Firing on all six, with extinguishing features
John Munro’s remarkable Australian Bush Fire Unit 109-inch Series IIA
My day job involves using six-wheeldrive, ex-military Perentie Land Rovers to ferry visitors out to view remote Aboriginal art sites. I’ve been into Land Rovers since I was a nipper, though, and acquired my 1972 Series III 109in Bush Fire Unit about eight years ago.
When I got it, it had a seizedup motor – it had been wrecked after being drowned crossing a river. It took eight years of hunting, but we eventually found a reasonably good, original six-cylinder engine. It came out of a 1971 Series IIA, which had a rusted-out body and chassis. It had been used on the beaches at Carpenters Rocks in the south-east of South Australia for
‘When I got it, it had a seized-up motor – it was wrecked after being drowned crossing a river’
launching fishing boats, which explains all the rust.
We got the IIA home, poured some petrol into the carburettor, put a fresh battery in it and it sparked up straight away, even though it hadn’t been started for 15 years. Two of the valves were a bit ‘choofy’ so we pulled the cylinder head off, did a complete top-end refurb and now it runs like a Swiss watch.
The cab and wings of the donor Series IIA have gone back to South Australia – a young 16-year-old lad over there was restoring one as a school project, so I told him if he picked them up they were his – no charge.
I still have the fire engine’s original block and one day will possibly tank it in a caustic solution and try to salvage the lot because it would be good to have all the numbers corresponding.
Hard work in hot spots
The vehicle was originally the Wyndham Mount Darragh Bush Fire Unit in New South Wales. These units were used as a firststrike unit and would carry three men; they were equipped with fire rakes, shovels, a firelighter and an axe. They would drive the mountain trails as far as they could, then two men would walk to the fire and contain it as best they could – very difficult work in the terrain they operated in.
The driver would stay with the unit and put out any small spot fires. He had to be careful with water – it was their only lifeline!
I presume the diff ratios were standard, because it seems to be happy cruising on-road at about 45mph. Other than the tray and fire unit on the back, the main unit was a standard 109in. It was fitted with VHF radio and a red flashing beacon, but no siren.
When I acquired it, the slip-on back was missing but, after being at the Cooma 70th anniversary celebrations this year, we decided to go back to the area where the unit was originally based. As we headed further west towards a little town called Cathcart, we stopped to admire a few old tractors and Land Rovers in a farmer’s yard. After a brief discussion and a quick trip up the road to the old local fire station, we’d got ourselves the slip-on fire unit, built around 1969 but used right through to early 2000. Now my 109 is complete.
The Series III has only 9874 miles showing and, according to the brigade logs, this is very accurate; it left the service with just over 7000 miles on the clock.
In November, we intend to be at the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally – they’re incorporating a ‘70 years of Land Rover‘ weekend in conjunction with the Land Rover Owners’ Club of Victoria, of which I am a member.
Not a vehicle you’d challenge to a burn-out...
Replacement six-cylinder engine came from a IIA
Sub-10,000 miles is genuine Hot seats for three brave firefighters
It’s the reel thing
This one really stepped up to the plate