This website is the story of a restoration project. In 1976, the U.S. Air Force awarded a contract for two prototype fire apparatus to Ward LaFrance. These two prototypes would be Custom, diesel-powered versions of the standard gasoline-powered Air Force A/S-32P-8 (4x4) and the A/S-32P-12 already in service. Ward LaFrance built the prototypes on their new Patriot model chassis. The Air Force refers to these prototypes as "First Test Article" vehicles, and they were given the registration numbers 78L481 and 78L482, respectively. After evaluation, another contract was given for additional P-12D's, but no further orders were ever placed for the Ward LaFrance P-8D.

78L481 served the Air Force until around 1991, when it was placed in service as Engine 24 at the Wilcox State Prison in Abbeville, GA. When Wilcox retired it around 2000, ownership was transferred to the Subligna Fire Department in northern Georgia. Subligna ran it as Engine 8 for about 5 years and sold it to Northwest Truck Center in Dalton, GA where I purchased it in January, 2007.

The photos on this site will show the various stages of restoration, including detail shots, from the time of purchase by me until the project is complete.

First Impression

This is the way the P-8D looked the first time I saw it in person. The front tires were flat and it was sitting in the mud, but I knew right then that it was the one. Ten days later, it was mine.

The Data Plate

This plate is on the inside of the driver's door. It shows the Registration Number (78L481) as well as the WLF Serial Number (P-8-001), as well as other pertinent information.

This shot of the rear was also taken the first day we met. The yellow paint on the rear shows the original color.

A face only an apparatus buff could love.....

Here is the first shot taken after I brought the Patriot home. The trip home didn't go as planned. A bad alternator drained the battery and the motor would run no more. The Patriot arrived on the back of a large, expensive wrecker.

Sitting on the front lawn.

The wrecker was so big that he couldn't make the turn to back the Patriot into the driveway, so he dropped it on the lawn. Thankfully, my neighbors have a good sense of humor!

It took almost a whole week to charge up the battery enough to start the motor. The cold weather didn't help either.

As you can see from these photos, there is no hose, no ground ladders, no warning lights, and no equipment. These items will be replaced someday.

This angle shows that there are only 4 tires, not six. The P-8 design uses 4 wheel drive with single tires all around.

The Interior

Driver's side, showing the electrical panel behind the driver's seat. It will take me weeks to sort out that mess!

Officer's side. You could squeeze four people in here, but it wouldn't be comfortable! The jug behind the seat is the windshield washer reservoir.

Three more can sit back here. I need to get a couple old BA's for those brackets!

Jumpseats from the driver's side.


Detroit Diesel 6V53, 216 Horsepower, missing alternator. The alternator has since been replaced and the charging system is now working as it should.

The diesel is mated to an Allison MT-643 automatic.

Air Brake Repairs

Here is the brake pedal. The brake valve is under the left pedal. It couldn't have gone under the right pedal as the frame is there. In order to replace the brake valve, this entire assembly has to be removed.

This is the brake valve from the front. So far, I can't find any numbers that identify it, so I will have to remove it and take it to the parts store and match it up. The leak is coming from the bottom center "exhaust" port. I removed the rubber dust seal and the next piece above it. That part looks sorta like a thermostat, but seems to work fine. It goes over a 1/2 inch hole that goes up into the valve about 3". There is a screw up there and the leak is coming from that area. I'm not sure at this point if this valve can be rebuilt or if I'll have to replace it.

Cab Jack

The cab jack gave me some trouble when I first got the P-8D home. It was low on hydraulic oil, so I filled it. It takes about 5 minutes to pump up the cab enough to set the support rod. The first time I did this, it took over 35 minutes to bring it back down! The bolt on the right is where you add hydraulic oil. The one on the left has a check valve inside it, with a tiny hole drilled through the bolt, just below the head. This hole, and the check valve, were stopped up with crud. Once cleaned, the cab comes down in about 5 minutes.

4 Wheel Drive

This is just a shot of the underside from the front. The P-8D is equipped with a single-speed transfer case that is electrically controlled from the cab, but the wiring has been removed. I will eventually have to run a new harness for it.