By Ron Heal
The Young Fire Equipment Corporation was in business from 1944 until 1991. The Buffalo, New York, area regional fire apparatus manufacturer built a full line of apparatus for fire departments primarily in the east. Today fire apparatus enthusiasts best recall the “Crusader” line of apparatus that was introduced by Young in 1967.The Crusader line was very distinctive with a low-profile full width cab and tear-drop wrap around windshield. Crusader units were built at Young’s Lancaster, New York, facility until 1973.
In 1969, the Kempsville (VA) Volunteer Fire Department took delivery of a 1,000-gpm Young Crusader pumper. As distinctive as the pumper was with the low-profile cab and emergency lights on the cab roof mounted on tunnels, the rig was even more distinctive in a coat of white paint.
In early 2015, Fire Apparatus and Emergency Equipment did an electronic feature on this rig and the new owner, Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department Captain Wayne Black. Black is a 37½-year year member of the of the department. He began his fire service career with the Kempsville (VA) Volunteer Department. He recalls the 1969 Young Crusader as the first piece of fire apparatus that he was assigned to. The volunteer group was absorbed by an expanding Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department that today serves a population of some 450,000 from 19 fire stations with a complement of more than 500 fire personnel. The Young Crusader would remain in service as a front-line pumper and later as a spare apparatus until 1992. The rig was then obtained by the Cove Rural Fire District (RFD) in Cove City, Oregon.
The pumper made a trip across the country and would remain in service with the new department until 2011. The Cove RFD made two noticeable changes to the pumper. It increased the size of the water tank to 1,800 gallons and painted the rig yellow. Retired Cove RFD Chief Sonny Johnson wondered if there might be some collector value in the rig back in the original Virginia Beach home to the apparatus. A phone call to the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department somehow made its way to Black. Was he interested? That was a resounding “Yes!” A new chapter in the life of the 1969 Young Crusader pumper was about to begin. In 2014, a $500 donation to the Cove RFD and a substantial hauling fee to bring the rig back across country one more time brought the pumper back to Virginia. The Crusader was back home!
The restoration phase on the pumper would encompass the next three years. The pumper was stored in a garage behind Black’s house. Modifications to the garage gave him the space he needed for the restoration. The modified garage gave Black the opportunity to work on the rig whenever time would allow. While the rig was in good mechanical condition, there were several areas needing attention. Restoration would include replacing warning, clearance, and signal lights; some electrical wiring; and finding and installing a vintage siren. While the water tank size was not changed, for sure the pumper would have to be returned to the original white paint and proper striping and lettering. Black used eBay to locate some of the hard-to-find items that were missing.
Help Along the Way
Young Crusader rigs were very distinctive with their cab roof warning lights mounted on tunnels on each side of the cab. These tunnels and the warning lights were missing. Black contacted Andy Pagano, Prince William County (VA) Fire and Rescue. Pagano owns a Crusader and was able to help Black with measurements and templates. Pagano would prove to be a valuable resource throughout the restoration. Retired Virginia Beach Captain Keith White pitched in to fabricate and mount the tunnels and mounting brackets. Black was also able to be in touch with Dick Young. Young was very pleased to learn of the restoration work that Wayne was doing to bring back a piece of Young fire apparatus. One of Black’s biggest finds during the restoration was 50-year old original documentation that had gone between the Kempsville (VA) Volunteer Fire Department and Young Fire Equipment. Included in the documents were construction plans and lettering templates that allowed Black to work with a local graphics company to reproduce the lettering and striping as original to the pumper. Retired Virginia Beach Master Firefighter Mike Blount advised Wayne on the placement of equipment to be mounted on the finished product.
Ready to Parade
What we have not documented are the hundreds of man hours Black donated in research, locating parts and pieces, and all the skills he provided to bring the pumper back to “as new” status. Black was generous to keep me informed of his progress with emails loaded with pictures. You could tell from the pictures that Black would have one beautiful custom vintage pumper when the project was completed. It is hard to imagine that the rig could have ever looked better—even when it was brand new. Wayne is a member of the national SPAAMFAA organization and the Old Dominion Historical Fire Society. The 1969 Young Crusader will soon be appearing at local and regional events that feature vintage fire apparatus. The Virginia Beach Holiday Parade is next up. Thank you, Wayne, for all that you have done to bring back a rig with so much local history. Enjoy your new ride!
Do you or your fire department have a vintage rig with a story to tell? Contact Ron Heal at firstname.lastname@example.org and you and the rig could be a future feature.