Howe CJ-2A Fire Engines


Perhaps the most common of the Jeep fire engines was the CJ-2A conversion done from 1946-49 for Willys-Overland by various manufacturers, particularly Howe Fire Apparatus of Anderson, Indiana. Many survive in private collections, museums, and even still in service.

1945 CJ-2A

1945 CJ-2A One of the earliest surviving Howe Jeeps is this column-shift 1945 CJ-2A owned by Art and Darlene Gloss in Missouri since 1988, and photographed by Bob Christy in 2014. The Jeep was originally sold to a lumber company near Sandpoint, Idaho, and later joined the Sandpoint Fire Department, where it racked up a little over 2,000 miiles. It's complete with a Spen 200-gallon trailer.

In Service, 2022

1946 CJ-2A Here's a CJ-2A that's unusual in a couple of respects. First of all, as of 2022 this 1946 Jeep is still in service with the Langdon, New Hampshire Fire Department. While keeping it operational, they like to take it to shows, and Jim Topham grabbed these photos at the Amoskeag Reserve Engine Company Show and Muster in Epsom NH in 2019.

1946 CJ-2A The other thing that's unique about the Langdon Jeep is the extended hose bed that turns it into a functional hose wagon as well as an effective mini-pumper with its well-maintained business end (460K JPEG).

1946 CJ-2A Jim Topham caught the L-head engine running the Barton pump at the muster in Epsom. The hood-mounted siren on a Howe Jeep limits how far the hood can open, and requires a latch on the overhead rack.

See another shot of the pump in action, during a July 2021 drill (150K JPEG), courtesy of the Langdon Fire Department on Facebook.

Have Water, Will Travel... Slowly

CJ-2A in northern Michigan This CJ-2A was photographed by David Hatch in northern Michigan in the late 1990s. The overhead rack was missing the ladder, but carried two lengths of suction hose for drafting from a pond.

The tank trailer would allow putting the booster hose into operation even without a water source, although departments often found that the weight of that 200 gallons made driving uphill (or braking downhill) a challenge for the little Jeep.

1955 Here's the same Jeep, in service in Gay, Michigan in 1955. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives.

Trailer The water trailer and booster reel were originally connected directly to the Barton pump (50K JPEG) full-time, by hoses beside the hitch, making this a fully-equipped first-response fire engine.

See also a closer view of the hosebed (60K JPEG)

Interior The spartan interior is basically stock, but includes a small Howe data plate on the dash (30K JPEG).

The photo location is on the south shore of Lake Superior, at the northern tip of the Keweenah Penninsula.

Stock(yard) Jeep

1949 CJ-2A This Jeep was listed for sale online a couple of times in the early 2000s, described variously as a 1947 or 1949 CJ-2A. It was reportedly used at a stockyard in Missouri, and later driven in parades to promote Kovac's Hometown Foods in St. Joseph MO.

Interestingly the Howe Fire Apparatus Jeep Production List shows a CJ-2A with Howe serial number 7932 sold to the St. Joseph Stockyards, but lists it as a 1946.

1949 CJ-2A The Jeep still has the Barton pump and some of the other equipment, although the hose is gone, as is the equipment basket above the hose bed. In 1949, this Howe 2A complete with all equipment would have cost about $4300.

1949 CJ-2A The cab of the Jeep Fire Engine was pretty spartan -- the pump controls were on the front grille. Howe took delivery of the Jeeps from Willys with the optional passenger seat, as well as heavy duty springs and radiator, and an engine speed governor.

There is a Howe builder's plate on the dash of this 2A, but the serial number is not visible.

More Survivors

MinneapolisThis CJ-2A may never have actually been in service. It's used by the Aqua Jesters clown club, who have been entertaining crowds in Minneapolis since 1946. Darlyne Erickson of the Aqua Jesters told me in 2018, "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. 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."

Hall of Flame 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. According to the museum, it was used originally at a large farm in Wisconsin. It was then sold to museum founder George F. Getz, Jr. who loaned it to the Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Fire Department for over ten years. Lake Geneva returned it to the Hall of Flame in 1984, and it was refurbished by Don Hale in 1991.

Mumford CJ-2AHere's a very distinctive 1947 CJ-2A which is also preserved in a museum. Brushfire 4726 was still in active service as of 2002 with the Mumford Fire Department in New York state, and is now part of their museum collection. It has a 350 GPM front pump and 110-gallon tank, with the booster hose stowed on the hood.

1947Willys 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

See also Boyer CJ-2A Fire Engines.

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Last updated 23 November 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond