The U.S. federal "Emergency Medical Services Systems Act" of 1973, passed by a strong Senate vote in the face of a veto by President Nixon, mandated a massive overhaul of EMS policy and procedures. It included training for paramedics, and requirements for ambulances to be bigger, safer and better-equipped. Senator Cranston of California wrote to producer Jack Webb to thank him for the role his TV show Emergency! had played in making the public aware of a medical idea whose time had come.(1)
The Horton Company in Grove City, Ohio, was well positioned to take advantage of the demand for the new van-based and modular EMS vehicles. Since 1968, its founder Carl Horton had been building van-based ambulances, seeing them as safer and more functional than the station wagons or hearse-based "professional cars" of the past.(2)
But now that other emergency vehicle builders had caught up with him, Carl Horton apparently decided to continue innovating. Identifying a potential market for an off-road-capable EMS vehicle, his company put ambulance bodies on a half dozen Jeep CJ-8 Scramblers in 1981. Horton had applied in the summer of 1980 for patents on an "ambulance" and an "ambulance trailer or the like," suggesting that he may also have had trailers in mind as a way to get more capacity off road.(3)
An advertisement for The Horton ATM (All Terrain Medic) reveals that there were also plans for an ATR (All Terrain Rescue) version; the only difference listed is "interior and exterior compartments." It's not clear whether any of the ATR units were actually built.
The front passenger seat was removed, and a stretcher platform extended feet first into the cab, beside the driver. The attendant's seat was placed rearward facing, behind the driver.
Despite the neat integration of the ambulance module with the Scrambler's front bodywork, the ad mentions "changeover capability, from chassis to chassis." It also claims, "The Horton ATM work space will surprise you! The all-aluminum interior includes cabinetry for all medical supplies; oxygen; suction; stretcher; splints; CPR capability; cot; bucket-style attendant seat; interior lighting package."
But in an era of increasing space inside ambulances, paramedics were apparently unwilling to squeeze into a shorter, narrower cabin in order to have the advantage of better access to the occasional off-road incident, and only the initial six (or possibly ten) demo units were built.
The only photo I know of showing a Horton ATM in service, was taken when one was being tested for use on New York City beaches. Mark Peck (EMT-P, FDNY Ret) has written in his History of the New York City Emergency Medical Service that "New York City EMS field tested this vehicle for use on the Coney Island, Rockaway and Orchard Beach recreational areas, but did not purchase. The Jeep proved too small, with limited ability for airway control or CPR, and were not purchased."(4)
As of 2014, the ATM has been getting some online attention due to one of the original units, with 33,730 miles, being offered on eBay. After being listed a number of times with a minimum bid of US$25,000, the November 2014 listing (with some improved photos) has a starting price of ten percent less.
The seller states, "The unit was designed as a backup unit and for off road rescue applications. Due to their high cost they never caught on. My ATM was acquired in 1992 in Beckley, WVA and I am the only owner to date. It's time to pass the vehicle on."
At least two of the other All Terrain Medics have also been preserved. This example reveals Horton's traditional willingness to customize details, in this case apparently for use in a remote area: winch on the front, windshield spotlights, litter carrier on the roof, fewer warning lights.
This photo courtesy of Tim Turner shows it labelled for "South Fork Ambulance" but I don't know where the vehicle is currently located.
This one belongs to Gold Cross EMS in Augusta, Georgia, whose website states that Horton produced six of the Medic version, and six of the Rescue version without patient transport capability, and that they were unsuccessful due to the small size for the price.
"In 1982 two of the patient transport Jeeps were purchased for Supervisor vehicles at Metro Ambulance Service in Marietta, Georgia. They were small, maneuverable in tight spots and could traverse most any slick grass medians on the interstates regardless of the weather. They proved most useful during the annual infrequent snow days in the South!"(5)
When those two ATM's were retired, one was sold and converted for personal use, and in 1997 the other was placed back into service by Gold Cross in their Bike Medic Patrol. It has now been retired again, and become part of the impressive historical ambulance collection maintained by Gold Cross, which also includes a Kaiser M725 military ambulance.
Storage shelves with sliding glass doors hold medical supplies beside the stretcher, and equipment is carried in a number of other storage compartments.
The ATM listed on eBay in 2014 also appears to be in excellent condition, and repainted. See additional photos of the storage wall beside the stretcher (100K JPEG), the Scrambler's cab (120K JPEG) and the AMC 258 straight-six engine (140K JPEG).
Let's hope some institution comes up with the funding to keep this rare vehicle preserved in its original condition, because it's easy to understand the appeal of turning it into a one-person, go-anywhere camper.
Thanks to Gary Urbanowicz for sending the NYC EMS photo. Furher information on any of the Horton Scramblers is welcome. -- Derek Redmond
See also a Mountain Rescue CJ-3B in Italy.
See more Jeep Ambulances in Fire Service Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
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