One of the oldest fire equipment maker in the U.S. was the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company founded in 1903 in Elmira New York. Interestingly enough, this company also built roadster automobiles starting in 1907 until 1914. The story here is that American LaFrance built only twenty-two automobiles. The company's very first motorized fire truck was manufactured in 1907.
The 1927 American LaFrance Fire Engine Pumper truck shown in this article is just one of the decades of fire trucks they manufactured. There are a large number of old fire trucks from American LaFrance on display throughout the country.
Two interesting side notes are that American LaFrance built some steam powered fire engines during the first decade of the 1900's and unveiled their first six cylinder internal combustion engine in 1911.
The 1927 American LaFrance Fire Pumper Truck
The 1927 American LaFrance pumper featured here is among the most popular series that the company produced. The truck came with a six cylinder engine delivering 130 horsepower. The truck was also equipped with a 750 gallons per minute pump. The truck also had dual chain drives and weighed in the neighborhood of 12,000 lbs.
This 1927 American LaFrance Type 75 Fire Truck would have sold new in that year for about $6,000.
American La France Grows With Acquisitions
The very beginnings of American LaFrance go all the way back to 1832 when hand operated and horse drawn fire fighting equipment was manufactured. This type of fire equipment building in the early 1800's typically was performed at blacksmith shops. Prior to Truckson LaFrance and partners forming their company, LaFrance Manufacturing Company in 1873, there were several earlier companies that would go on to eventually form the American LaFrance that we know as the twentieth century fire truck builder. This was the company that would go on to build a variety of fire truck equipment such as ladder trucks, airport crash truck equipment, chemical engines and snorkel trucks. By the mid 1920's American LaFrance had produced over 4,000 fire trucks.
In 1927 American LaFrance purchased the well known fire equipment manufacturer, the Foamite-Childs Co. With this acquisition, the company got a new corporate name called American LaFrance and Foamite Co.
While the American automakers were required to halt civilian car production during World War Two and begin building military vehicles, American LaFrance continued building their fire trucks for towns and cities across the nation and shipped many overseas per government contracts.
Over these many years American LaFrance built a solid reputation as being America's number one builder of emergency equipment.
The company Freightliner acquired American LaFrance in 1995 and then ten years later the company was transferred to a New York investment company. Three years later American LaFrance filed for bankruptcy and then several months after that they emerged from bankruptcy. Today the company builds a large variety of heavy truck equipment. Fire truck cabs, refuse trucks and general rescue and utility trucks are manufactured from their Summerville, SC factory.
See our AutoMuseumOnline article on the 1951 Mack LS 85 Fire Pumper Truck.
Also, see our article on a Restored 1914 Ford Model T Depot Hack
If you happen to be in Michigan or plan traveling there, the Great Lakes International Antique Fire Apparatus Association's Annual Antique Fire Engine Muster in Frankenmuth Michigan is a fun event to attend. Here you will find just about everything and everything pertaining to vintage fire engines and fire equipment. The event usually is planned for July. Frankenmuth Michigan is a tourist destination and is known world wide for their shops and chicken dinners. The town claims to have the world's largest Christmas shop as well. It's estimated that three million visitors a year travel there. Frankenmuth is located about 75 miles north of Detroit and about 14 miles southeast of Saginaw Michigan.
For mote information about this organization and planned events in the future see website www.gliafaa.org
There are a few very good books available on the American LaFrance Fire Trucks. These include American LaFrance 500/600 Series by author Walter M P McCall, 100 Years of American LaFrance also by Walter McCall and American LaFrance 700 Series 1945-1952: Photo Archive, Vol. 2 by Lawrence Phillips.
(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)