What healthy and spirited boy hasn’t dreamt of owning a real emergency vehicle – red and with the emergency lights? And even with a ladder on the roof. My best friend materialised the dream recently.
That my friend became an emergency vehicle owner was on the whole a magical coincidence of randomness. I had a the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix this summer discussed with a reader about my desire to find a classic van. That was before I felt unwell and acquired my current Land Rover project. The reader explained to me, that Ford Transit vans were readily available in Germany and at a fair price. They had all driven exclusicely as emergency vehicles in the German Fire Department. That meant low mileages and since they were always stored inside, they often had very little rust in them.
An early Transit was for sale at this year’s CHGP, not far from the Viaretro booth and on a foot patrol with Claus Ebberfeld we had to note, that the Ford Transit was one of the coolest cars at the event. If we had to have a van it would have to be one of those and the reader tip of finding a decommissioned one in Germany was duly noted.
Later in the summer, my friend bought a newer VW Transporter because he desperately needed a van for carrying his equipment for gigs as a DJ. My friend is – to say the least – no expert at mechanics and his attempt to buy a used van (very used, ed.) failed miserably. Somewhere in Southern Denmark the rusty car had spoken to him, probably aided by a very low selling price, and hence changed ownership to his hands. On the following run home the car had more or less broken down completely. Not only did the diesel engine emit loud noises that made even my friend with little interest in cars realise, that something was off. It also swept the whole of the motorway in joyous thick black smoke. A consultation with the garage heralded a large bill to cover the cost of repairs, and my friend decided to terminate what must be one of he world’s shortest ownership of a VW Transporter, even before it really got started. It was following that story, that I told him about my new learning on the German Ford Transit emergency vehicles.
Not long after the phone rang. It was said friend who had searched online and found two Transits for sale in the area around Hamburg. “There will be something to choose from,” as he put it. I saw photos and descriptions and had to give him, that they looked fine. “But why then let’s travel south and take one with us home,” he said jauntily. It had turned into a “we”-project and I was excited that the boys could have some time alone on such a trip. But I had to make sure, that I couldn’t be held accountable for however the trip turned out.“Course not,“ he said.
I had prepared to sit in my frineds modern daily driver and discuss the problems of the world in a true high brow manner on the way to Hamburg – in the passenger seat – and then drive it home, while my friend would be playing with the new Transit on German roads. When I saw the smoking heap of the VW Transporter – which I thought long dead – come limping and smoking in to the courtyard and my friend exited carrying several newspapers under his arm I instantly knew my initial plans would not hold true. It became a trip in my Citroen DS which was all the more befitting, seeing that we were picking up a classic van.
We arrived in Hamburg and looked at both cars. One had lived a couple of years with a hipsterish guy in the central part of the city. He had travelled the North, hence the installed bedroom in the car. The condition of the car, which on paper sounded good, turned out to be too poor. Lots of small rust around seams in the body that had been painted over by a “quick new layer of paint”. From the heads ran oil on the outside of the engine block which also ran very unevenly. By all means a car we quickly turned our back to.
The other was in a very honest condition, thoroughly healthy and still with the original paint and interior in accordance with the seller’s description. A car that had only gone 25.000 kilometres and had the marks of a car stored inside for many a year. The owner explained that he didn’t drive the car much anymore and that he hence had decided to pass it on. He had obviously taken care of the car during the years of his ownership and we sensed a bit of sadness having to part with it.
We a short run in the car, which is a proper hulk with lots of noise in the big rolling metal box that the car really is. All the mechanicals worked fine and the main impression of the car was very good. I noticed that the little 1,7 V4 sounded surprisingly sealed and healthy. A deal was struck and money, keys and papers changed hands.
The trip home was done in pouring rain which intensified after it became dark. I sat comfortably in my DS and enjoyed some reading out loud from a podcast. In my rear view mirror I could see the emergency vehicle with weak headlights behind me, slowly falling a little behind. My speedo now read 70 km/h – we had to take the next exit. The new emergency vehidle owner explained that the car, which actually ran pretty well, now and again ran in a chopped manner and that he thought it felt like “something with petrol”. With this accurate description we consulted the engine room. Nothing seemd wrong at a glance and it was decided to continue home as long as the vehicle permitted.
The car continued it’s behaviour all the way home, but the owner was proud of his new car anyway. At a filler station I noticed that he tested the blue emergency lights on the roof. It worked, and after having wiped off his big grin, he delightedly said out the window:
“This will be the new FUNKulance!!!”