Enthusiasts: Lights, Sirens, Action! Classic Emergency Vehicles at the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise

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There are many opportunities to show and display vintage emergency vehicles, but very few of them offer the chance to drive on public roads with lights on and sirens blaring. The fact that such tomfoolery is practically required for participation in the annual Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show makes this one of the nation's most popular events for collectors of these gems. For several years now this event has marked the official start of the Woodward Dream Cruise, occurring immediately after the ribbon gets cut on Friday evening.

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a red fire truck parked in a parking lot© Motor Trend Staff

1940 Ford-American LaFrance Pumper Truck

American LaFrance became the first name in fire apparatus manufacture during its long run from 1873 to 2014 (with roots that stretch back as far as 1832). This one features a 400-gallon tank and the ability to pump 500 gallons per minute. It's powered by a 110-hp Ford flathead V-8. It belongs to the city of Troy, Michigan, and was bought and restored in 1989 to replace the city's original fire truck, which served from 1940 to 1965 when it was destroyed in an accident.

a person riding on the back of a truck© Motor Trend Staff

1947 Chevrolet-General Detroit Pumper Truck

This vintage pumper was built by the General Detroit Corporation, which manufactured fire-truck bodies and fire extinguishers in Detroit from 1936 to 1956, after which it focused solely on the extinguisher business as the General Fire Extinguisher Corporation until folding in 2001. Trucks like this one carried an onboard tank but also featured "hard sucker" rigid hoses for pulling water from a nearby body of water. This one features a crank near the driver-side running board for clutching the power-take-off and another lever with positions for priming and pumping. It served in one of Michigan's nine Sherman Township communities.

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a car parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

1955 Studebaker Commander Conestoga Ambulet

Two-door wagons were a thing back in the 1950s, and Studebaker's Conestoga two-door wagon was actively marketed as a light-duty ambulance, or ambulet. Period advertisements from back in the day suggested the small, light, low-roof, normal-wheelbase wagon would be ideal for "city, county, and state law enforcement agencies, municipal first-aid agencies, hospitals, morticians, fire departments, civilian defense corps, disaster agencies, oil fields, industrial plants, and mines." This one is fully equipped with a collapsing gurney and all the equipment that goes with it.

a small blue car© Motor Trend Staff

1957 Ford Custom 300 Police Interceptor

The Custom 300 line was specially adapted for police duty with body reinforcements and seat belts fitted as standard equipment. A 270-hp 312-cubic-inch interceptor V-8 was the original engine (this one features a 200-hp 292). This tribute example was purchased and given an exacting frame-off restoration by retired sergeant Del Zimmerman in time for the 100th anniversary of the Michigan State Police in 2017. The car is now officially part of the department's historical vehicle fleet.

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a truck is parked on the side of a road© Motor Trend Staff

1960 Jeep FC150 Brush Fire Truck

This fun little 4WD forward-control Jeep was originally equipped with a 250-gallon water tank and pump. A pair of Plexiglas windshields would have originally offered the front-seat occupants some wind protection, but they deteriorated and have been removed. The truck is showing 52,000 miles, and nearly all of its working mileage in the service of the Noble Township Volunteer Fire Department was logged off-road. The current owner has it outfitted with school bus seats for parade duty. He reports that 45 mph is about as fast as this little buggy wants to go.

a car parked in a parking lot© Motor Trend Staff

1963 Plymouth Detroit Police Scout Car

This wagon was restored by retired police officer George Patak, who got his original police training with the Detroit Police. He outfitted the car as it would have looked serving duty as a Detroit Police scout car, with all the lights, radios, and even a collapsible gurney. Apparently police wagons were sometimes pressed into ambulance duty back in the day.

a car parked on a city street© Motor Trend Staff

1967 Plymouth Fury I Police Cruiser

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This rare car was originally ordered and built as a civilian-use base four-door sedan with a big-block 440-cubic-inch V-8. But because the owner's father-in-law and two good friends serve in the Township of Battle Creek Police Department, after acquiring it in 2005 he was heavily cajoled into restoring it as a vintage TBC cruiser. Acquiring all of the period-correct lights, sirens, and radio equipment isn't easy these days, but by widening the search to include civil defense and fire department sources, he eventually netted all the right kit.

a car parked on the side of a building© Motor Trend Staff

1968 Plymouth Fury I Speed Enforcement Interceptor

This near mechanical twin of the 1967 Fury also features a Commando 440 V-8 and served in West Branch, Michigan. In that area the freeway post vehicles often sported solid "civilian" color schemes with police logos on the passenger side only, so as to better allow for stealthy speed surveillance. The owner acquired this one six years ago in original paint, but it had mostly been polished off, so the two-year restoration process included new paint. He reports having tested it to 125 mph and claims they were originally good for 140 to 150 mph (a frightening prospect considering the state of tire technology circa 1968).

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