Howe 6-226 Willys Fire Trucks


Howe Fire Apparatus in Anderson, Indiana was one of two regular builders of the factory-authorized Willys Commando fire truck in the 1950s and 60's. Based on the 4WD L-6 226 Jeep truck, the Commando was often shown in advertising (170K JPEG) in the traditional North American open cab apparatus style. But certainly by the 1960s, the trend was away from the easy access and visibility of the open cabs, to the safety and comfort of closed cabs, and the Willys was most often sold in a closed-cab version.

Willys AmericaPaul and Jane Barry of Willys America own this closed-cab 1957 truck, Willys serial no. 55168 14942. Howe designated it as model HRS F, serial no. 10063. It shows 3309 miles and has a Waterous CF-3 500 GPM pump, but its history is unknown.

Howe 10313 Mark Smazik of Lockport IL restored Howe engine 10313, originally sold to Woodville State Hospital in Pennsylvania in 1958 (see the Howe Jeep Production List.)

Mark says, "I purchased the Willys in October of '03 from a private collector in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The engine originally served at Woodville, an insane asylum. It was later sent to Western and Haverford State Hospitals. I was undecided on how to name it, but I did want my daughter's name on it somehow; hence her name Melanie plus Woodville became Melville.

"The engine was in decent condition but did need some T.L.C. My initial plan was a quick buff and detail. After getting deeper into the fire engine it became apparent that I would do more than my first plans. The motor was removed and freshened. Engine compartment painted and detailed, and the entire body was stripped to bare metal. Epoxy primer was applied and body work done. The vast majority of the work was done by me in my home shop. I did hire a two-man painting crew to apply the single stage Valspar urethane to the exterior.

"On the right front fender is a Mars DL wagger light (see a right front view, 60K JPEG.) A friend of mine had them laying in his shop and sent them my way. After restoration I felt the WL siren on the left fender looked lonely. The DL was too neat to leave on the shelf. The photo was taken at the American Truck Historical Society convention in Auburn, Indiana in June of '05. The 1949 Diamond T coal truck seen in the background belongs to my Father -- I consider him one of the finest restorers around."

Howe Fire Apparatus
The Howe emblem is riveted to the deluxe bodywork of their Willys trucks behind the driver's door. It identifies them as being built in Anderson, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis.

Almost as distinctive on the Howe trucks is the diamond-plate skirting connecting the front fenders to the larger pump platform, which differentiates them from the earlier Commandos built by General Fire Truck.

Jolly Goodfellow photo The Howe Commandos can also typically be identified by the height of the booster reel, projecting above the top of the cab. The General Commandos mounted the booster reel lower.

This unit was photographed by Jolly Goodfellow in the 1990's in Ogden, Utah.

Deluxe design Standard features on the Commando were 150-gallon water tank, 42-cu.ft. hose compartment, 150-ft. booster reel capacity, remote pump control, and heat exchanger cooling for continuous pump operation.

Front mounted pump The Waterous pump was typically 500 GPM capacity. The Howe front pump platform extended further forward than the General conversions, protecting the pump intake. Separate gauges on top of the intake and discharge are also different from a General's small panel with multiple gauges above the discharge valves.

Info sheet p.1 This sheet from a "Jeep Approved Equipment" binder (exact date unknown), shows both the closed-top and less-common open-top version of the Commando.

The first item in the "List of Uses" reads: "For first run calls in larger cities thus eliminating the necessity to make runs with heavier, more costly equipment." But Willys did not have a great deal of success with this intended market; I have the impression that big city departments were cautious and firefighters' union locals were often opposed to the idea of smaller first-line pumpers with less manpower.

Info sheet p.2 The reverse side of the sheet lists "Basic Specifications" and includes a photo showing "Howe Commando lifting water 15 feet perpendicularly from river and discharging 500 GPM at 150 lbs. pressure." It also lists "Suggested Extra Equipment" (at extra cost) including the utility compartments with hinged doors behind and in front of the rear fenders, and "standard 3-man closed cab altered to form open 3-man semi cab."

Thanks to Mark Smazik, Jolly Goodfellow and Paul Barry. -- Derek Redmond

See also Howe fire trucks in Yellowstone Park.

See other manufacturers of Willys Fire Trucks.

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Last updated 21 April 2021 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond