GALLERY: Goodyear fire engine restored in tribute to iconic tyre plant
Fire engine enthusiast Richard Hickman has made his childhood dream come true by buying his own iconic truck.
He is the proud owner of a Range Rover Commando, which was used to help fight factory blazes at Wolverhampton’s Goodyear tyre plant from 1977 until around 1990.
And it’s the very same tri-axle vehicle that helped to fuel his interest in fire engines as a young schoolboy and later led to him becoming an active member of the Fire Brigade Society.
“I went to an open day at Fallings Park Fire Station and there was Rosie, as she is now known, parked out the front of the station.
“I was an impressionable schoolboy, about six or seven, and this was a Range Rover, it was a fire engine and it had six wheels – it was the most mind-blowing thing I had ever seen.
“I spent the entire afternoon sat in it and there is a photo of me sat in it with a Goodyear Fire Brigade helmet on.
"My uncle used to be a station officer at the fire station in Merridale Street and I grew up in a house opposite the station.
"Wolverhampton fire brigade as it was before it became part of West Midlands Fire Service used to have two specially-built Land Rovers that had been cut down in height and didn’t have anything above the top of the windscreen.
“This was so they could access the balconies at the Mander Centre and the multi-story car parks at the Wulfrun Centre and the Mander Centre if they needed to.
“Dinky used to make a Land Rover fire engine that was very similar and was my pride of joy. All this made me fascinated with fire engines,” said Mr Hickman, a member of the Fire Brigade Society.
So when the opportunity to buy the Commando arose he jumped at the chance and has started restoring the vehicle, which has capacity for 200 gallons of water.
It was originally converted for use as a fire truck by Carmichael from a standard Range Rover chassis supplied by Land Rover.
“There were 300 Commandos produced by Land Rover – 200 were for the military and 100 for civilian use. They were used at airports and if there was a crash they would be the first response because they were faster than the full-size engine.
“A lot of factories like Goodyear had them because they were smaller than a full-size engine so could get around faster and they were big enough to be useful,” said Mr Hickman.
He had already started researching the history of the Goodyear Fire Brigade which is believed to date back to around 1929 when he was offered the chance to buy the Commando. In the future, he hopes to publish his research in a special Fire Brigade Society publication.
In the brigade’s early days the crew, made up of full-time and part-time firefighters, was also called upon to tackle fires outside of the factory’s gates.
“After World War Two, lots of different factories had fire brigades and as Wolverhampton only had one fire station in Red Lion Street at this time, the Goodyear brigade provided assistance outside of the factory.
“To help keep standards up the different industrial brigades used to hold drill competitions,” said Mr Hickman, who is the Fire Brigade Society’s West Midlands administrator.
The Commando was custom-made for Goodyear and is believed to have been delivered to the plant in 1977.
Following its service, it was acquired by another Wolverhampton firm, Manders Paints and changed hands many more times, including a spell in the fire and rescue service at Goodwood Aerodrome, before ending up with Mr Hickman.
“My intention is to restore it back to how it was as new when it first arrived at Goodyear and then take it to vintage vehicle rallies to show it off.
“I know how important Goodyear is to Wolverhampton so it will be nice to be able to preserve a part of its legacy,” he said.