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Howe Jeep FC Fire Engines


Howe Fire Apparatus of Anderson, Indiana turned out a lot of fire engines on the Jeep Forward Control truck chassis in the late 1950s and early 60's.

Kimball RoadSeen here on display at the 2002 Spring Willys Reunion in Toledo, this FC-170 belongs to Richard Kimball of West Liberty, Ohio. Built as a pumper for service in rural Ohio, it carries suction hose for drafting, a ladder on the right side and front tow rings. It doesn't have much extra equipment stowage. See Howe Jeep Forward Control Pumper for detail photos of this truck and its pump controls.

Parma HeightsThis is the builder's photo of a 1959 unit for Parma Heights, Ohio. It has a 500 GPM pump and 200-gallon tank, with Howe serial number 10428. The larger copy of the photo (50K JPEG) shows the different location of the pressure gauges, between the two mounted lengths of suction hose. It has equipment storage aft of the rear fender. See also a right rear view photo (60K JPEG).

The BronxThis 1964 Howe FC was in service until 2003 with the Edgewater Park Volunteer FD, a volunteer department that still operates in the Bronx in New York City. They purchased the 500 GPM pumper with 200-gallon tank new, and it served as Engine 3 until it was traded in for a 2003 GMC-Isuzu (400K JPEG). Photo by Jack Calderone. See more photos at the FC Connection.

FC-150This one appears to be a carbon-dioxide extinguisher truck. Built on an FC-150 chassis, it carries a battery of CO2 tanks connected to two hose reels. The logo on the door suggests the truck in this factory photo was destined for Lockheed Aircraft.

The "Commando"

Howe CommandoA Howe specs sheet from Andy Harvey's collection indicates that Howe referred to its Forward Control apparatus, at least at some point, as the "Commando". This is surprising, since Willys used the name in the 1950s for the Willys Commando Fire Truck version of its 6-226 truck.

The photos show an FC-170 with a front-mounted pump. I believe Howe was the only apparatus builder to put front-mount pumps on some of its Forward Control trucks.

The "List of Uses" on this sheet recommends the Commando for public institutions, industrial plants, villages, farming areas, and first-run use in larger cities. The small text also mentions mines, oil fields, summer resorts, lumbering operations, airports and ranches. The Super-Hurricane engine is described as having power to spare even on steep terrain and when operating the 500 GPM pump at 150 lbs. pressure.

Howe CommandoThe reverse side of the sheet (240K JPEG) has the factory photo of Parma Heights No.1, and lists "Basic Specifications". It also lists "Suggested Extra Equipment" (at extra cost) including the utility compartments with hinged doors, behind and in front of the rear fenders.

This sheet comes from the "Jeep Approved Equipment" binder (exact date unknown).

Libbey-Owens-Ford Glass

L-O-F, Rossford, Ohio The Libbey-Owens-Ford glass factory in Rossford OH, a suburb of Toledo, at one point employed 3600 workers, and for many years they supplied windshields to the Jeep factory. The company bought Forward Control fire trucks for this plant and two other facilities in North America.

A brief article (170K JPEG) in the May 1958 Jeep News mentioned that the truck for the Rossford plant was produced by Howe. Jeep News did not normally mention other apparatus builders who weren't "factory-approved" -- witness the other truck in the article, built by Reading Truck Body.

FC-170 front Unit 50 was the first of the three FC-170s owned by Libbey-Owens-Ford. This 1958 model was in service at the plant in Rossford, and when the company disbanded their fire departments, Unit 50 was placed on permanent loan to the Jeep House collection at the old factory in Toledo, and as of 2017 is apparently in the Chrysler collection.

See a right rear view (40K JPEG), a left side view and the cab interior (50K JPEGs), photographed in 2000. See also the pump from the front view, the right side and the left side (50K JPEGs).

California A 1962 FC-170 was sent to the L-O-F plant in Lathrop, California. It was Howe model HRS-F, Howe serial no. 11201, and Willys Serial no. 61568-22930. It is now preserved at Willys America, with its Waterous CF-3 500 GPM pump, and 3756 miles on the odometer.

1964 Libbey-Owens-Ford Unit 51, a 1963 Howe-Willys, was bought for the L-O-F plant in Collingwood, Ontario, and was later given to the City of Rossford. In 2001 it was donated to the Toledo Firefighters Museum, who displayed it at Toledo Jeep Fest 2016.

The number 51 doesn't appear on the truck, but is written on the L-O-F key tag (30K JPEG).

1964 Unit 51 was sold in 2023 to Roger Martin, who photographed it on his trailer on the way to Toledo Jeep Fest 2023. Roger found Willys serial number 23716 stamped on the frame, confirming it was a 1963 model. He also found the Howe tags showing Howe serial number 12721 (30K JPEG) and the build date of January 1969 (30K JPEG).

What's not clear is why Howe was converting a 1963 FC in 1969. Possibly L-O-F really liked the FC platform, and wanted compact fire trucks on that chassis, even though by that point FCs hadn't been built by Kaiser Jeep for 4 years.

1964 Roger took this shot of the Waterous pump, an impressive array of machinery. See also a closeup of the tags above the radiator guard, showing the range of operating pressures for the pump (330K JPEG).

North States Aviation FC-170

North States AviationThis 1964 FC-170, Howe serial number 11718, was owned by North States Aviation Sales in Michigan (right). With dual booster reels, and no suction hose mounted, it appears to have been designed for specialized quick response, possibly with foam capability.

A subsequent private owner removed the front pintle hook (see a right side photo, 180K JPEG).

North States Aviation As of 2023 the NSA truck has been sold to a private collection in Houston, where it is being restored. Most of the paint has been brought back to a near-mint shine with four stages of buffing.

Pump controls Here's a before-and-after look at the paint around the Waterous pump controls.

See also a rear view (470K JPEG) of the truck's paintwork shining in the sun.

And see an unusual high angle shot (280K JPEG) of the top of the truck, giving a good look at the booster reels, yet to be painted.

Left With a stuck engine valve freed up, the truck now also runs as good as it looks. The pintle hook has been replaced. The cab roof will likely also require replacement, since rusted spots around the perimeter have been sealed with spray-in foam.

Rear window covered The cab's rear window was completely blocked (110K JPEG) by the bodywork and booster reels, and the glass had been painted red, presumably by Howe. Since the body panel was now rusted out around the glass, it was replaced by a solid panel rather than a new window to be painted over.

See also the CAD drawing (100K JPEG) for the window panel patch.

Dual Rear Wheels Trucks

Bayou La Batre Particularly suited for conversion as a pumper with water tank was the heavy duty FC-170DRW, introduced in 1959. This factory photo from the collection of Steve Hagy shows a 1960 FC-170DRW, serial number 10679, delivered to Bayou La Batre, Alabama (which Steve mentions was the location of the "fishin' hospital" in the movie Forrest Gump.)

Finished The finest surviving example of a Howe DRW is a 1964 FC-170 built by Howe for the U.S. Department of the Interior and delivered to the Hungry Horse Dam in Montana. Over the course of several years it has been accurately restored, with an attention to detail exceeding the original workmanship. It also has an overhead ladder rack not typically found on the Howe FCs.

See a detailed look at this FC: Fully Equipped and Fully Restored.

Willys AmericaIn the collection at Willys America is this FC-170 DRW purchased new by A. O. Smith Corp. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It served from 1960 until November 2000 at their large plant, racking up 6,400 miles. The Howe body has a 300-gallon water tank, an Ansul dry chemical unit, and a front mounted CF-3 500 GPM pump.

Western ElectricThis 1964 FC-170 DRW was apparently bought new by the Western Electric Co. in Princeton NJ. It has a Waterous front-mount pump and equipment cabinets along the full length of the body. This means extinguishers and axes are mounted at the rear (60K JPEG). The low-mileage truck has a very original interior (30K JPEG). I don't know who the current owner is.

FAA FC-170 Howe built this 1960 DRW unit for the Federal Aviation Administration, for use in Naknek, Alaska, where it was retired twenty years later.

FAA FC-170 Craig Thomas inherited the truck seen above from his father in 2012, and turned it into a hot rod fire truck as a tribute to the Pond Reef Fire Department, started by his father north of Ketchikan AK in 1970, and now known as North Tongass FD.

It's a beautiful custom rig, but it no longer has the duallys. See also a rear view (370K JPEG). Thanks to bballchico on Flickr for the photos.

Thanks to Grace Wiggins, Andrew Harvey, Steve Hagy, Bill Brennan, Paul Barry, and Jim Allen. -- Derek Redmond

See also the Howe Fire Apparatus Jeep Production List.

See more Jeep Forward Control Fire Engines.

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Last updated 28 March 2024 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond