Perhaps the most common of the Jeep fire engines was the CJ-2A conversion done for Willys-Overland by a number of manufacturers from 1946-49. Many of them survive in private collections, museums, and even still in service.
A very original CJ-2A fire engine is in service with this clown club in Minneapolis. The Aqua Jesters was formed in 1946 by a group of executives in the Minneapolis area, many of them from the Star Tribune newspaper. It was an all men's club until 1976 when women were invited to join, and is now a mixture of men and women from 21 to 93, who enjoy entertaining children of all ages.
Darlyne Erickson of the Aqua Jesters told us, "The story goes that a few of the guys drove to wherever these Jeeps were made and picked it up new and drove it back to Minneapolis. We have the new sales brochures somewhere. It's only used in the summer in parades and stored throughout the winter. It's been repainted and actually runs great... almost. The other day it died on us, and hopefully we'll get it up and running soon."
The CJ-2A seen here was bought new in 1948 by the Municipality of St-Esprit, Quebec. In service for 47 years, it accumulated only 2481 miles. The rack supporting the hoses was replaced in 1980, and the Jeep was repainted in 1985. It is now owned by firefighter Rene Lemieux, who worked with the vehicle in active service from 1988 until its retirement in 1995, and is now looking for an original hose rack. See also a rear view photo (30K JPEG).
The builder's plate on the Jeep reads, "Genuine Willys Jeep Equipment, Model S1, Sterling Machine & Mfg. Co. Ltd." This company, located in Owen Sound, Ontario, also built trailers (120K JPEG), which have a similar builder's plate (80K JPEG).
Jan Morrison provided some more background on Sterling Machine & Mfg.: "Between 1945 and 1950 they produced fire trucks for Canadian customers using designs licensed from American Fire Apparatus Company of Battle Creek, Michigan. The trucks were marked Sterling Machine & Mfg., but were identical to those produced by AFA in Michigan for the US market.
"AFA's parent company was American Marsh Pumps, also of Battle Creek MI. They opened a Canadian division and manufacturing facility in Cambridge ON in 1951. It was called American Marsh Pumps Canada Ltd. Starting with the 1951 model year, they produced AFA trucks in Canada. All the trucks built by the Canadian division are marked with chrome trim saying "American Marsh Pumps (Canada) Ltd. Stratford Ontario". The US trucks were plated for American Fire Apparatus Co. The US parent company was sold to new owners in 1960, and they closed the Canadian operation in 1965."
This former West Vancouver 1947 CJ-2A is reportedly another Sterling conversion, and was in service from 1948 to 1989. The overhead ladder and suction hose was removed to make the vehicle more stable, and according to Shane MacKichan, its original American Marsh 300 GPM pump was also removed. It has been restored by the West Vancouver Fire Service Museum and Archives Society, with a 160 GPM Barton pump (70K JPEG). Photo courtesy West Vancouver Fire Service Museum.
Another 1947 CJ-2A, in Milk River, Alberta, looks like it may also be a Sterling unit. Purchased in 1949 after a church fire, its last fire was in 1993, just before it was restored. The racks for rolled hose on the front fenders are an unusual feature. Photo courtesy West Vancouver Fire Service Museum.
Bill Wheeler photographed an early Howe CJ-2A fire engine owned by Art Gloss, at the Spring Willys Reunion in Wasau, Wisconsin in May 2001.
This 2A was restored by members of the West Fargo Fire Department in North Dakota.
A restored 1948 Howe conversion with Barton single stage 500 GPM pump is on display at the Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting in Phoenix, Arizona. It was apparently originally purchased by a private farm in Wisconsin.
Here's a beauty of a CJ-2A, still in active service as of 2002. Brushfire Unit 4726 is a 1947 Jeep belonging to the Mumford Fire Department in New York state. It has a 350 GPM front pump and 110-gallon tank, and the MFD describes its mission as "grass fires/inaccessible areas/water supply."
A well-worn but basically complete CJ-2A (apparently "Old No.1" of some department) is squeezed in with the collection of fire engines at Willys America in California. See a rear view photo (70K JPEG) also by Bill Brennan.
Willys CJ-2A serial number 1161701 belongs to Tremaine Cooper, who says, "It was used at a hunting and fishing club in Pennsylvania from new until 2002. It has 2,300 miles and original (faded) paint. All the fire gear including all nozzles, both ladders etc. are still with the vehicle. The '48 inspection sticker is even still on the windshield."
Thanks to Gordon Church, Bill Brennan, Bill Wheeler, Tremaine Cooper and Dale Jonas. -- Derek Redmond
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