+movie .
One of my Gyrene buddies hipped me to this flick decades ago, long before the advent of VCR’s much less CD’s .
There is an episode of Emergency! that involves an air plane crash in the courtyard of an apartment building, they filmed the exterior courtyard scenes in an abandoned building in Pasadena, Ca., I watched some of the filming, some years later the building was refurbished and is still a rental complex to – day .
Those Sheriff’s Dodges were stout cars ~ they took serious beatings and kept on going .
The L.A.S.O. at that time, added a foot operated button that disabled the brake lights as long as your left foot was on it, many East Los criminals were caught out by the car gliding past and making a silent sharp turn around the block un noticed .
The last cars pictured were AMC Ambassadors. also very stout apart from the 401 V8’s they threw connecting rod bearings like confetti .
They also had a disgruntled AMC employee who’d leave the ball joint securing nuts loose on the left side causing several serious crashes and a tech sheet from AMC .
The L.A.P.D.experimented with DOT 5 silicone brake fluid on them, it worked well until the mechanics go too lazy to flush out the DOT 4 brake fluid , this of course caused massive catastrophic brake failures .
Some unhappy folks once out a bomb in one of the black & white Ambassadors, it went to the AMC dealer for warranty work and exploded in their back lot .
One of my all time favorite shows. I have watched them all numerous times. Great show for car spotting. I love how the same street scenes of the squad driving are used over and over again. Various street parked cars show up repeatedly as well.