History and Overview

The Ward LaFrance Truck Company started as a builder of commercial trucks in Elmira Heights, New York.Β  The company was named after its founder, Addison Ward LaFrance. He was the son of Asa LaFrance, who was one of the founders of the LaFrance Fire Engine Company.Β  Addison Ward LaFrance briefly worked for the American-LaFrance Fire Engine Company before becoming an automobile salesman.Β  In 1918 he founded the LaFrance Truck Company.Β  The corporate name later was changed to the Ward LaFrance Truck Company to avoid confusion with American-LaFrance.

Ward LaFrance  11

Initially, Ward LaFrance built only commercial trucks. Then in 1930 the company began to build fire apparatus. In 1937, Ward LaFrance introduced its distinctive line of custom chassis fire apparatus. During World War Two, Ward LaFrance delivered more than 5000 commercial trucks for the war effort. After the War, Ward LaFrance continued to build commercial trucks and fire apparatus.

1962 Ward LaFrance Firebrand, open-cab, yellow Anne Aundrel County, MD

In 1955 Ward LaFrance began to use Maxim aerial ladders for a line of ladder trucks.

In 1959 Ward LaFrance introduced its first cab-forward design, the Firebrand, of which only about 100 were built. In 1962, the Firebrand was replaced by the β€œMark I,” which soon had its name changed to the β€œAmbassador.” The Ambassador would become the most recognized fire engine in the world when one was used as Engine 51 on the iconic television series Emergency! In 1976, Ward LaFrance was sold to a group of investors who were unable to turn a profit in the brutally competitive fire apparatus business. In 1979, Ward LaFrance went out of business.Β Β 

1967 Ward LaFrance Ambassador, Louisville KY

American LaFrance Photos

from the SPAAMFAA Library & Archive​

The SPAAMFAA Archives has an amazing collection containing tens of thousands of images of fire apparatus.Β  Ultimately we have lofty goals of cataloging, indexing, scanning, and digitizing everything electronically, with copies of most of the illustrative material cross available for personal-use. In the meantime you can a selection of these images on our SmugMug gallery:


Build and Delivery Lists

Peckham’s American LaFrance Search
Registration No.
Order No.
Shipment Date (yyyy-mm-dd)
City, State
All text fields

Hard copies of truck data (J. Peckham’s volumes) are available from Matt Lee.Contact Candy Bennett or Ken Soderbeck for additions or corrections to the database.

Additional note for Commercial Chassis:
Brockway/ALF build sheets and production records are on microfilm and on file at the MACK Truck Museum in Allentown, PA. Mack Truck Museum will copy build sheet, if available, for a nominal donation.

Service and Operations Manuals

The SPAAMFAA Archives has extensive collection containing fire apparatus Owner and Operations Manuals.Β  Thank you for your patience as we work to get these manuals scanned, and edited into downloadable PDF files.

Mail – Personal Check
Send a check, made out to β€œSPAAMFAA – Lee Soderbeck Memorial Fund” :


Annual Dues Renewal – Check or Credit Card
Make a contribution to the β€œLee Soderbeck Memorial Fund” as an “add-on” when submitting your annual SPAAMFAA DUES RENEWAL FORM.

All of these gifts will go into a restricted fund designated strictly for use by the SPAAMFAA Archives and Library.

Other Resources

American LaFrance (Pre-1950)

Matt Lee
11463 Morgan
Plymouth, MI, 48170

American LaFrance (Pre-1950)

Walter McCall
2281 Victoria Ave.
Windsor, ON, N8X 1R2 Canada

American LaFrance (Pre-1950)

Hal Fillinger
201B Ruth Rd.
Harleysville, PA, 19438

American LaFrance (Pre-War)

Doug Klink
3505 St Francis Way
Estes Park, Co. 80517

American LaFrance (Post-War)

PO Box 537
McLoud, OK, 74851
Cell (405) 815-7186

American LaFrance (Pre-1950)

Ray Bennett

American LaFrance (Pre-1950)

Larry Zotti

American LaFrance (Pre-War)

Damon Cackley

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