John P. Ahrens and Charles H. Fox of Cincinnati, Ohio, built their first motorized fire engine in 1911 just as the curtain was closing on the days of horse drawn apparatus. Motorized trucks were faster easier to house, and could withstand the rigors of duty better than horses, particularly in extreme conditions. Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company went on to produce some of the finest, fastest and most exquisitely constructed fire engines in America, battling their chief rivals at American LaFrance for the top spot in the industry. Ahrens-Fox apparatus is often considered the Rolls-Royce of fire trucks; such is their quality and attention to detail. For 1936, Ahrens-Fox pulled out all the stops with the model B-T. While the “standard” H-T models were fitted with rugged and reliable 935 cubic inch Hercules six-cylinder engines, the B-T utilized a massive 1,140 cubic inch Ahrens-Fox-built power plant that put out well over 100 horsepower. Beautifully built, but expensive in their day, fewer than 10 B-Ts were produced, comparted to 65 H-T models, making it a highly collectible piece of American history.
This breathtaking 1936 Ahrens-Fox Model B-T wears registration number 4017, and was originally delivered to the Mount Vernon, NY fire department on December 11th, 1936. It has been exquisitely restored and fully detailed from top to bottom, now presented in period correct F.D.M.V. livery. The Model B-T was the absolute finest of its kind, and is an extraordinary looking machine. With its graceful front fenders, long, tapered hood, one-piece contoured windshield and wide rear body, the Model B-T is a stunning visual combination of style and firefighting efficiency. Built for speed and power, it has just two seats up front, with additional platforms and handles for “riders” in the rear. The B-T model’s “Big Bertha” inline-six is a massive twin-plug unit that displaces an astounding 1,140 Cubic Inches (that’s nearly nineteen liters). When combined with the six-piston pump mounted ahead of the engine, the B-T could move a tremendous 1,250 gallons of water per minute at 120 psi. The signature of an Ahrens-Fox pumper is the large chrome sphere that sits atop the pump. The clever and innovative sphere acts as a chamber for pressurized air and helps to smooth pump action, thereby smoothing output at the hose and reducing fire-fighter fatigue. Ahrens and Fox considered every aspect of this piece of functional art.
Today, number 4017 presents in beautifully restored condition and is surely one of the best examples in existence. The extensive chrome and bright work has been plated to show quality standards. It is fully detailed with appropriate wooden ladders, canvas hose, chrome bells, chrome lamps, side mounted tools and gold leaf lettering – all beautifully restored. The engine bay is correctly detailed with plenty of polished alloy and chrome, as well as quality painted surfaces. “Big Bertha” runs on both a distributor and a powerful magneto to provide the grunt needed to fire all twelve plugs. The quality and level of detail is simply astounding and this truck has tremendous presence, in terms of both scale and quality. According to records, of the eight or nine model B-Ts built, just six remain, with 4017 being regarded as the finest restored and most complete of all the survivors. This remarkable machine holds value not only for collectors of antique fire apparatus, but also for fans of American history or anyone with an appreciation for the exceptional style and superlative engineering the Ahrens-Fox B-T possesses. Highly collectible, and massively stylish, this Ahrens-Fox is certain to make a huge splash at any event or show.
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