Home     Honor     Contact

FAQ    Links     Marine Hymn

Photos     Schedule     Specifications

Story     The Wall

Sponsor     Disclaimer



This is our "new" 1953 Ford F-600 fire truck. It is a Ford 50th Anniversary (1903-1953) vehicle.

On March 1, 2001 we purchased it from the Bourbon Fire Protection District in Crawford County, Bourbon, Missouri. Bourbon is a small farm community of about 1,200 people on old US Route 66 about 75 miles southwest of St. Louis. Interstate 44 now is the main route through this area to Kansas City and the town has a small retail and service presence at their single exit along this busy highway.

Originally it had a Ford 239 cui V-8 (flathead) gas engine, which was rated for 96 hp @ 3,400 rpm. In 1964 when it was being driven fully loaded with water and equipment about 90 mph on a fire run the motor failed. This is not a surprise under the circumstances!

They replaced the motor on October 17, 1964 with a new 292 cui Ford OHV industrial engine. It is rated for 140 hp @ 2,800 rpm, which also has a great deal of torque. There is a master electrical switch, a keyed switch and a starter button. As is usual for vehicles of the day, there is also a manually operated choke. The original motor also had a dashboard mounted throttle, also common for a vehicle of this era.

It starts quite easily, even when cold; provided it is choked properly and given the proper amount of gas. Once warmed up a single push of the starter button fires it up almost every time. It is very slow off the line, but does quite well on the highway once it gets going. 

It has a 4 speed synchro-silent manual transmission, with a single speed axle and 6.8 ratio. First gear is rarely needed unless fully loaded, on a steep grade and starting from a standing stop, so it operated primarily as a 3-speed. The clutch is easy to engage and once one is familiar with where the gears are, it is quite easy to shift.

The truck has 2 - 7.50 x 20-8 tires on the front and 4 - 8.25-20 tires on the back. Trucks of this era have tires mounted on "split rim" wheels. The wheelbase is only 154 in, so it turns easily too. It does not have power steering. 

It has vacuum brakes with 13" front and 15" rear brake drums. The brakes need to be pumped gently before engaging. There also is a Lever Lock brake for holding the truck stationary while pumping. A hand operated parking brake is standard, but has been disconnected because of the Lever Lock brake.

This F-600 is rated for 16,000 lbs GVW. We estimate the weight as rigged with the water pump, two hose reels with 1" hose, tool compartments (empty), ladder, etc. to be about 8,500 lbs. If the hose bed were filled with 2.5" hose (dry), nozzles and connections it would be about another 600-800+ pounds. With the 500 gallon water tank filled, it would be about another 2,500 pounds, so fully rigged and loaded without any personnel it would weigh about 12,000 pounds.

It drives quite well for a truck of this age, size and type, although by modern standards it would not be considered quiet or smooth. At highway speeds it bounces more if the tank is empty or especially if only partially filled. It has a high profile so windy conditions require a bit more diligence on the open road too. 

It gets a little less than 8 mpg on the highway, and maybe 5-6 mpg in town. Weight seems to have very little impact on gas mileage. With only a 20 gallon tank it has a very limited range by modern standards, although as a fire truck it was not expected to go very far. At the same time when it arrived at the fire scene, it may have been called upon to pump water continuously for many hours. 

Truck #2 was in-service almost continuously since purchased in about October 1953 and was very well maintained. It answered many fire calls over the years, but apparently never went on a fire call farther than the MFA fire in St. Clair, MO about 22 miles northeast of Bourbon. It only had 15,127 original miles when purchased.

This truck is a “pumper” with a 500 gallon steel water tank. The Type CA-4 5--600 Centrifugal Fire Pump was built by the Waterous Co. of St. Paul, MN and Central Fire Truck Corp. of St. Louis, MO built the pump controls, fire hose bed, fire hose reels, etc. The pump has a rating of 500 gallons per minute at 120 psi. It runs off of the V-8 motor with PTO. The water pump was last certified in 1992.

It has 2-sections of 3" suction hose and there is a single inlet for filling the water tank.


Truck #2 was bought new by the City of Bourbon and they used and maintained it until 1978 when they consolidated fire protection into one Fire Protection District . Licensed as Bourbon Fire Protection District #672, the truck came with the original 1953 Ford Truck Operator's Manual, the 1952 Waterous Co. Operating Instructions, and the 1963 Ford Industrial Engines and Power Units Owner's Manual. 

The Bourbon FPD still has Truck #1, which is a 1939 Chevy. They use it in local parades and other special events.


Truck #2 was originally red but was painted white (see the inside cab) apparently when the new motor was installed in 1964. The fire wall in the engine compartment and he interior of the cab is white too. 

It was converted from a 6-volt positive ground electrical system to a 12-volt negative ground system evidently at the same time. They painted it high visibility lime green in about 1986 when they added the tool compartments on the driver's side for use as a combination rescue-pumper unit.


For the time being there will be few changes made to the truck. The modern emergency light and siren have been removed and will be replaced with a Federal Model 14 "gumball" style emergency light. The fender mounted Federal Model WL Light/Siren works and will be restored too.  Seatbelts and some other safety updates will be added too.

The truck will always be Truck #2 and proudly have Bourbon Fire Protection District on it.

Eventually the tool compartment will be removed and the original profile restored. It may be repainted, probably something close to the fire engine red of that era.

This will be a real "fire" truck, not a just a "pumper" truck. Mortars, flame projectors, sparkle pots, gerb holders and other pyrotechnic devices will be mounted in the hose bed and special brackets on it for use at parades and other special events.

All photos courtesy of the Bourbon Fire Protection District

© April  2001, OOO-RAH Fire Department , La Crosse, WI USA. All rights reserved worldwide.

Revised February 25, 2006