1924 American LaFrance T-55 Fire Engine

For more than 140 years, American LaFrance stood as one of the most prestigious names in firefighting apparatus. In 1873, the LaFrance Manufacturing Company was established in Elmira, New York, by a group of investors led by Truckson LaFrance. Initially, the company produced hand-powered fire apparatus, although by 1900 they had delivered roughly 500 steam pumpers. With the turn of the century, the LaFrance Fire Engine Company and the American Fire Engine Company were merged into the International Fire Engine Company. When the new company failed in 1903, The American-LaFrance Fire Engine Company, Ltd., emerged from the ashes, so to speak. The firm delivered its first motorized fire engine in 1907. Then in 1911, the company began using the rigs’ gasoline engines to drive the pumps.

The American La France company held multiple patents for efficient, high-volume pumps, and its product line grew to include pumpers, ladder trucks and tankers. During the 1920s, the company dominated the American fire apparatus market and fielded equipment capable of supporting the smallest community fire department or the largest city fire company.

This American LaFrance 1924 Type 55 is a mid-size city fire engine, combining two functions: a 1,000 GPM two-stage geared pump and a large hose bed. Trucks like this were designed to be used with city water system hydrants, or, in rare cases, drafting from a pond or cistern. It shared a 120-horsepower engine with the type 53 Pumper, which differed primarily by having a lower capacity 850 GPM pump.

According to published records, this pumper, numbered 4479, was delivered to Portland, Oregon, on December 29, 1923, along with an identical unit numbered 4478. Extensive documentation on file shows it remained in loyal service to the City of Portland for several decades, finally coming off the books in 1959. To extend its life, at some point, likely in the 1940s, number 4479 was re-powered with a massive Hall-Scott straight-six engine bored out to 1,100 cid, providing a welcome boost in performance. It seems this was a popular retrofit for PFD, as other LaFrance trucks in their fleet were updated with the mighty Hall-Scott engines. At the same time, it was further modernized with hydraulic front brakes, a vacuum brake booster, a generator, and an electric starter.

Once removed from active service, the Type 55 Pumper was generally well preserved, eventually coming into the ownership of a well-known fire engine enthusiast and historian, who treated 4479 to a high-quality restoration, including a repaint in its PFD original livery. The work was completed in 2020 in preparation for the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America (SPAAMFFA) national convention held in Portland the following July. Since then, it has been well-maintained and it currently presents in excellent condition. The extensive chrome and nickel brightwork are fantastic, and the truck has a marvelous presence with a pleasing character and a host of period-correct accessories, fittings, and details.

Unlike some larger pieces of equipment, this pumper/hose car is the ideal size for a private collection. While still an imposing and impressive machine, it is a manageable size for the average collector, with ample power and improved drivability thanks to the updated done in period. Having been properly cared for its entire life, this charming American LaFrance stands ready and waiting for parade duty and local shows.

 

Offers welcome and trades considered

 

$98,500

Stock number 7478

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