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Jeep Ambulances


 
The history of civilian ambulances built on the Jeep platform is pretty much a series of one-off conversions and commercially unsuccessful small batches, with the exception of the factory-built Willys Ambulances which sold up to a few hundred units per year in the early 1960s. (And of course Willys Military Ambulances are enshrined in the history of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.)

But the latest attempt to sell an offroad-capable civilian Jeep ambulance to the government market, seems to fill an important niche, particularly in parts of the world with less-developed road systems. So I thought I would help to spread the word about this Wrangler conversion, and at the same time take a look at a few other current and past rescue Jeeps.

Gargour-Bisco Wrangler Ambulance

RearA demonstrator built in Lebanon in 2014 by Fiat-Chrysler Jeep distributor Gargour Automotive, with Bisco Ambulance Conversion, has created some buzz, although I have heard no sales reports. It's notable that it would be a company in the the Middle East making this investment. It's also interesting that their publicity photos, taken in the snow, not only remind us that it's not always hot in the Middle East, but also suggest Gargour is aiming at an international market.
 

FrontOff-road upgrades to the Wrangler Unlimited include a Warn winch, Mopar metal bumper, 2-inch lift kit, 33-inch tires, snorkel and high-lift jack. The roof carries a light bar (130K JPEG) and cargo rack.

The interior arrangement (130K JPEG) puts the passenger seat behind the driver to make room for a full-length stretcher, and includes oxygen, suction, special lighting, and storage for trauma gear. The Jeep also has a backup battery with automatic switching.
 

Jeep J8

Sand J8Although Chrysler seems to be tacitly supporting the Gargour-Bisco Wrangler, they also have other Jeep ambulances on the international market, through AADS (Africa Automotive Distribution Services.)

An ambulance version of the Egyptian-built Jeep J8, with extended body and extra headroom, has been available in various configurations, aimed at both civilian and military buyers. The interior (120K JPEG) is apparently available with or without a partition behind the driver.
 

White J8The J8 conversions are not sold on the North American market, but a chunk of their sales are certainly to the U.S. government, for delivery as aid to other countries. In 2015 Mongolia accepted a U.S. donation of 35 Jeeps converted by AADS, including four ambulances (seen here.) They were painted in white, for use in Mongolia's increasing participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world.

JGMS (Jeep Government and Military Sales) has previously offered a military ambulance version of the J8 with a larger rear body (see Military Ambulances on CJ3B.info.)
 

AADS WranglerAADS also sells a slightly smaller ambulance conversion of a JK Wrangler Unlimited, with an interior (120K JPEG) similar to the Gargour-Bisco Wrangler.

This example, carrying the Red Crescent, again suggests the importance of the Middle Eastern market.
 

Hope of Life In 2016, Omix-ADA and other sponsors built a custom Wrangler for the non-profit organization Hope of Life, to assist them in rescuing babies and children in need of medical care in the jungles and mountains of Guatemala.
 

CJ-8 All Terrain Medic

The above conversions are having some sales success, but Horton's 1981 CJ-8 "All Terrain Medic" never made any sales beyond its demonstrator units. This probably reflects Horton's concentration on the domestic EMS service, who found the Jeep body cramped in comparison to van conversions that were beginning to come on the EMS market at that time. Horton probably did not have the resources or inclination to tackle the international market.

For details on this ahead-of-its-time vehicle, see Scrambulance on CJ3B.info.
 

CJ-6 in Michigan

The history of this Jeep was recorded by Bill Norris in Vintage Truck Magazine in 2008. It was bought by Bill Price in 1967 to serve as an off-road-capable ambulance in his funeral and ambulance service in Michigan. He remembered his stint driving an M170 ambulance in the Marine Corps in the 1950s, and always wanted to own a Jeep.

Bill ordered it from Doc's Jeepland in Royal Oak MI, with fender well cushions for the ambulance attendant, locking differentials, pintle hook, full vinyl top, front split bench seat, rear seat, spare wheel lock, and Ramsey PTO winch. Non-Jeep modifications are a CB radio, a company radio, removable red flasher and a jerry can.

Bill Price passed away in June 2010, and the CJ-6 was purchased by the Omix-ADA Jeep Collection with only 14,000 miles on the odometer. The original paint has never even been touched up, and the vinyl windows are still crystal clear.

See more of Barry Ogletree's photos of the Omix-ADA Jeep Heritage Expo 2016 on CJ3B.info.
 

DJ-5B in Pennsylvania

Postal JeepSusquehannah Township Ambulance in Pennsylvania operated this postal Jeep as Life Squad 9 in the early 1980's. Like Medic 1, it was enjoying a second career, after retiring from the USPS.

Keith A. Miller says at CentralPA911.com that it was an "old postal delivery Jeep that Doc Bronstein and I obtained from the Harrisburg Post Office garage as they were selling them off. We had it painted orange and put the Scotchlite striping on and lettering, etc. I believe the light bar we got from the township, off an old police cruiser. We outfitted the unit as a Quick Response Unit.

"I believe we put this Jeep on the road around 1980 or 81. I would imagine that the post office ran the unit for 5 years or so which if correct would put the model year somewhere around 1975 or 76. The neat thing is that if you look real close at the picture the handsome lad driving the unit is........me. Yikes!"

Well, it looks like the Post Office may have had it in service more like a decade, because Mark Randall provides information that dates this as probably a 1970 DJ-5B, the first year of the extended radiator guard to accommodate the AMC straight-six engine. Details that put it prior to late 1970 include the external wiper motor, and the lack of rear wheel openings. (See more details in The DJ-5 Dispatchers on CJ3B.info.)

Note that this version of the photo above has been colorized by CJ3B.info. See the original black & white photo (100K JPEG) by Carl "Pete" Moyer. Thanks to Richard Norton and Dave Houseal.
 

Cherokees and Trucks

Medic 1 Medic 1 was a mid-70's SJ Cherokee operated by Harrisburg River Rescue in Pennsylvania. According to Brad Miller, River Rescue got it from the City of Harrisburg after it ended its useful life as an HPD K-9 truck. It was notorious for burning oil and on some nights to get it running to take a call you had to "adjust" the distributor so that it was in proper "alignment."

Photo by Richard Norton. Thanks to Jesse Shutt and Brad Miller at CentralPA911.com.
 

AMC Ambulance Package This illustration comes from a 1981 brochure (270K JPEG) promoting Jeep "Special Purpose Vehicles" built on the SJ platform, including ambulances, personnel carriers, command and communication vehicles, and riot control. Thanks to Herve Gruyer for the scan.
 

Majorette 1/64 scale For years I have been looking for an SJ Cherokee ambulance with an extra-headroom body, because of a 1/64-scale diecast toy from the early 1980s. Toymakers Majorette offered this Cherokee ambulance from about 1980-85, with a raised roof on the rear box, and I've always wondered what prototype might have inspired it. Tonka produced a similar toy in a larger scale in the 1970s.
 

Willys Australia Wagoneer In early 2018 this photo turned up in Australia -- a Wagoneer with headroom added. Former Willys Australia employee Barry Massey confirmed this unique, special-order ambulance was built for Cooma, New South Wales, at the plant in Brisbane, with doors from a Panel Van, and top fabricated by Athol Hedges Bodyworks.

Thanks to Mick Broomfield for the photo and Vaughn Becker for the information.
 

Cooma, Australia Herve Gruyer dug up this picture of the Wagoneer in the mid 1960s, when newly delivered to New South Wales Ambulance in Cooma, which is knows as the "Gateway to the Snowy Mountains."

NSW Ambulance also operated the the two Jeep Forward Control Q-Van rescue trucks built in 1961, and today continues to use four-wheel drive vehicles including Land Cruisers (170K JPEG) to provide service in difficult terrain and weather. (Land Cruiser photo courtesy of NSW Ambulance.)
 

Australia An earlier ambulance conversion in Australia was this 60s-era Gladiator modified for Lancelin, on the coast north of Perth in Western Australia. The builder is unknown. Photo courtesy Mick Broomfield.
 

Caloundra, Australia Another limited edition Australian rescue truck was built for Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade, to use in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. QATB initially wanted something that could provide service to the beaches and the state forests around Caloundra, but they apparently then ordered additional units. The body for this 1984 Jeep J-27 cab & chassis was constructed by Superior Industries of Brisbane. Photo courtesy of Vaughn Becker.
 

In New Zealand, AMC J-20 trucks were a popular fire apparatus conversion, so it's not surprising that a few were also turned into ambulances there. Wellington Free Ambulance operated this 1981 J-20 rescue truck, Unit 4-16.

The equipment that was carried in the J-20 is displayed in this 2009 photo by Derek Quinn, from the website 111 Emergency, used under CC license.

See also a side view of the truck with its command center trailer (280K JPEG).
 

The AMC J-20 had a 131-inch wheelbase and was rated as a 3/4-ton, so there was plenty of room and support for an ambulance box.

St. John Ambulance 577, seen here in Hamilton, New Zealand, was a similar 1982 J-20. Photo by Daniel Capon from 111 Emergency.
 

Iran This 1970s J-series truck-based ambulance with an extra-headroom cap is shown in a catalogue of Iranian Jeeps built by Sherkat-Sahami of Iran. I don't know anythinbg further about it.
 

XJ Cherokee

Woodstock NY The 1983-2001 XJ Cherokee, a precursor to the "SUV" category of vehicle, was as succesful in public-service applications as it was for private recreational use.

The Woodstock (New York) Fire Department used an XJ as Paramedic 1, carrying its EMS equipment through the New York State winters and summers. Note the under-bumper siren. See a rear view photo (330K JPEG).

These photos were taken when I was passing through town on the 30th anniversary of my visit to the 1969 Woodstock Pop Festival.
 

BeijingThe XJ was a popular vehicle among police, fire and EMS first-responders worldwide (see also some Jeep Cherokees in the Fire Service.) This XJ belonged to "Rescue Service of Olomouc" in the historic city of Olomouc in the Czech Republic. (The city was the site of the assassination of King Wenceslas III in 1306, so perhaps EMS has been a top priority ever since.)

The 2008 photo is by Michal Maňas, used under CC license.
 

BeijingAs of 2015, a version of the XJ is still being built in China by Beijing Auto Works, following the end of "Beijing Jeep," a joint venture by Beijing Auto and Chrysler between 1984 and 2009.

This Beijing Jeep Cherokee is an early-1990's two-wheel-drive example, with the "Super Space" raised roof. The retired jiuhuche ("ambulance") was photographed in Beijing's eastern suburbs in 2015 by W.E. Ning for Car News China. See also a front view (60K JPEG).
 

Grand Cherokee

Northwest Air AmbulanceThere have also been a few recent efforts to promote the Grand Cherokee as an ambulance, although it suffers from the same space limitations as the Wrangler Unlimited.

In 2009, Chrysler UK donated a WK to Northwest Air Ambulance, who were in need of a new ground ambulance, for use when their helicopter is grounded by weather conditions. Chrysler touted both the Grand Cherokee's offroad ability and its advanced satellite navigation system, as making it a perfect helicopter replacement.

Northwest Air Ambulance is a registered charity providing emergency transport over much of central Britain.
 

West YorkshireA 2014 WK2 Grand Cherokee Laredo (3-liter V6) fitted out as an ambulance, has been photographed being tested by EMS organizations in the UK. This nice rear view was posted by ferryjammy4 on Flickr when the Yorkshire Ambulance Service had the WK2 for a trial.
 

Jordan'sThe conversion of the WK2 was done by Jordans, a large Fiat and Jeep dealer based in East Yorkshire. They exhibited it at the annual UK trade show known as the "Blue and Amber Light Fleet Exhibition" in June 2014.
 

In the German medical system, a Notarzt ("emergency physician") may be called out to serious calls to coordinate multiple ambulances or provide intense on-scene care to serious or critical patients. This physician usually gets to the scene in a car separate from the ambulance, in this case a 2005 Grand Cherokee.

Photo courtesy WallpaperUp.
 

Since the Notarzt-Einsatzfahrzeug ("emergency physician's vehicle") doesn't provide patient transport, there is plenty of room for trauma and Advanced Life Support equipment.
 

Wintergreen, VirginiaStateside, Wintergreen Fire and Rescue in Nelson County, Virginia uses a 2012 Grand Cherokee Laredo X (Hemi V8-powered) as their Response 173, which also carries ALS equipment.
 

Wintergreen, VirginiaSame great idea: the first-due vehicle to all medical emergencies at Greenfield Center Fire Department in New York is MED-266, a 2005 WK which can carry four Emergency Medical Technicians or firefighters. Greenfield Center is Company #1 of Greenfield Fire District.
 


Thanks to all the photographers. -- Derek Redmond


See also Willys Ambulances and Military Ambulances.

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Last updated 28 April 2018 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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