In 1975, several former employees of the recently-closed Diamond-Reo truck manufacturing firm in Lansing, Michigan organized a new company in nearby Charlotte to make custom cab-forward fire truck chassis for independent fire apparatus manufacturers. Spartan Motors went on to quickly become one of the industry’s most remarkable success stories. Today, nearly three decades later, Spartan remains the world’s largest supplier of fire apparatus, motor home and other specialty vehicle chassis.Among Spartan’s early customers were two Canadian fire truck builders – Pierre Thibault Ltd. and Pierreville Fire Trucks — both located in the same small town of Pierreville near Sorel, Quebec.
The Windsor Fire Department took delivery of its first Spartan-chassised fire apparatus, a Thibault/Spartan 100-foot aerial ladder truck, in 1981. A year later the city received a nearly identical aerial, also on canopy cab Spartan Monarch chassis, this one built by rival Pierreville Fire Trucks. Over the years Windsor has purchased more than a dozen rigs bearing the familiar Spartan diamond logo.
In late 1981, Windsor ordered two new pumpers on Spartan four-door chassis – the W.F.D.’s first sedan-cab apparatus – from King-Seagrave Ltd. of Woodstock, Ontario. Before the chassis could be delivered, however, King-Seagrave filed for bankruptcy. One of the completed chassis, painted lime-yellow and already lettered W.F.D. Engine No. 7 – was displayed at the 1982 Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs annual convention in Winnipeg. Following the convention the two bare chassis/cabs were delivered to Windsor and stored at the W.F.D. headquarters station on Goyeau St. A new contract to build the pumpers was subsequently awarded to Pierreville Fire Trucks, and the Diesel-powered chassis were driven to Pierreville, Quebec in October, 1982.
The completed pumpers, with 1050 gallon-per-minute pumps and 400-gallon booster tanks, were delivered back to Windsor in April, 1983. Lettered as Engines 7 and 9, both were placed into service in late May – Engine 7 at the headquarters hall on Goyeau St. and Engine 9 at Station 4 on College Avenue. With their roomy four-door cabs and demountable Akron Apollo master stream nozzles, these pumpers were well-liked by their crews.
Engine 7 remained “first-out” at headquarters until 1991, when it was replaced by a new Seagrave pumper and reassigned to Station 4 on College Ave. Its twin, Engine 9 was relocated to Station 6 on Tecumseh Rd. E. In the meantime, the Windsor Fire & Rescue had switched from lime-yellow back to the traditional red. The two Pierreville/Spartans were later overhauled and repainted red and numbered Engines 7 and 8. With the delivery of more new apparatus, the Spartan engines (one relettered Engine 11) were used as spare pumpers.
Following the delivery of two new Rosenbauer/Spartan pumpers in mid-2008, the well-worn Pierrevlle/Spartan engines were retired from service. In August, they were driven to a used truck centre on Highway 401 in Chatham, where they were clearly visible from the road for many months. By spring of 2009, they were gone.
The 1982/83 Pierreville/Spartans had served the citizens of Windsor well for precisely 25 years.