In 1923 P.E. Van Pelt was a sales agent for Dodge in Oakdale, California, when he built his first fire engine for the Oakdale Fire Department. Soon other fire departments were interested in Van Pelt’s fire apparatus. In 1925 P.E. Van Pelt, Inc., was founded. The company would grow to be the largest builder of fire apparatus on the Pacific Coast.
Van Pelt developed a broad product line. Initially, Van Pelt used a variety commercial trucks for its apparatus. These included trucks built by White, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Diamond-T, Oshkosh and International. Van Pelt later offered its own custom chassis starting in 1960. Around this time Van Pelt started building aerial apparatus.
In 1978 Van Pelt was purchased by the FMC Corporation in 1978. Van Pelt operated under FMC until 1987 when the Van Pelt factory was closed.
The SPAAMFAA Archives has an amazing collection containing tens of thousands of images of fire apparatus. 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:
Van Pelt fire engines