Fire trucks are too darn big. There is interesting data out there that tells us that fire departments are being used less for putting out fires and more for medical calls, with fires trending downward for decades. So that raises the question: Why do we send big, huge, loud, expensive fire trucks on medical calls where an ambulance is also going? Just in case the victim bursts into flames?
Today I present a solution to the problem of big, wasteful fire trucks being used when they aren’t really needed. I have found for sale on Classics on Autotrader a 1991 Daihatsu Hijet that has been upfitted into a fire truck. It’s located at Duncan Imports and Classic Cars in Christiansburg, Virginia. Based on some quick Googling and several seconds of research, it looks like an average fire engine has a cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000, and a ladder truck can easily cost over $1 million. This Daihatsu fire truck, on the other hand, is only $10,900 — and it looks perfectly capable of responding to medical calls and also putting out small fires if it needs to.
This thing is even in great condition, and it only has 7,760 miles on it. It’s powered by a 660 cu cm. Daihatsu 3-cylinder engine linked to a 4-speed manual transmission. From what I’ve gathered, it looks like this engine makes about 30 horsepower and 33 lb-ft of torque, which is … fine … for city use. This thing has been imported from a foreign market, which is made obvious when you notice that it’s right-hand-drive and that all of the gauges are metric.
This fire truck only has two seats and obviously has much less power than a traditional fire truck — but since fires are happening a lot less than they used to, isn’t this really all a modern fire department needs for most of what firefighters do these days? Sure, fire departments can still have the huge fire trucks for occasions when they need to actually fight fires, but if firefighters are just going on a medical call, this little Daihatsu would be a lot more practical.
Okay, fine, this Hijet might just be too underpowered and tiny for any practical use as a fire truck, but this miniscule rig does make me wonder if a more modern equivalent is possible. We have less of a need for huge fire trucks than ever, and I think a modern version of a Daihatsu Hijet fire truck would be better suited for most of a fire department’s transportation needs while presenting massive savings in fire department budgets everywhere.
The good news is, you don’t actually need to use this fire truck as a fire truck. This could just be your daily driver that happens to also be a fire truck — or just a weird, quirky addition to a collection for only about $10 grand. Whatever this oddity ends up being used for, it sure looks like it would be fun to drive around.
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