This M56 R-2 1953 Crash Truck restored by Mike Feathers,

The R-2s were built by ACF-Brill under contract 22397 on Dodge-built, government- supplied chassis. Mike Feathers restored this  R-2 1953 Crash Truck.

This diminutive fire truck packs a punch as big as its official title: Truck, Fire, Airplane, Forcible Entry, Type R-2. With the production total of a mere 308 units, the R-2 was never as widely recognized as its common G-741 brother, the M37. Because of the R-2’s specialized body, the truck never had any real uses other than that for which it was made—that of a military aircraft “crash truck.”

R-2 HERITAGE BEGINS WITH ARMOR

Dataplate of an R-2 truck.

Only 308 R-2s where constructed. 

Not many collectors realize that this pint-size fire fighter’s big brother is a tank! The R-2s were built by ACF-Brill under contract 22397 on Dodge-built, government- supplied chassis. ACF was also known as “American Car and Foundry” (builder of tanks, ammunition, and other military materials in addition to its main business of manufacturing railroad cars). The main businesses of its subsidiary, Brill, was trolley and bus manufacturing.

Sea-Foam green paint was the standard color for the interior of the R-2 as seen in Robert Sim's restored 1952 R-2.

Sea-Foam green paint was the standard color for the interior of the R-2 as seen in Robert Sim's restored 1952 R-2.

These trucks were designed to be used in conjunction with Type 0-10 or 0-11 Foam Trucks. The Foam Trucks were to provide a path to the fuselage through the flames, and the R-2 would supply the tools and equipment to access the aircraft interior and rescue personnel. The meager 20 gallons of bromochloromethane extinguishing agent (discharged not by pumping, but with nitrogen pressurization) would hardly fight a full fledged aircraft fire, rather, it was intended to enable the rescuers to travel the last few feet to the victims.

The R-2 was built on the Dodge M56 chassis, which has a 126 inch wheelbase (versus the 112-inch wheelbase of the M37). These frames were equipped with fish belly reinforcements and heavier springs than the cargo truck. The chassis for these trucks were produced by Dodge in 1953 under contract number 11939. The government then provided the chassis (and two batteries each) to Brill for conversion into the R-2. These conversions were completed in 1956. Heating, defrosting, and other winterization kits could be field- installed, if needed. The data plate for these controls, as well as the warning light switches, was fitted to all trucks whether or not the heater was installed. The R-2 truck was 206.25" long and 104.8125" tall.

EQUIPPED FOR ANY EMERGENCY

The empty weight of an R-2 was 4,600 pounds. When packed and ready for service, it tipped the scales at a whopping 7,690 pounds. At the front of the truck was the standard 7,500 pound capacity Braden LU-4 PTO-driven winch as used on some M37s, but in place of the standard hook, there was a grapnel. The winch was driven via a double-ended PTO on the truck transmission, the other end of which drove the 230-volt, 180-cycle, three-phase Homelite chain-driven generator mounted in the bottom of the rescue bed. This generator powered the Mall circular saw, as well as the floodlights for rescue operations.

Aside from the Sea-Foam green paint, the interior of the cab area differed from the M-37 in the following ways: The glass in the cab doors was a special double pane insulating glass, and the arms that hold the windshield open were different than those on any other M-series vehicle. Additionally, there were instruments mounted on the cab rear wall to monitor generator operation.

On the driver’s side, the upper compartment contained the communication system, CB extinguishing system and tool cabinet loaded with rescue and entry tools.

The open rear doors provided access to two fire extinguishers, a Blackhawk model SB-52 porta-power, floodlight, nitrogen cylinder, and the Mall circular rescue saw. This restored  1952 R-2 displayed at the 2007 MVPA Convention belongs to Robert Sims.

The unusual sloping roof contained a model ID-1 eleven- to twenty-foot extension A-frame ladder made by the Aluminum Ladder Company. This was accessible by opening the rear doors.

Swinging the rear doors open also exposed the axes, pry-bars, and a variety of other “forcible entry” tools stored on their interior surfaces. The open doors also provided access to two fire extinguishers, a Blackhawk model SB-52 porta-power, floodlight, nitrogen cylinder, and the Mall circular rescue saw.

Externally, a ladder was mounted to provide access to the truck’s roof. In addition, both the standard Ordnance type slave receptacle, as well as an Air Force type slave receptacle were mounted on the right rear panel.

The standard Dodge T-245 230.2-cubic inch, 6-cylinder engine was equipped with a Pierce Governor Company GC-3939 governor to aid in generator operation. This governor was not the same one that was used in the other G-741 variants such as the CMU-3 contact maintenance truck.

On the driver’s side, the upper compartment contained the communication system, CB extinguishing system and tool cabinet loaded with rescue and entry tools.

On the driver’s side, the upper compartment contained the communication system, CB extinguishing system and tool cabinet loaded with rescue and entry tools.

The passenger’s side compartment opens to reveal even more tools including bolt cutters, tin snips, a hose reel, and an electrical cable reel.

The passenger’s side compartment opens to reveal even more tools including bolt cutters, tin snips, a hose reel, and an electrical cable reel.

On each side of the bed were two spring-loaded doors, one that swung up, the other, down. On the driver’s side, the upper compartment contained the communication system, CB extinguishing system and tool cabinet loaded with rescue and entry tools. The passenger’s side compartment opened to reveal even more tools including bolt cutters, tin snips, a hose reel, and an electrical cable reel.

Mounted on the top of the truck, a Federal Enterprises Model 17 24-volt rotating Beacon insured instant recognizability during an emergency. A Federal Model XG siren mounted on the driver’s side fender guaranteed that those who didn’t see the truck, would hear it at least. These trucks also sported a spotlight on each side of the cab roof.

These vehicles were in service with the US Air Force and the Navy in 1956, but the date they were removed from service is not apparent.

R-2 CRASH TRUCKS TODAY

The scarcity, as well as nobility of purpose, of the R-2 vehicles certainly makes them worthy preservation and restoration candidates. This beautiful 1953 R-2 Crash Truck belongs to Mike Feathers.

The scarcity, as well as nobility of purpose, of the R-2 vehicles certainly makes them worthy preservation and restoration candidates. This beautiful 1953 R-2 Crash Truck belongs to Mike Feathers.

The small number of R-2s produced, coupled with the fact that R-2 bodies are made of aluminum and therefore, lent themselves to profitable scrapping, resulted with only a handful of intact examples now known to exist. 

Matthew Dunn's 1953 R-2 Rescue Truck displayed at the 2019 MVPA Convention.

Matthew Dunn's 1953 R-2 Rescue Truck displayed at the 2019 MVPA Convention. 

The scarcity, as well as nobility of purpose, of these vehicles certainly makes them worthy preservation and restoration candidates. The few that remain are coveted not only by military vehicle collectors, but also fire apparatus enthusiasts. The bright red color, reflective markings and unusual shape makes the R-2 stand out from the ordinary MV or fire truck.

Applicable manuals unique to this G-741 variant:

T.O. 36A12-8-10-1 Handbook Operating Instructions.

T.O. 36A12-8-10-4 Technical Manual, Illustrated Parts Breakdown.

T.O. 36A12-8-10-3 Overhaul and Instructions.

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