How (and why) I created the Ultimate Volunteer Firefighter's Emergency Response Vehicle
Starting from Scratch:
After 250,000 miles, you would think a truck would be ready for the scrap heap. That’s not the case for this truck, I took a different approach. Starting with my old 1987 Ford F-250, I, transformed it from my everyday driver into the “Ultimate Volunteer Firefighter’s Response Vehicle”. The goal of this undertaking was to completely renovate a standard Ford truck with over a quarter million miles into a show truck that is equipped for nearly any emergency to which a volunteer firefighter might be called upon to respond. Having been a volunteer fire fiighter for several years, it was a natural fit. I had always wanted to build a big "monster truck" and so adding the twist of incorporating a fire/rescue theme just made sense. Now I use the truck for generating public awareness of firefighting and fire safety and the kids really love it. I had always wanted to find a way to bring together my interests of monster trucks, fire trucks and my favorite truck brand, Ford. Project Responder doesn't just win ribbons at shows, but it can go almost anywhere and it is geared up for the common tasks a brush truck / fire/rescue truck would be called out for.
The project began with a 1987 Ford Heavy Duty Supercab 4x4 that has seen the highways from Edmunston, Canada and Caribou, Maine down south as far as San Antonio, Texas. Other than a 4” lift kit, dual batteries, bigger alternator and tires, the truck was completely stock including the 351 Windsor High Output (5.8L) motor under the hood. There were no major service issues other than a few minor warranty repairs over the years during the 100,000 mile warranty period. The key to the truck’s long life has been changing the oil and performing regular maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer throughout the years. The body of the truck had seen the most wear and tear. The biggest trouble this truck experienced was floor seam separation, primarily under the cab on the driver’s side. Several of the seams had separated under the cab where the floor and sides of the cab are joined. This caused the cab to sag and the floor to buckle under the weight of the cab, creating a large split in the driver’s side floor from the pedals, halfway to the seat. It was not a pretty sight.
To complete this project, the front clip, cab and bed were removed. The front clip and the cab were transported to a local body shop to be repaired and repainted. The bed was
sold and was replaced with a new high tech stahl grand challenger service body. While the entire body was off of the frame, the engine, transmission and transfer case were removed and replaced. Then the frame was sand blasted and painted with an extremely durable urethane finish. This included the axles, springs and other suspension components. One of the goals of this project was to increase the horsepower under the hood. The 351 never really had enough power for the truck and had I known back in '87 what I know now, I would have bought it with the 460 to begin with. With the chassis sporting a high gloss finish, a custom re-built 460 was set between the frame rails and mated to a freshly rebuilt C6 automatic and a new electric shift transfer case. Once the power plant and drive train were in place, the refinished cab and front clip were reinstalled as well as the installation of a the new service body. After the body was back in place, work began to add the special effects and accessories. It took about three and a half years to get this far. There were many times when I thought it was never going to make it this far.
Outfitting the Rig:
Of course every emergency vehicle needs lights and sirens and Project Responder is no exception. With the help of several project sponsors, I was able to outfit the truck with a host of emergency lighting products. This includes a custom built Code3 MX7000 lightbar which was mounted behind the cab; red, white & blue strobes in the front and the rear and the latest in technology, and my personal favorite, red & blue Tomar LED’s all the way around. One of the crown jewels of the project was the installation of a Federal Signal model Q2B mechanical fire truck siren on the front bumper. After all, it's not really a fire truck until it has a Q. I also installed four, one hundred watt speakers and two Grover air horns. I wanted to make sure this truck is heard as well as seen.
Now then, what good is a fire truck without water? Project Responder has that covered with a brush truck skid unit from RKO Enterprises which carrys 200 gallons of water, twelve gallons of class a foam, a 9hp twin impeller pump and 75 feet of hose. The skid unit is self contained and bolts right into the bed of the truck. In addition, the stahl service body is stuffed with other firefighting and rescue equipment including a gasoline powered rescue winch and vehicle extrication tools.
To ensure the truck has enough electrical output to handle the load of electronics and accessories, I installed a high output alternator from American Armature, along with dual auxiliary batteries mounted below the truck under the bed. These will be necessary to handle the full rated output of the Xantrex power inverter which is capable of generating 3000 watts of 110ac current. I tried to leave no stone unturned during this project. I used every available resource I had available to make folks do a double take when they see Project Responder, whether she’s just cruising down the highway or blasting down the road to the next emergency.
Backed by the Sponsors:
One of the keys to success of this project are the sponsors that have generously donated to help make the project a reality. From providing lights and electronics, to supplying parts and equipment. The sponsors are the lifeblood of my project. To show my appreciation, and obviously for them to recover their return on their investment, the logos of all of the sponsors have been placed on the sides of the truck for everyone to see. Every time she places in shows and special events, the companies and organizations that have helped to make this project a success will be front and center. After all, I could not have completed this project without their help and they deserve the credit. It’s taken a great deal of blood, sweat and tears (litterally) to convert a well used, high mileage truck and into a premiere emergency response vehicle.