VAN PELT FIRE APPARATUS
1925-1987 Photo Archive
By Chuck Madderom
FSP Books & Videos
577 Main Street
Hudson, MA 01749
Price: $29.95 + S & H
This book is published by Iconografix and is soft cover, measuring 8 ½ inches by 10 ¼ inches.
Here is another first class book by a first class photographer! In fact, all of the photos are taken by first class photographers.
Although the name, Van Pelt may not be familiar to most of our readers it would be to those from California. Van Pelt, although out of business since the ‘80’s, sold apparatus in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Foreign sales were made to Liberia, Saudi Arabia and The Phillipines. So if you’ve come upon one of these apparatus in any other state, it was not originally from there. In fact, while reviewing this book I came upon a pumper I photographed at an IBM Corporation plant in San Jose, California that had been transferred to their East Fishkill, New York plant.
The colorful history began as a means of trying to help out men fight fires in grain fields and pastures outside Oakdale, California in the 1920’s It seems the only apparatus available in the town apparently carried no water. So Mr. P.E. VanPelt, a Dodge dealer, built a fire truck because all other manufacturers were east of the Mississippi and unable to offer immediate availability.
The company grew to be the largest manufacturer west of the Rocky Mountains, the one who sold more apparatus on the White chassis than any other manufacturer. Most units were built on commercial chassis but a custom was introduced in 1960. They built mostly pumpers, tankers, short wheel based mini and midi pumpers, aerial ladder trucks (with Memco and and Grove, later to be LTI ladders), Hi Ranger elevating platforms, Telesqurts, Fire Stix and one articulated Squrt. There is one rescue truck with a small pump of 1935 vintage and a1986 rescue pumper but those are the only rescues in the book. There was one Seagrave (photo on page 58) and there is a Mack R (page 91).
In 1978 the company sold out to FMC who used other custom chassis including five Crowns. San Jose had three Crown/VanPelt/FMC pumpers. They are not in the book but a Crown Telesqurt is.
The book is loaded with black and white photo of unique and standard design including a 6 x 6 midmount aerial, a Dodge cab over pumper, an International with several booster reels, and many others with custom body work and unique designs.
Four former employees are now with another manufacturer named Hi Tech which was founded in 1987.