So sometimes when you write for an online automotive mag you stumble across some strange stuff. In my time at Hot Cars I’ve written about Sheikhs and their armored cars, I’ve written about cars people made in their garage out of baling wire and chewing gum, I’ve written about the death of Ford cars (Who knew?), and yes, I’ve even written about Trabants and Ladas, two cars no one should ever have to write about. Or even feel obligated to remember their existence, for that matter. If you don’t know what a Trabant or Lada even is, consider yourself among the lucky ones.
But what I haven’t done is write much about racing, which is kind of weird, now that I think about it. Sure, I’ve written about some really, really fast cars and I’ve written about some really, really fun places to drive those fast cars- the Autobahn, anyone? But I haven’t written about cars actually racing. Until now.
But never fear. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find some racing vehicles that were slightly off the beaten path (or track, I suppose). So today, thanks to my editor’s infinite faith in me- or maybe his desire to keep a crazy man happy and at arm’s length- I bring to you the most exciting development in the history of racing ever. That’s right; today we are going to delve into the world of people who have turned fire trucks into drag racers. And no, I’m most definitely not joking- this is real, man!
You'll see the JetFire dragster again in a few entries ago. Well here’s a picture of it at rest, so to speak. I thought everyone might like to get a chance to admire its lines. Or, in all honesty, those two massive jets strapped onto the top of this thing.
The JetFire is raced by a guy named Mark Smith and, as you can see from the photo, the truck is clearly an “official” vehicle in the “United States Fire Department."
Hmm, I didn’t know we had a federal fire department- how about that! Oh wait- that’s a joke? Why does nobody ever tell me these things?!!? I like Smith’s helmet as he prepares to unleash those flames; it’s just a little bit different from your average firefighter’s.
You have got to check this out. If you think the Jelly Belly truck’s wheelstand was pretty cool, which it was (see below), then you’ll probably enjoy this one even more. This is a drag racing fire truck called the Backdraft, for obvious reasons I would hope, and not only is it big but it is also angry. The interesting part is that the driver isn’t wearing any protective gear. Maybe he thinks his truck will save him? This shot was taken at some race called Convoy in the Park. Now you know just about as much about as I do. See, we’re all experts…
OK, back to the fun and mostly pointless world of drag racing fire trucks. What we have here is an old District of Columbia fire department truck that has been preserved for drag racing.
Again, I’m just going to assume that the DCFD is doing this for charity and public awareness.
It’s striking to me how many of these racing fire trucks are older. I guess it sort of makes sense in that your average fire department isn’t going to risk their modern vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars on charity racing but are these old guys safe???
Alright, now we’re talking! This, my friends, is the one and only Super Shockwave, an old Forties Chevy fire truck that has been modernized into a flame-belching, awe-inspiring dragster. I’m not even gonna ask anymore why someone would even bother to do that. It’s so clearly a thing in the world of drag racing that’s it’s better to just go along with the whole wacky notion than try to wrap one’s head around the how’s, whys, and wherefores of the whole endeavor. The best part of the Super Shockwave is, of course, the jets of molten flame it shoots out, but the 2nd best part has got to be that Superman-style logo.
So for once in these articles of mine I’m gonna give a straight up look at the list we’ll be perusing today. No twists, no sudden swerves into a whole other topic, no dodgeballs thrown. Well, at least not yet.
This, my friends, is the awesome Rick Ream (yup, I would not have made that up on my own) showing off a wheelstand in his 1950 Studebaker fire truck at the Route 66 Classic in Joliet, Illinois, circa…well, recently. It looks like fun, doesn’t it? OK, maybe fun is not the word I would use. Maybe insane will suffice.
Yes! Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you, for your very much viewing pleasure, the one and only JetFire dragster. I love this thing. I don’t even care if goes from 0-60 in about an hour, it is awesome.
Who wouldn’t want to get in the cab of a fire truck that, you know, belches fire like Smaug the Dragon from those terrible Hobbit movies Peter Jackson unloaded on an innocent movie-going public a few years ago?
The JetFire is an official IHRA dragster. I’m not sure what it races against or if it just shoots flames everywhere and I don’t particularly care.
This one just might be my favorite in this whole list. It’s no secret to anybody who knows me that I do love me some Jelly Bellies. I happen to live just down the road from the Jelly Belly factory (well, down the road being a relative term, of course) and have taken the tour many times. But I never knew until this day that they had a drag racing fire truck as well. Not only that but one that can do awesome wheelstands. The Jelly Belly truck is piloted driven by a guy named Ed “The Outlaw” Jones and he is my new hero.
Rick Ream’s drag racing performance in that 1950 Studebaker fire truck is worth a 2nd look, don’t you think? I certainly do and hey, I’m the one compiling this crazy list so I guess I’m in charge.
Never let the inmates run the asylum; they will only get weirder and more intransigent.
In any case, Ream updated his dragster to another 1950 Studebaker- this one a “Bulletnose” 454CI Alcohol Injected BBC- and brought it back to the Joliet RT 66 Burndown for a repeat performance. Now I know this image has probably been touched up a bit but Holy Smokes (and sparks) Batman!
Here we have another fire department that has entered the ranks of actual drag racing with their old trucks. But I’ve got to admit, West Sayville has got it all over the DCFP. Just look at this actual dragster they built out of one of their old engines. This thing looks like it could definitely take on all comers in its category. In fact, if you look closely you’ll see the 10 stickers for New Jersey state champions. Do I really want to know what category West Sayville’s “Flying Dutchmen” was a champion in? No, no I do not. It’s a far, far better thing to believe in the magic.
I told you that it was a better option to believe in the magic. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. This, my friends, is the West Sayville Flying Dutchmen volunteer firefighting drill team helping to kick off the 2016 Firematic competition, whatever that is. All I know is that this is definitely a different sport than that cool little dragster we just saw of theirs participates in. Can we please, please, please go back to the dragster? I couldn’t find any action pics of it so instead you get this ridiculousness by the same fire department. Apparently there are 15 volunteer fire departments in the New Jersey counties of Nassau and Suffolk who participate in the Firematic. Why I couldn’t tell you and I don’t want to find out. But they sure can drag!
Aah, now we’re talking. This is a lot better than a bunch of whacked-out firemen, isn’t it? Imagine tootling down the sylvan streets of your neighborhood and coming across this beauty. This thing is truly a magnificent piece of work, perhaps the best exemplar of drag racing fire engines we have seen here today.
It’s got everything you would want in a hot rod if you were, you know, really into the whole fire truck thing.
I love that its logo says it’s a member of the “Street Rod Fire Department.” Is there such a thing out there? I didn’t Google it because as I said a few entries ago, sometimes you just want the magic to remain real. I love this car.
Well, now we are getting to the part of this project where we are really stretching it. This fire truck is clearly not going to be doing any drag racing soon, even if it does appear to be more than roadworthy. It’s a 1921 American LaFrance fire truck in absolutely immaculate condition and it seems to be tooling right along now, doesn’t it? There are two reasons I included this pic. One, I find myself a little bit too locked into classic fire trucks right now- therapy is probably in my future. And two, if there is any celebrity ever who would appreciate drag racing fire trucks, it would have to be Jay Leno, the driver here, who is an absolute car NUT and speed lover. So Jay, I hope you’re reading this.
I just couldn’t resist this last one. Look, we just saw a bunch of absolute fire-shooting, flame-rocketing, wheelstanding, spark-flying beasts of machines and also a few absolute beauties in the smaller drag racing hot rod department.
Granted, we did have a few nutty entries in there (OK, maybe more than a few) but man it was fun checking out this crazy subculture, wasn’t it?
So here you have it, the ultimate in fire truck drag racing! Yeah, I’m being silly but these guys are awesomely silly themselves and I sincerely hope they won their soapbox derby, just like I hope all of these drag racing fire trucks keep on keeping on.
Here have a rather large racing fire truck waiting pre-race at Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. Now again, this one looks more like a “racing” fire truck that is designed to promote charity and volunteerism (the Lions Club and sponsorship decals kind of give it away) but hey, it’s a fire truck at a race track that’s about to go like a bat out of you know where. I couldn’t tell you what it was racing though- there’s only so many YouTube videos of fire trucks dragging one can stomach, after all. Apparently Raceway Park once hosted a concert by ‘60s holdovers the Grateful Dead that drew 150,000 people. I wonder how many fire trucks they needed that day???
Here we have a suitably silly stunt at the Hot Rod Power Tour in 2010. There, I just gave you more than enough information to go find the video of this magnificent race. I’m not gonna link it here for you because, you know, if you really want to see something sometimes you’ve gotta work hard at it.
Anyway, maybe magnificent isn’t quite the right term for what you’ll witness but hey, I’m not the one who decided to pit a former Battalion Command truck against a TRAIN.
Is it really the shell of an old Santa Fe express railway train- engine, coach, and caboose all in one- mounted on a truck chassis? It sure as heck looks like it. Man, drag racers are a weird bunch.