|Older Louisville Ford|
A perennial VanNatta favorite for making a fire truck is an old highway truck that can be acquired on the cheap. Forestry fire trucks are different from the fancy red things that commercial departments have. The specifications are minimal. They need to run reliably, do not need to be 'highway legal', and need to carry at least 300 gallons of water and 500 feet of hose and have a pump good enough to squirt the water out the hose.
In Forestry fire fighting high volumes of water are not an issue, and are in fact counter productive. Usually a mist just to wet things down works best. If you are fighting a big wall of flames, you best not be there anyway as that is where casualties come from.
Loggers often build them on worn out log trucks, but of late we have found what we think is a better formula---a worn out readi-mix truck. What makes the old concrete truck attractive is that they have a good hydraulic drive system installed to turn the mixer barrel. In the case of this truck I dropped the barrel off, and added a water tank. The pump is hydraulic driven by the motor that turned the barrel. Redi mix trucks are not only easy to convert but are really cheap. Usually the cab is worn out from abuse and age before the mechanicals are dead meaning that you can get a truck that is mechanically fairly sound for a song and really need to make only a few modifications.
Because of what they do they typically have low gearing which makes them just ducky for this sort of an application. This one has a 1000 gallon water tank and a 150 GPM Edwards pump making it far in excess of the required specifications both in pump capacity and in water capacity. The Edwards Pumps are pretty special pumps. Edwards has been in the pump business since 1926. It was originally a family business, but has been passed around the corporate world in recent years. The quality of the pumps is beyond question. Instead of being a roller pump, or a simple pump, these pumps are far more complex. They are a positive displacement 'gear pump' not unlike a gear type hydraulic pump, but the pumping gears don't touch or drive one another. Instead there is a separate gear train on each end that turns the shafts. Additionally, the gear train is sperate physically from the 'pump' so leaky seals don't leak into the bearings or the gear train. The cost of so much machine work has priced them out of the generic water pumping business as the 150 GPM model is as of 2004 priced around $8000.00. (We bought this pump 35 years ago when they were cheaper). Since the pump is a positive displacement pump it is truly self priming---getting it to 'suck up' out of a creek for a 'ditch fill' is not a problem if the lift is reasonable. Likewise since these pumps do not depend on the pumped fluid for cooling or lubrication (the pumping gears don't touch),the pumps can be run dry for a time without hurting them.
In this case, if you look at the tank pretty carefully, you will notice that is has some similarities to the tank that appeared on 1952 International shown elsewhere on this site which has now gone to truck heaven.
Ford has peddled their big truck line now, but they made a bunch of these Louisville Fords. As with all trucks if you crawl under it and look up it looks just like most of the rest of the trucks on the highway---only the cab is different from the competition, and in my view, not particularly better. The doors sag a bit, and the windows don't roll up right along with a few other quirks. Ford didn't have sense enough to used generic gauges, or a hinged dashboard so things are really hard to get to, but for this application it all works, and for a truck that cost an astonishing $1000 on the auction block it is not all bad. The engine is a Detroit 6-71 and the transmission is an Eaton 10 speed roadranger all of which is more than adequate for this job.