Nissan restores 1940s fire engine for Tokyo Fire Department

An 82-year-old Nissan fire engine belonging to the Tokyo Fire Department has been restored. The fire department had been storing the vehicle for several years before reaching out to Nissan for help with the overhaul. A special team at Nissan accepted the challenge and spent about two years on the project, and the result was revealed Wednesday.

The Nissan 180 fire engine rolled off the line in 1941 and said to be the first full-size pump truck to be mass-produced domestically. It was originally assigned to the Kamata Fire Station in Ota Ward, extinguishing fires from air raids during the war. In May 1945 it was reassigned to the Takanawa Fire Station (now the Nihon Enoki Sub Branch and the oldest active station in Tokyo), where it served until October 1964.

With the Tokyo Olympics coming to town, the truck was used as a promotional vehicle and put on display at the fire station. It eventually found its way to the Fire Museum of the Tokyo Fire Department, where it was exhibited for a number of years. In 2013, the Takanawa station’s 80th anniversary, it was returned to its home at the request of local residents.

Though visually it was complete and looked decent, it eventually fell into disrepair. It was put on stands to preserve the tires, but the suspension and engine needed a complete rebuild. The Tokyo Fire Department estimated a cost of ¥700,000 to ¥800,000 for the suspension and another ¥5 million to get it operational again (approximately $50,000 USD total), so it sat there for eight more years.

In 2021 Nissan accepted the project and turned it over to four volunteer employees in the Nissan Masterpiece Restoration Club. They were able to refurbish the engine, suspension and brakes, but kept the patina of paint imperfections and dings. They also repaired the entire electrical system to get the semaphore direction indicators, wipers, and red beacon working again.

Hoses are wound on a giant reel mounted on the back of the truck. The engine also carries several ladders, as well as hose fittings of various sizes, some of which are still compatible with modern equipment. The siren mounted on the left fender is hand-cranked by the firefighter sitting shotgun. The team referred to 80-year-old maintenance manuals that were still archived at Nissan to help them with the restoration.

“We have few opportunities come in contact with prewar Nissans within the company, so it was a very valuable experience for us to work on the restoration of this historic vehicle,” said Toshiaki Kawai, one of the engineers involved with the project. Each one engineers donated their time after hours to work on the truck, ultimately spending two years on the restoration.

The restored fire engine will be unveiled on the first day of Tokyo International Fire Fighting Disaster Prevention Exhibition, held June 15-18. At the unveiling, the final touch, installation of the horn, will be completed in front of attendees. After that, it will continue to live at the Nihon Enoki fire station where it will be run as a special display vehicle.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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4 Responses to Nissan restores 1940s fire engine for Tokyo Fire Department

  1. BlitzPig says:

    So cool!

  2. Fred Langille says:

    Cool? It’s so cool, it’s H*O*T!!!!

  3. Marc says:

    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mark Farrell-Churchill says:

    Beautiful piece of equipment, and great story! Somehow it reminds me: however one may feel about soldiers or police officers–and there is a wide range of perceptions about these groups–everyone loves firefighters.

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