Promoting Excellence in HO Scale Vehicle Modeling

Athearn Ford C Fire Truck Review

Please note: The opinions expressed in our reviews are the views of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the 1/87 Vehicle Club.

model critique by Jeff Webster

When Bob Johnson asked me to write a review, I jokingly said I'd have to expand it from "Awesome!" That is the first impression of this model. Since Athearn released their Ford C truck model, fire modelers have been hoping for a fire truck model on the chassis. Then Athearn goes and blows us all away with this piece with a dedicated canopy cab and rescue pumper body. This model will be popular across the board with fire collectors, train modelers, and vehicle collectors. While the prototype on which this truck was based appears to be a late '80s model, the truck will fit in nearly a 40-year span from the mid-60s to today as many of these are still in front line service. In addition, the model will fit in well on any layout from inner city to rural scenes. This model was often referred to as a "belly button" fire truck as everyone had one. The Ford C saw service in most major cities' fire departments including Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The FDNY is probably the only major city to not have used the chassis in some form. However, the NYPD did have several heavy rescue/emergency services units (ESU) style trucks.

The model itself is really great and is the best 1/87 scale fire truck released to date by any manufacturer. The quality and attention to detail rivals the best resin cast models. I would also put it in the running for the best 1/87 model truck to date as well; it is simply that good! Every place you look on this model there just seems to be one more detail added that could have been overlooked without detracting from the model. However, Athearn added them and it really elevates the model to a new level. Overall, the model is completely new and different from the original Ford C truck releases with only some trim parts and wheel sets carried over (on some models; others get completely new wheels!). Even the bumper is new. Starting with the cab, Athearn created an all-new "Canopy" cab with rear-facing crew seats. Some of the details added are forward flashers on the front that are transparent red lenses, great diamond plate on the cab roof over the doghouse, and side marker lights on the doors. There are two axes on the rear bulkhead. The mansaver bars at the rear cab entrance are in scale too. The light bar is a very nice version of a modern bar and will find its way onto other fire truck models, I'm sure. They even added both grab rails for the cab entrance and at the base for tilting the cab.

As good as the cab is, the body is really great! There are so many fine details that capture the eye. Doing a walk around, starting with the pump panel: it has gauges that are actually recesses and trimmed in black. There is also an addition of hose discharges. Both of these features really make it look like a real engine and could have been simplified with just circles for the gauges and an end cap instead of the discharge. The body on the engineer's side has high-side rescue-style compartments with the now popular ribbed hard suction. This suction hose is well done and is in scale. Often times this hose on fire engines looks either too large or too small. At the rear, once again there are many details. First off are the hoses in the bed of varying sizes and colors. One can see that the prototype was a city rig as there isn't much large diameter hose. There are also sign plates for the engine number and the Keep Back warning as well as a place for a license plate. It is very nice of them to leave this blank for customization. The subway rail with marker lights is very well done. A few compartments and marker lights round it off. On the officer's side we get another section of hard suction but this one has a strainer on the end which is an up to now overlooked feature. There is a 3-section ladder with the head protectors on the rails. Again, the panel has an added intake connection instead of a simple end cap. Athearn could have simply left off these details with no complaints but went the extra mile for realism. Looking at the model from the top shows a lot of tread plate; this tread plate is very well done. Athearn could make a ton of money off modelers by just selling sheets of this stuff! The deck gun is very nicely done and has details beyond just a bent piece of plastic. In addition, there are details within the gun recess. The kicker is the dry wall hook on the bulkhead! Again it could have been omitted but wasn't. The graphics are the very best. My sample even had gold pinstriping that is the thinnest I have ever seen. The variety of colors of the initial releases should suit most.

Listening to other fire collectors (folks who haven't held the actual model yet), negative comments have been few and very far in between. Those made were not even necessarily negative but things they would rather have been done to the model. One was that it appears to be a too modern version of the Ford C. The model can easily be backdated by dropping the fire body onto one of the standard Athearn Ford C truck chassis. But since the crew cab has been around since the mid '60's, a simple light change could be the answer. If one would like a standard body rather than a rescue style I'm sure an IHC Mack body could easily be added. From a modeling standpoint, I didn't want to tear apart the sample just to satisfy my quest to see how easily it can be modified. But it does look like it can be disassembled fairly easily. The only suggestion I have and it may come on the regular releases, is painting the ends of the hard suction silver. They added silver rings on the hose but the ends were left black. There have also been some comments on the price. However, there is absolutely no comparison in quality to other manufacturers' 1/87 scale fire trucks on the market today. Plus, this is comparable in price to other trucks from the European companies. A quality resin model costs a great deal more and must come from overseas.

Jeff Webster