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The Rarest Brands in the Top 100 Collections

Photo credit: American-LaFrance, Wheelsage

Considered by many as the biggest name in the history of fire engines in the United States of America, it’s safe to say that the American-LaFrance company had the greatest influence on the design of the fire trucks that we can admire on the streets today.

Collectors who are partial to special vehicles will recognise the American-LaFrance brand, over a hundred years of history at the forefront of firefighting vehicles

No wonder: the extent and rapidity with which America developed in those years and continues to develop to this day, brought with it an increased risk of fires. Hence the development of formidable means to combat them, boosted further by the pride of those who do the difficult job of the Firefighter. Hence the need to design efficient vehicles like no other. 

Works of art: a 1904 American-LaFrance horse-drawn steamer

The most famous brand to design and manufacture these vehicles was American-LaFrance which, in 1910, began putting together the experiences of numerous manufacturers who came before it. The principal innovation was the transition from steam-powered vehicles to internal combustion engines for tanker trucks, ladder trucks and a whole family of specialized vehicles.

Firefighters have always been proud of the equipment that helps them beat back the flames. This is the American-LaFrance Type 75 from 1915

Among the many other innovations introduced over the years to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these vehicles, American-LaFrance “invented” the cab forward design, taking advantage of the opportunity given by the heavy weight of the rear of the vehicle to place the driver ahead of the front axle and provide an expansive forward view. 

1923, experience teaches: in addition to the traditional bell to move traffic out of the way, powerful spotlights were introduced to illuminate the scene of a fire in the dark

The year was 1945 and this solution that afforded the driver better maneuverability and visibility is still in vogue today. This idea was picked up by a growing number of competitors. Vehicles of this type also require high performance in order to be moved from one location to another quickly and the competition became too aggressive, signaling the demise of this historic manufacturer that has since become the doyen for specialist collectors of this type of vehicle. 

America, the land of very tall buildings, required very long ladders. American-LaFrance proposed this folding ladder vehicle in 1945

Those that do collect these vehicles are as few as they are passionate, while firefighting vehicles can often be seen in museums or even in the headquarters of fire brigade companies. 

In 1964 American-LaFrance introduced this less fascinating fire engine that was nevertheless cheaper than the rest of the range

We have put together a selection of them for you and we’re curious to know if, among those who follow us, someone thinks they might one day become a collector of this means of transport that were born and to protect us all. 

The cab forward design, clearly evident on this 1985 Century Fire Engine, was a brainchild of American-LaFrance who introduced it way back in 1945. This solution makes manoeuvring easier and increases visibility