Friday, May 7, 2010

In the beginning........

Ok enough of my fellow antique owners (most especially Frank Billington in Tacoma, Wa.) have started these blogs, and I guess I am falling prey to some sort of subliminal peer pressure. Some strange force in my head has been whispering lately "blog about the about the truck...." So, here we are. I am no stranger to blogging, many of you know that I post items of interest or write occasionally to my "notes" in Facebook. But I suppose that this will be a bit more formal. I hope everyone enjoys the antics, stories, ravings, delusions, and tirades of one antique firetruck owner.

The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company was the partnership of two German immigrants (Zachow and Besserdich) who immigrated to Clintonville, Wisconsin in the early 1900's. They used their German engineering backgrounds to develop a powered steering axle (a very early descendant of the modern-day constant velocity joint) which they installed on their automobile chassis. Being in the middle of the snow belt, the all wheel drive automobile quickly proved it's worthiness in both the winter snow and the spring mud.

Eventually, the F.W.D. Auto Company was formed and incorporated. The manufacture of automobiles was abandoned in favor of larger truck chassis, which were in great demand by the United States Army as well as Great Britain, in anticipation of World War I. Post-War, the F.W.D. Corporation built many different kinds of specialized all-wheel-drive truck chassis. They were in great demand by customers who needed them to operate in inclement weather and whatever remained after the inclement weather. They were also sought by customers not especially interested in the all wheel drive capabilities, but for the quality and durability the trucks also became known for, especially fire apparatus. Many different kinds of fire apparatus were manufactured by F.W.D. starting in the late 1920's up until the mid to late 1970's. Pumpers, Tankers, Aerials, ARFF trucks, Brush rigs, Etc. You name it, they probably built it.

F.W.D. Model F-725, Serial Number F80438 was ordered in December of 1958, by the Bryn Athyn Fire Company, of Bryn Athyn, Pa. It was delivered by the salesman on March 19, 1959. It had a 140GZ Waukeshau gasoline engine, producing 228 horsepower, which powered the all wheel drive chassis through a Clark 5-speed transmission. The fire pump was a 750 GPM Waterous pump, and the truck had a 500 gallon tank. She served the Bryn Athyn Fire Company extremely well throughout the years. My father learned to drive firetrucks and operate fire pumps on this very truck. It is also the very first firetruck I ever rode on. Dad took me to a parade in Bridgeport, Pa. in August of 1976.

The truck eventually grew tired, and a new 1978 Hahn pumper was ordered to replace it. The F.W.D. was sold in July of 1978 to the Harrisonville, NJ (Gloucester County) Fire Company. It served out the rest of it's useful firefighting life in this small farming community in southern NJ up until the year 2001, when it was placed up for sale.

And this is where it all begins......More later. (Photo above of the truck when it was fairly new, probably summer of 1959 or so....)


  1. Randy,

    Nice start to your new blog! I am looking forward to reading your future posts and learning all about your toy and the adventures and trials that go along with it(though I have to admit I am jealous because I don't have my own fire engine!).

  2. FWIW, I grew up in Tacoma, but no longer live there. While my current Pacific Northwest location isn't a "secret" (it's easy to figure it out), I also don't go out of my way to publish it, either. Just FYI, so you know that I'm not in Tacoma any more, lol. ;)

  3. My name is Ed and I live in Salisbury, MD. One of my customers has a 1947 FWD Fire Truck (model KSU). It is in bad shape (I have images that I could email) but there's lot's of parts. Any idea where I could start to get the word out. Collectors, etc.? Thank you. Email is bte52"at"