Blitz Buggy Fire Fighter


Not to be confused with the nickname sometimes used for the early jeeps of World War II, "Blitz Buggy" was a small company located near the hamlet of Old Forge in upstate New York, which built fire apparatus in the 1950s using stripped-chassis trucks from various manufacturers including Willys.

January 1953 One of the first Willys Blitz Buggies was this 1952 truck with a Hale 150 GPM high-pressure pump, 200-gallon tank and two booster reels. It was sold to the Town of Broome, 120 miles south of Old Forge.

The photo taken in January 1953 by the late William P. Weedmark is courtesy of Bob Brussel.

1955 ad Another photo of possibly the same truck, with the intricate pinstriping but prior to being lettered for Broome, was used in this early advertisement, when the company was known as "Hi-Pressure Fog Equipment Co."

"Blitz Buggy" may not have been the most appropriate name for a truck hauling 200 gallons of water with a four-cylinder engine. But once it got to the fire, the 600 PSI Hale pump and fog nozzle did make the most of the 200 gallons, important for rural fire departments. The trucks, particularly those on a four-wheel-drive Dodge or Willys chassis, were popular in small communities in the nearby Adirondack Mountains.

Thendara NY Walter Lewis "Army" Armstrong (1895-1976) initially called his business "Army's Fire Service" in the 1940s. According to an unpublished Blitz Buggy history by the late H. Paul Koert, Armstrong then formed the Hi-Pressure Fog Equipment Co. in 1949. He built 19 Blitz Buggies under that name, working out of Brussel's Thendara Garage in Thendara NY (which still stands on State Route 28 and has recently been restored as the Adirondack Garage (180K JPEG).

Thendara NY Armstrong's attempt to trademark the Hi-Pressure Fog Equipment name was eventually denied in 1952, and the company was reorganized as the "Blitz Buggy Company." Working with E. Albert Brussel and his son Albert W. Brussel in their Thendara Garage, Armstrong built 19 more trucks between 1954 and 1956. With a few built in other locations, he built a total of 46 vehicles, eleven of them on a Willys chassis. Steel panels for the bodies were pre-cut by the nearby Utica Boiler Works.

Blitz Buggy Willys #7

1964 St. Remy Station 2 in Union Center NY, is seen on 25 May 1964. Chief Charlie Gaston is standing next to the 1954 Blitz Buggy, and George Winslow next to the 1948 International tanker. Photo courtesy of Jim Fairweather.

Paul Koert described this truck as a 1954 Willys 4-cylinder 1-ton, built as a demonstrator shortly before Willys announced that the trucks were now available with the 6-226 engine. It was advertised for $4800 or best offer, and sold to the Rifton NY Fire Department, who later passed it on to St. Remy.

2017 Bill Myers now owns the 1954 Blitz Buggy seen above, built when the company was still operating as Hi-Pressure Fog Equipment. He says, "The information that I have shows that there were eleven Willys trucks built by the company. Mine is #7 of the eight first-generation Willys."

As of 2017 Bill has restored and repainted the truck in yellow. He brought it to the Great Willys Picnic in Pennsylvania in June 2017. Thanks to Bob Westerman for the photo.

Right rear Like the rest of the first eight Blitz Buggy Jeeps, this one has a fog nozzle on the booster line, and Hale high-pressure pump with only a single 2-1/2" inlet and a single 1-1/2" discharge. A rear step was apparently added by either Rifton or St. Remy.

Bill says, "My truck was last in service in St. Remy. It then went to a local construction company that painted it orange. I bought it from them. This truck was originally painted red."

Left frontBill has an interesting story about the truck: "When I purchased it, the lights and siren were gone and it had a snow plow mounted. Some time later I was at a swap meet and I recognized a gauge panel on a table that was identical to my truck. When I questioned the vendor he told me that it had all come off a Willys truck and that the cab and chassis was gone. He had all the equipment. I asked him if I could buy what was left and he refused, so I purchased the panel. The next year at the same show we came to an agreement and I met him in Lake George NY to pick up the remains including the lights and siren.

Left rear "When I got home I put the lights and siren on the roof and dropped the bolts into the existing holes. Perfect fit! As there were only 8 trucks like mine built, I find this amazing."

In addition to now being complete with its equipment, Bill's truck has the Blitz Buggy emblems (50K JPEG) mounted to the body. Paul Koert's list identifies the truck which provided the missing parts as one of two Blitz Buggies that went to Massena NY.

1953 pickup Is this the Massena truck? Michael Eddy in western New York sent this photo in 2017, and said, "I have a sneaky suspicion that I now own the 'donor' truck that Bill eventually got the equipment from. I purchased a 1953 Willys pickup in Colton (30 miles south of Massena.) This truck has a 4-cylinder F-134 motor and 3-speed transmission, with a rear PTO take-off on the transfer case, but no rear shaft or shift lever in the cab for it."

The rear body has been replaced with a stock Willys pickup bed.

Hour meter Michael continues, "It has an hour meter under the hood. It also has a throttle lock and a button marked 'siren' on the dashboard (60K JPEG), and extra springs (120K JPEG) above the rear axle. More importantly, there are still holes in the roof (70K JPEG) that I believe would perfectly fit a set of Trippe lights and a Federal or Sterling light/siren combo unit.

"At the time of purchase I was told it came from an older gentleman who supposedly got it from a fire department somewhere in the Adirondacks in New York."

Aluminum Company of America

1951 The Blitz Buggy company's principal market area was upstate New York, and one of the Jeeps sold in Massena NY went to the Aluminum Company of America plant there. The company, abbreviated at the time as ACOA and later as ALCOA, also bought Blitz Buggies for its facilities in Texas and North Carolina.

The 1951 Jeep sold to the Massena plant was photographed by Bill Weedmark with a temporary sign taped to the door, advertising its sale to ACOA.

1952 This '52 went to ACOA's facility in Badin, North Carolina. It's perhaps the most unusual of the early Willys Blitz Buggies, with the optional ladder rack, two booster reels, chromed Trippe flashing lights on the roof, and particularly the silver paint job which perhaps was intended to look like aluminum. Photographer Bill Weedmark of Old Forge was on hand as usual to get a shot of the brand new truck.

2014 The silver paint was apparently replaced with traditional red at some point. This truck, which appears to be the same one, was sold in 2014 on eBay, described as a 1951 3/4-ton truck with 6,048 miles, used at the Alcoa works in Badin. It still had a 6-volt electrical system, PTO pump and two Hannay reels.

See also the right side and the cab interior (260K JPEGs).

1954 A 1-ton Jeep with the Hale 150 GPM pump and 200-gallon tank was delivered in December 1954 to the Aluminum Company of America facility in Point Comfort, Texas, where it was in service until 1992. H. Paul Koert says this '54, with the new three-bar front grille, was the last truck sold by the Hi-Pressure Fog Equipment Co., and was actually completed by the new Blitz Buggy Co.

The "Little Demon"

Later Willys Blitz Buggies had a revised design with a larger overhead rack for ladders and suction hose, and a front-mounted Darley 500 GPM Class A pump. This new model was dubbed the "Little Demon."

1956 Blitz Buggy #28 was a 1956 Little Demon which went to Caroga Lake NY.

The Darley Champion pump has both 4" and 2-1/2" intakes, and an unusual feature is that both sizes of suction hose are mounted overhead, along with a 24-foot extension ladder. The Little Demon still carried 200 gallons of water.

2022 The '56 would be the fifth survivor I know of, out of eleven trucks built on a Willys chassis. It was sold online in March 2022. It has apparently original white paint with pinstriping as done by Al Brussel, and the original "Volunteer Fire Department" lettering, although it had served four different departments.

1956 It was delivered to Caroga Lake in November 1956 and later went to Stratford VFD, Cranberry Lake VFD and Frenchwoods VFD, all in New York state.

Blitz Buggies were not big on storage space. Aside from the hose bed with room for 1200 feet of hose, there was only one compartment for a Scott Air-Pak and a small one for nozzles and tools.

Tank The high-pressure fog nozzle is still in place as of 2022. The cab (250K JPEG) is in great shape, with the exception of a missing horn button. The bench seat is so good that I assume it has been reupholstered. Thanks to Otto John De Jager for the photos.

Right side When it was sold the truck had less than 7,000 miles on the odometer (100K JPEG) and a rebuilt flathead 6-cylinder engine, and still carried the original builder's plate (280K JPEG).

2022 The purchaser removed the pump and repainted the truck. It was sold again in December 2022, and apparently the pump is still with it, so hopefully a restoration will be completed.

1956 The firefighters in Pilot Knob NY used half of the hose bed to carry a portable pump and other equipment. It's a little surprising that they didn't ask for more storage compartments, since according to Paul Koert this '56 1-ton was the first Little Demon built, and the Pilot Knob VFD helped design it.

The truck was painted red when Bill Weedmark photographed it in May 1956. See also the side view (380K JPEG) and rear view (280K JPEG). Thanks to Joe Raymond.

Blue This may be the Pilot Knob truck, repainted in blue. Gene Kelso ran across it a few years ago and sent a photo, but he didn't have a chance to get any details. I would be interested in hearing from anybody who has any information on this survivor.

1958 The last Little Demon built by the Blitz Buggy Co. was this 1958 6-cylinder truck sold to the American Legion Mountain Camp at Tupper Lake NY, a 1200-acre resort and convalescent care facility for veterans and their families on Horseshoe Lake in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.

ALF ad A version of the Blitz Buggy Fire Fighter with a foam system was sold under the name "Little Mo" as a crash truck for small airports, using a Dodge or Chevrolet chassis. See a 1955 Chev Little Mo (150K JPEG) now owned by the Goodsell Museum in Old Forge. Originally purchased by Blue Mountain Lake in 1956 from Army's Fire Service, it was in service until June 1987. See also the builder's plate (120K JPEG).

Not included in the 46 trucks sold by Walter Armstrong's companies were some additional Little Mo trucks built under license by Young Fire Equipment Co. of Buffalo during 1954-1957, and after that agreement ended, by American LaFrance of Elmira NY during 1958-1960.

Thanks to Bob Brussel, son of E. Albert Brussel and brother of Al Brussel. Also the late William P. Weedmark and the late Paul Koert, Bill Myers, Gene Kelso, and Chief Dale Barker of the Edwards NY VFD. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 14 January 2023 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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