If Mad Max and Fireman Sam came together to breed an automotive lovechild, this would be it. Appearing as though it stalks children’s nightmares, spews fire and eats souls; as far as menacing goes, this vintage fire engine wants for nothing.
Highly ironic, as the public consensus views any vehicle from the emergency services with silent respect, instead of the fear insinuated with this beast – a 1927 Ahrens Fox N-S-4 fire truck. And in case you haven’t got the hint yet, boy does it look aggressive. Chuck Norris would be diving for the nearest hedgerow if this monster burbled towards him.
The gleaming red paintwork and accompanying chrome presents itself with the same demeanor and dignity offered only by top-class Bond villains. Whereas the thumping great six-cylinder pumps out 110bhp, which was something of an urban legend back when newspaper headlines spoke of Charlie Chaplin and polio.
However, beneath the antagonistic stance rests a heart of gold with the number of lives it has saved. If your building was on fire during the 1920s and early 1930s, an eerie comfort was found as it tanked down the street.
The weapon of choice for most American firehouses, the intense jet of water could be propelled high enough to tackle most large buildings.
John P. Ahrens and Charles H Fox of Cincinnati, Ohio built their first motorised fire engine in 1911, just as the days of horse drawn apparatus came to a close. Mass production of the internal combustion engine led to a huge drop in the number of people claimed by flames.
Unlike motor cars with the general public, afraid of change and new inventions, fire fighters quickly adapted to motorised trucks. Besides the speed benefits, the machines didn’t require the same level of feeding and care as horses. Also, the rigours of duty were absorbed with less emotional distress, particularly in extreme conditions. Plus, the place didn’t smell of dung.
The Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company would go on to produce some of the sturdiest fire engines in America, battling main rivals at American LaFrance for the top spot in the industry. Fire chiefs across the country were fiercely loyal to their Ahrens-Fox machines, and a great number of trucks had remarkably long careers in service. Some surpassed three decades.
The attention to detail and unquestionable dependability led to comparisons with Rolls-Royce, the trademark polished sphere atop the front-mounted pump replacing Roll’s Spirit of Ecstasy. It wasn’t there to simply look appealing; the sphere’s design ensured the water didn’t ‘pulsate’, smoothing the action of the water and giving firefighters supreme control. Well, that and the ability to pump out 1100 gallons of water every 60 seconds.
Naturally, with time’s onward march many examples have fallen by the wayside, making a solid specimen something of a rare marvel. Luckily, we have one in our classifieds!
This 1927 Ahrens-Fox N-S-A ‘Triple Combination’ Pumper, so called as the truck incorporates three distinct components – the pump, tank, and hose body – has been painstakingly restored. Presented in outstanding condition, it also holds enough documented backstory to leave the new owner drowning in heritage.
You can discover more about the history of this fire truck and get a closer look with the AutoClassics classified advert.