17 May 1999
1921 MAGIRUS FIRE ENGINE
Chassis no. 377
Engine: in-line four-cylinder, 65 bhp; Gearbox: three speed manual; Suspension: beam front axle, live rear axle, half elliptic springs all round; Brakes: four-wheel mechanically operated drum. Right hand drive.
From the very first fire engines, whether they were horse-drawn or hauled by willing teams of volunteers to the seat of a fire, they required exceptional design, sound workmanship and fitness for purpose. Inevitably specialist fire appliance builders established themselves, Dennis and Merryweather in England, the greatly respected German company Magirus of Ulm, whose history as a fire-engine manufacturer goes back to 1864. Although it diversified in 1916, putting the considerable skills it had learnt in that demanding field to good use as a commercial vehicle builder, Magirus continued to build fire appliances. In the early 1920s the Magirus fire-engine range was quite conventional, variations depending essentially on whether the vehicle was intended for municipal or factory work. The chassis was of excellent quality, equipped with powerful four cylinder petrol engines and provided with effective four-wheel brakes, a feature by no means widely seen on commercial vehicles in those times. The Ulm factory could be innovative. In 1924 a Magirus appliance displayed at a show in Buffalo, New York, impressed with its 85 ft four-piece extending ladder, installed on a vehicle no longer than a touring car.
On this example the body is typical of their output in the early 1920s, with open two seater cab and longitudinal benches for the firecrew behind. Lockers provide storage for hose unions, tools and other equipment. A rack is provided for the ladder. Always welcome at shows and rallies, vintage fire engines are a colourful and well established specialist field for collectors, particularly for those with a social circle large enough to provide a fire crew. It is Swiss registered.
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