America’s Fire Engine

The American-LaFrance 700 Series, 1947–1959


In stock (can be backordered)

About the Book

As World War II drew to a close, America’s premier fire apparatus builder—the American-LaFrance Foamite Corp. of Elmira, N.Y.—bet the company’s future on its radical new cab-ahead-of-engine 700 Series fire engines. In a spectacular gamble to capture the superheated postwar market, all of the company’s existing products were discontinued and its customers were essentially told to “take it or leave it.” This bold gamble paid off and 700 Series rigs soon filled firehouses across the nation, sweeping aside all competitors and ultimately defining the breakthrough 700 as “America’s Fire Engine.” This is the first comprehensive history of the game-changing 700. Individual chapters detail not only each of the eight major vehicle types but also the origins, design controversies, manufacturing, and marketing of the 700 and short-lived transitional 800 Series. The book includes a meticulously researched registry of every 700/800 series apparatus delivered, supported by many interpretive tables detailing production, specifications and major fire department fleets.

About the Author(s)

An internationally known fire apparatus historian, Walter M.P. McCall has written 22 automotive history books—12 of them on fire apparatus. His two encyclopedias on the subject are considered the “bible” of the field. He has also written numerous articles and features for national and regional fire apparatus and emergency vehicle hobby publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario.

Growing up a short distance from the Toronto Fire Department’s Yorkville Avenue station made Alan M. Craig an early fan of the American-LaFrance 700 Series and launched a half century of fire apparatus photography and his 35-year career in emergency services. As a fire service historian, he has spent four decades documenting not only American-LaFrance but also the Toronto Fire Department’s motorized fire apparatus, and the Department’s Fire Alarm Telegraph system. He lives in Palm Springs, California.

Bibliographic Details

Walter M.P. McCall and Alan M. Craig

Format: softcover (8.5 x 11)
Pages: 390
Bibliographic Info: 435 (34 in color) photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8920-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4820-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments    vi
Delivery Lists, Production Tables and 700 and 800 Series Deliveries    viii
Preface    1
Chapter  1—Prologue 5
Chapter  2—Genesis: Bringing the 700 Series to Market 9
Chapter  3—Pumpers 21
Chapter  4—Son of 700: The ­Ill-Fated 800 Series 51
Chapter  5—Industrial Foamite Airfoam Pumpers 59
Chapter  6—Airport ­Crash-Fire-Rescue Pumpers 72
Chapter  7—High Ambitions: The ­American-LaFrance Steel Aerial Ladder 88
Chapter  8—­Straight-Frame Aerial Ladders 101
Chapter  9—­Tractor-Drawn Aerial Ladders 123
Chapter 10—Quads and City Service Ladder Trucks 152
Between pages 170 and 171 are 16 color plates containing 34 photographs
Chapter 11—Squads and Other Specials 171
Chapter 12—Engines and Pumps 188
Chapter 13—Elmira’s Canadian Cousins 198
Chapter 14—Major Fleets: The Best Customers 212
Chapter 15—Home of the 700: The Elmira Factory 220
Chapter 16—Promoting the Product: 700 Series Advertising and Sales Brochures 227
Chapter 17—700 Series Model Designations 238
Chapter 18—The Details: The 700 Series Spotter’s Guide 243
Chapter 19—America’s Fire Engine: How the 700 Series Affected Our Culture 254
Chapter 20—Epilogue 260
Chapter 21—By the Numbers: Synopsis of Production 266
Chapter 22—Registry of Deliveries 274
Bibliography    361
Index    363

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Any enthusiast will enjoy searching for familiar cities and towns in the register, and owners will enjoy finding their engine’s roots in the registry.”—Old Cars Weekly

• “America’s Fire Engine is the best new book about fire apparatus to be published in a long time. … The book is a masterpiece about a masterpiece. … With [this book], Walt McCall and Alan M. Craig have written the definitive history of the most important and iconic fire engine—the American-LaFrance 700 Series.”—Enjine-Enjine, the official journal of SPAAMFAA, the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Motor Apparatus in America

• “Comprehensive…extensive details”—FAJ

• “An informatively and profusely illustrated history that is highly recommended as a unique and invaluable addition to personal, community, and academic library, American Automotive History collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.”—Midwest Book Review