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Thomas The Tank Truck! 1952 Thomas Fire Truck


This one was a new one for me! Thanks to Peter R. for this terrific find! Apparently back in the day, the Sundstrand Company in Belvidere, Illinois needed an in-plant fire engine to satisfy insurance requirements as the fire department was so far away. The Thomas Pump Company of Chicago built this kind of equipment (they still exist today) between 1952 and 1955. This particular unusual vehicle is located in Decatur, Arkansas and is up for sale here on eBay, where the buy-it-now is $5,500 but lower offers are welcome.


As you can see from this picture, this little engine is narrow. It’s only 50 inches wide so that it can fit through the aisles of an industrial plant. It’s approximately 7′ tall and has an estimated weight of 5,000 pounds without it’s 200+ gallon water tank being full! Since it doesn’t have a standard set of lights or turn signals, it’s never been made street legal, although I’m sure it could be used in parades. I’m wondering if there’s some sort of on-board generator as that looks like a 115 volt plug in the left rear corner.


With a 6-cylinder gas engine of unknown origin (anyone recognize it?) that starts right up, and a three-speed plus reverse transmission, it might be possible to make the vehicle street legal, but I can’t imagine it being even remotely practical. Typically, an industrial safety vehicle like this gets a lot of preventative maintenance but not much use.


The John Bean pump (they have also made a lot of front-end alignment equipment, and are also still around) is said to be fully functional, and the truck comes with full gear including a ladder, axes, siren, lights, and over 100 feet of hose! So you could fight fires as long as you could get there. 12″ wheels and tires that don’t look highway ready might slow you down, though.


Moving under the truck, there’s a nice coating of oily residue covering everything–at least it won’t rust any time soon. The seller also talks about a sticking valve at start up and a tune-up that’s needed, so be prepared to do some maintenance. The obvious use for this vehicle would be its original intended use of an indoor fire engine. But I’m going to challenge you to come up with a use that you could use it for in the comments–let’s hear those great ideas!


  1. Bobsmyuncle

    There could be an on board generator used for lighting or sometimes ventilation fans.

    More likely it is to connect to shore power to keep the battery charged. Modern trucks use shore power to keep batteries topped and to run on board compressors for the air brake systems.

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  2. Peter Rettig Member

    Looks the body was coach-built by Dodgem…

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  3. Booya

    Make the world’s coolest margarita machine and go to a rave.

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  4. DodgeFan

    I would say that little motor is a mopar.

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