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$2,500 1935 American LaFrance V12 Ladder Truck!

There are plenty of adults today that imagined themselves at some point during their childhood riding around in a shiny red firetruck. This 1935 American LaFrance Ladder Truck isn’t shiny, but it is red, and it is a barn find. As restoration projects go it is a monster, but there are a hardy group of enthusiasts out there who like nothing better than grabbing classics like this and returning them to their former glory. If you are one of those people, then this could be a vehicle for you to consider. Even if you aren’t, maybe you know someone who is, so here is your chance to let them know about it. The Ladder Truck is located in Union City, Ohio, and has been listed for sale here on Facebook. On a purely dollars-per-pound basis, this has to represent great value with an asking price of $2,500.

The history of this Ladder Truck isn’t clear, but to me, it appears to be an American LaFrance 400 “Junior” Series, which was introduced by the company in 1933. Unlike its big brother the 400 Senior, the Junior was available with a number of different engine choices. In this case, the LaFrance is fitted with the 160hp version of the Lycoming 391ci V12 engine. That was one of the notable differences between the Junior and Senior Series because the latter was exclusively built with American LaFrance’s own V12, pumping out 240hp. The Lycoming engine in this truck is essentially complete, but the oil pan and valve cover plates have been removed. It isn’t clear why this was done, so a deeper investigation is going to be required. Otherwise, it does steer and rolls freely, and the brakes are said to work extremely well.

As is the case mechanically, the Ladder Truck does appear to be essentially physically complete. While the paint is now very tired, the owner states that the body is solid. Thankfully, some of the difficult to locate items like the radiator, headlights, and the hood ornament, are still present. The interior is also said to be complete, although the dash has been dismantled. One great score is the fact that the wooden ladders are still present. It isn’t clear what sort of state these are in, and from a professional perspective, they would probably have been condemned many years ago. However, if they were restored they would represent a nice visual decoration for the vehicle to help it retain its authentic appearance. It also looks like a lot of hoses and hose fittings are included with the vehicle, although if you were hoping for flashing lights and sirens, you might be completely out of luck this time. The owner does mention some pike poles also being present, so digging around inside the numerous bins and lockers on the LaFrance could potentially turn up a host of hidden treasures.

Automotive history is littered with manufacturer collapses, and sadly, American LaFrance had the dubious honor of joining that list in 2014. It was the end of a glorious history that dated back to 1873. This Ladder Truck hails from an era when the company was at the peak of its power, and while it would represent a major restoration project, the end product should be something that attracts plenty of attention and positive comments. Once restored, it would be a great tribute to so many of our emergency service heroes that have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. I hope that someone sees fit to restore this gentle giant, and I hope that when people see it once the work has been completed, they are quickly reminded of those selfless souls.


  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    This would be a good project for a group of dedicated individuals. It’s still good for displays and parades but we cannot forget what these trucks did or those who operated them. Our club restored a ’47 model some years ago. True it’s primary role now is display and parade mode but it still does that with pride…

    Like 26
    • Tom Bell

      That’s a beautiful 700 Series LaFrance, geomechs, a true classic. original V-12 still in place?

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        No, that was a bad scene. They had another truck that blew the engine. Since this one was a little older and was on the retirement list, they pulled the engine and dropped it into the other truck. Then the engine and transmission from that truck pulled a disappearing act. We ended up dropping a 350 Chevy/350 auto in it. It gets it around but it sure doesn’t rumble like that old V-12…

        Like 1
  2. Howard A Member

    The ultimate behemoth. A), who’s going to drive this thing, and B), where you going to keep it? Incredibly pricey to restore, and looks terrible as is. Something like this is even difficult to re-purpose, as long as it is. Maybe a motorhome. I fear the cutting torch cometh.

    Like 10
    • canadainmarkseh

      Your right Howard it’s going to take a big building to restore and to store. You should check out jay leno’s guest with his La beastyoni it’s a fire truck made into a very large roadster. It’s very cool, and storable. It’s quite the work of rolling art.

      Like 3
    • Poppapork

      This would make a great tour- bus for sigh seeing ofcourse with modernized drivetrain

      Like 1
    • Bill Hall

      If you want perfection this would cost a pile buy could be done in a decent manner gradually. I used to belong to a museum that has one just like this in very nice original shape. It is on display in Tillamook Or.

      Like 2
    • stillrunners

      But if it had saved your life you’d be all in………

      Like 0
    • Marshall

      Whosoever doth abominate any of my beloved vintage restorable vehicles with the cutting torch, or by any other fashion, the wrath of I, the Lord God of Ancient-Mobiles shall be upon him.🤬🤯😡

      Like 1
  3. BlondeUXB Member

    ‘looks more like a 1925 (?)

    Like 1
  4. Mike Kelleher

    Does anyone have the location of the LaFrance Ladder Truck?

    Like 0
  5. RexFox Member

    The fraternity next to mine at WSU had a fire truck like this that they used to cruise the campus for special events. While I did not care too much for the guys and the limited selection of music they blasted our their windows (ruining perfectly good albums), I did want to drive that truck and even briefly considered pledging because of it.

    Like 1
    • S phalen

      Exactly! I showed this to my college engineering fraternity son suggesting a “stay home” summer project. Sadly his mother-my wife can likely mount a successful filibuster. :) Stay healthy.

      Like 4
  6. Russell

    That beast has a 180-inch wheelbase … someone do that math and figure the turning radius … ouch

    Like 2
  7. Tom Bell

    This would be considered a city service truck also equipped with what appears to be a 500 GPM pump. The wide shallow bed on top of the ladder racks is for carrying fire hose. These were most commonly found in small communities where equipment and manpower was in short supply. Ladder trucks are the step children of the antique fire apparatus community because of their size and the obvious storage problem. I work in the shop at the Nassau County Fire Museum and a while back a fire department that had held onto their 1941 Seagrave tiller had to give it up due to space limitations and we were fortunate to squeeze it into the museum. This may be the case with the seller, a department that may have bought it new or as a restoration project for the members and reality caught up.

    A beautiful old LaFrance. I wish it the best.

    Like 3
  8. chrlsful

    and ya’d only hafta do the last 5 ft of those ladders, not put on alu like the ’41.

    Imagine humpin around those ‘woods’? Tryin to get ’em up on the bldg B4 extending? 2 guys’n need to haul on the rope to get ’em up! “When men were men”! eh?

    Like 3
  9. lowbusman

    I would chop 12′ out of it’s length ,it would then make a nice roaster pickup!

    Like 0
  10. Wayne Thomas

    With some modifications, perfect truck for anyone dealing with long pieces of lumber!

    Like 1
  11. Bob Mck

    Love to have it for parades, but where would I keep it?

    Like 1
  12. Norm

    I am new to barn finds and how do you get in touch with the owner to try and buy it. Read the ad a number of times, but don’t see how to contact. Did I miss it?

    Like 0
  13. Tommie Thompson

    I’m a member of the Yuba City Lions club.
    we have a 1935 American LaFrance Firetruck and need a wiring diagram to rewire the truck, so that we can use it in our parades.
    Can anyone help?

    Like 0
    • Bill Hall

      What you need to do is get on the SPAAMFAA page of Facebook. You will find all sorts of help. Off the top of my head I think I have seen one other truck like yours in California. That was in Petaluma a few years ago? Spokane Fire Union local was working on one like yours a couple of years ago.
      If you want any pictures or info let me know.

      Like 0
  14. Rolls-Royce

    Would this ALF being the same long as an Hummer, Rolls-Royce, ore Lincoln limousine? Sometimes I think, why does this Amarican make’s name is Amarican LaFrance ALF? Ore is it French?

    Like 0

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