The FDNY CF Mack: pure genius!

Capttomo

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Looking back now, the team that designed the FDNY Mack CF’s beginning in 1969 and through the 70’s were truly innovative and trend setting. They introduced so many new concepts to fire apparatus in a single package. Although some of the ideas may have been utilized by a department here and there, the fact that all these features and innovations were placed on a single rig, and those rigs were FDNY- a department that has National and international exposure like no other. These innovations included:
1. An extremely short wheelbase and overall vehicle length for use in tight urban environments 2. Front suction intake, 3. Hosebed cover (conestoga type) 4) Diesel engines - as late as the mid to late 70’s manufacturers were still building rigs with gasoline engines like the Waukaushau engine 5. The vertical booster tank - typically booster tanks were sandwiched between the chassis rails and the bottoms of the hosebed the vertical booster tank moved the center of gravity more midship and lowered the hosebed 6. Low hosebed - aided in repacking and quicker deployment of hose - ironically by the beginning of the 21 century many hosebed were 7-8 feet or more above the street. A growing trend now is the get hosebeds lower once again 7. Placing the booster reel under the hosebed near the tailboard - freeing up space on top of the pump panel. 8. The portable Stang - mounted on top of the pump house and preconnected via a short hose for use as a fixed deck gun yet removable for use as a portable ground monitor with the grating style base - this was the precursor to later monitors developed by Akron and Elkhart such as the Apollo and stinger. 9. Narrower pump panel - decreased vehicle length and wheelbase. 10. Vertical exhaust. - at that time it redirected the diesel fumes away from the side of the rig - eventually became a huge industry wide option until the advent of the 2007 and later Diesel engines with DPF fluid 11. The 4 door cab. Although the original versions in 1969-1971 did not have four door cabs, the rapid transition afterwards to 4 door engines became the industry standard with 15-20 years. We take all of these features for granted today and in some cases like the vertical exhaust have moved onto better technology. Looking back, the FDNY and Mack design team were revolutionary at that time and the results of their innovations were a true game changer for the Fire service.
 

nfd2004

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After seeing those Mack CFs perform over and over again during the busiest years of very heavy fire activity for the FDNY, without a doubt, as far as I'm concerned, "they were the BEST BUILT Fire Pumpers ever".

And yes, as "Capttomo" "Tom O'C...... (?) says, some are still in service.
One Volunteer Dept not far from me, still has one in use"

And to quote "1261Truckie":
"They took a lickin' and kept on tickin' "
I'm with ya all the way on that Jim.
 

Bulldog

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I highly doubt that any of the trucks built today will last as long as the CFs did! However it's not all the fault of the manufacturers, the requirements to meet ISO have changed drastically, not always for the better. Companies want more and more stuff on trucks and to do that manufacturers had had to resort to different electrical system designs etc. that are much harder to troubleshoot and manufacture. In addition, the federal government created new standards for pollution controls etc. that of make the trucks much more complicated to work on and maintain. Everything has gone against firetrucks it are dependable, reasonably priced and long-lasting!
 

Capttomo

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Unfortunately, much of what you say is true. The big problem used to be rust. The pumps and motors lasted forever. Now the opposite is true. Stainless steel bodies are lasting 40-50 years. As you stated between the electronics and new epa approved Diesel engines, they barely make 15 years
 

Bulldog

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Unfortunately, much of what you say is true. The big problem used to be rust. The pumps and motors lasted forever. Now the opposite is true. Stainless steel bodies are lasting 40-50 years. As you stated between the electronics and new epa approved Diesel engines, they barely make 15 years
Just throw a SS body on one and they would last forever!
 

mack

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Unfortunately, much of what you say is true. The big problem used to be rust. The pumps and motors lasted forever. Now the opposite is true. Stainless steel bodies are lasting 40-50 years. As you stated between the electronics and new epa approved Diesel engines, they barely make 15 years
All true about today's apparatus. They are much more sophisticated and required to meet requirements that did not exist 50, 60, 70 years ago. Bigger and much more expensive, they are in and out of firehouse everywhere because of EMS and emergency calls. Apparatus use to last 20 years - and still be used as front line pumpers and ladders. Now, 10 years is a lifetime. Several now-gone manufacturers made well-made and high performance pumpers that lasted well over 20 years. Aerials also lasted a long time with new tractors purchased to use with older aerial units.
 

mack

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Mack started building trucks in Brooklyn and moved to Allentown, PA in the early 1900s. They had a firecapparatus factory in Long Island City in 1940s and early 1950s to keep up with FDNY orders and other regional area departments. They would probably have been the fire apparatus manufacturer of choice for solid rigs for a long period of time, even though there were many other good manufacturers. "Built like a Mack"
 

Capttomo

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The bid process is part of the problem. Yes it is a necessary evil for taxpayers benefit and small town USA fire department benefits from it but larger cities with huge orders can crush a manufacturer. Almost every vendor of all types of fire equipment in the country wants to sell to FDNY so they can get the exposure, marketing and the “if FDNY is using it - it must be the best” (not always true). They will often sell their souls to get the FDNY account. So how does this affect apparatus?? Mack was building FDNY CF cabs from 1968 through the entire decade of 1970’s. So Mack hires extra people. Tools up the line for FDNY rigs, buys items for FDNY rigs in bulk and limits some orders from smaller customers because they can only build so many rigs for the entire fire service each year. FDNY becomes there preferred customer. Meanwhile during the 70’s, FDNY increasingly writes a more and more demanding warranty. Then in 1980, American LaFrance gets the pumper bid. Mack looks at the big picture and decides to stop building custom fire apparatus and focus strictly on building the cabs. When you look at Mack’s entire product line and the number of class 8 trucks, MC cabs for garbage trucks etc, the fire service was a small portion of the overall number of build each year. So Mack becomes more efficient and avoids the volatility of the Fire market, and focuses on cabs and over the road trucks. Meanwhile American LaFrance rejoices on a 80 piece FDNY order. They have to rapidly tool up the production line and accommodate they extra FDNY rigs. The result is poor quality and major warranty issues. The members trash the American LaJunks and want their old Mack’s back. The death blow to American LaFrance. Saulsbury was building FDNY specialty units including rescues etc. FDNY approached Saulsbury about bidding on pumpers - Saulsbury who was building like 220-240 custom rigs a year declined - not wanting to ramp up and invest in additional people and equipment only to be outbid several years later. Several of the larger manufacturers have cautiously avoided large pumper and ladder orders for FDNY due to the warranties and the need to address those warranty issues . Seagrave stepped up and built decent rigs and was able successfully deal with the warranty issues. But once again they were later outbid by Ferrara. Amazingly Seagrave was able to hang in there with its other west coast and northeast customers and now has won the bid again for FDNY pumpers. Meanwhile, venture capitalists and major corporations are buying up the small and medium apparatus builders. REV group bought out 8 companies. EOne, Ferrara, KME, general safety, LTI, smeal, Saulsbury and others all absorbed into large conglomerates. Now with the supply chain backlogs. Some apparatus orders are 2.5 to three years waiting time after an order is placed. Not so rosy picture for the fire service apparatus industry.
 
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