Willys "Commando" Fire Trucks


Willys Motors dealers marketed a fire engine version of the 4WD Jeep truck with the 6-226 Super-Hurricane engine. The production version of the "Commando" was built by General Fire Truck Company starting in the early 1950s, and then also by Howe Fire Apparatus. Starting in 1955, the fire truck had its own series of serial numbers with the prefix 55068-05 (see Willys-Overland Production Figures.) Less than a dozen were produced in the late 1950s, but there was a run of 83 built in 1960.

Commando rear The truck was available with either a closed or open cab. Although the body extended well back of the 118-inch wheelbase, the 18-foot extension ladder and supports for the two 10-foot lengths of suction hose still projected several feet beyond the body.

The "Ranger"

Willys America Apparently the precursor to the Commando was the Willys "Ranger," announced in the Toledo Blade, 2 September 1953 (190K JPEG) as a limited order for the U.S. Navy. Because of its size compared to the 6x6 trucks used as military fire engines, and despite being larger than the CJ-2A Jeep Fire Engine produced by Willys since 1946, the Ranger was referred to as a "miniature" fire truck.

Willys took the Ranger to the civilian market with this example reportedly built by Mobile Fire Apparatus Inc. of Indianapolis, and now owned by Willys America.

Paul Barry of Willys America says "It was a W-O factory demonstrator vehicle, then sold to Michiana Shores VFD, a lake resort town on the border of Michigan and Indiana. It was painted the lime green emergency vehicle color, and I repainted it red."

See the right side of the truck (100K JPEG) at the Willys America 2011 Open House with the Civil Defense Rescue Truck.

Production Version

Fire truck brochure The 6-226 trucks are sometimes referred to as "factory" fire trucks because they had their own series of Willys serial numbers, and they were advertised as a Willys product. The rear body and equipment however was installed by General Fire Truck until they went out of business in 1957, and by Howe Fire Apparatus into the early 1960s. They were available in open or closed cab versions.

See More Jeep Fire Equipment Literature for all four pages of the brochure whose cover is seen here, including a list of specifications (275K JPEG).

See also Willys Fire Truck Sketches for a series of drawings from the brochure, of the truck in action.

Commando brochure The fire truck was soon dubbed the "Commando" (a name later recycled by Kaiser Jeep for the 1966-1973 Jeepster Commando.) The name was probably adopted to help distinguish it from the smaller "Jeep Fire Engine" built on the Universal Jeep platform.

Features included a front-mounted 500 GPM pump, heat exchanger to cool the engine during continuous pumping, engine throttle mounted with the pump, 150-gallon baffled tank, booster reel with 150 feet of hose, four storage compartments, running boards and rear step.
Commando brochure Both the General and Howe Commandos had Waterous CF-3 fire pumps, but with slight differences.

On the Generals there is a small panel on top of discharge valves with a compound gauge, tachometer and discharge gauge. The Howe units have the compound gauge on top of the intake, and discharge gauge on top of the discharges. Thanks to Gary Dreyer for this information.

Plate 53-5-6 from Waterous (left) shows the CF-3 pump body, Plate 54-10-7 is the gear assembly, and Plate 52-12-17 is the impeller shaft assembly.

General Fire Truck Co.

Grandville WillysThis Commando built by General of Detroit in 1954, served the city of Grandville, Michigan from 1955 until 1976, and now belongs to Gary Dreyer. Its booster reel sits lower than on the Howe, and its shorter pump platform has a piece of tubing added to protect the intake.

See more photos and details of the trucks from General Fire Truck Co.

Howe Fire Apparatus

Howe WillysThis early-60s hardtop Commando is recognizable as being built by Howe, by the large front platform and the high-mounted booster reel. It was photographed by Jolly Goodfellow in Utah.

See more photos and details of Howe 6-226 Willys Fire Trucks.

Thanks to Jolly Goodfellow and Gary Dreyer. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 17 January 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond